City streets and public parks across Ashkelon were largely bereft of children on
Tuesday, bringing a certain stillness to the city of over
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Tuesday was the third straight day that schools and
kindergartens have been closed in Ashkelon, Beersheba, Gan Yavne and Ashdod in
response to the ongoing rocket fire since Saturday. One of those rocket attacks
in Ashkelon killed 56-year-old local Moshe Ami, who died of shrapnel wounds
Inside the Giron Mall across from City Hall, parents let
off steam with their young children in a small play area in the upstairs food
court. The parents described the three-day school break as an essential measure
for safety, but one that is hard for energetic children to endure, at least for
toddlers and other children not old enough to have become accustomed to
sequestering themselves indoors behind smart phones and video games.
was with my kids at home for three days straight and they just started going
crazy, climbing up the walls,” said Tali, a young mother of a four-year-old and
Tali said she brought her children to the mall for their
first outing in three days, a short respite for ice cream and window shopping
before returning to the close proximity of their apartment’s bomb
Yaniv, an engineer at a factory outside of Ashkelon, said he and
his wife have taken turns this week taking days off from work to spend with the
“We’ve switched off each day one of us working and the other
staying at home. My work hasn’t said anything though, they seem to
Yaniv said his two boys aged eight and four-and- a-half are
enjoying the time out of school playing video games and spending extra time with
their parents, but that staying cooped up indoors has still been hard for
“You can’t just stay inside all day, you have to go somewhere, but
you can’t go to the park or the beach because you have nowhere to run,” Yaniv
said, adding that as soon as they finish their outing at the mall they’ll head
back to spend the rest of the day at home, near the shelter of their safe
For Ariella Baiduch, the decision of where to spend the day with
her two young children was affected by a sense of helplessness and vulnerability
across the city.
“They need air, they need sun, and in our house we don’t
have a bomb shelter. So we might as well be outside, it can happen anywhere,”
said Baiduch, whose friend Mor Matesna, 26, of Rishon Lezion, said she took the
day off to help her care for her two kids, aged one and two.
of the mall said it provides a certain level of safety for those who find
themselves inside during a rocket attack. According to Shulamit Malkah, a young
mother and manager of the mall’s marketing department, there are a few safe
rooms in the building, and each floor has stairwells that can provide a measure
She added that mall security guards are trained to file
customers into the safe areas within 30 seconds.
Malkah said that while
the mall is usually packed on school vacation days, when the day off is a result
of the security situation, the mall slows to a halt just like the rest of the
“On days like this the whole community shuts down. The children
only go from house to house or one relative to another and everyone just stays
inside and tries to maintain their daily routine as much as
She added that the situation has had some affect on her
two-and-a-half-year-old son, who as a result of the frequent “Code Red” rocket
alarms, grows panicked when he hears an ambulance or a police siren.
other residents, the safety or lack thereof of public and private buildings in
Ashkelon is a source of ire for Mayor Benny Vaknin, who said Tuesday that in his
estimation, over 50 percent of the buildings in the city don’t have bomb
shelters, and that since Operation Cast Lead in January 2009, the state has not
financed a single new shelter in the city.
Vaknin said city officials
will meet Tuesday night to assess the situation, and will decide whether or not
to have class Wednesday depending on if there are further rocket attacks in the
Few areas of the city seemed more vacant than the seafront,
where the combination of the security situation, the low access to bomb
shelters, and the slightly chilly autumn weather cleared the beach of almost all
A young couple and their two children who said they immigrated
to Israel four years ago from France strolled along the beach before dusk,
seemingly in no hurry to get home.
The husband, Aharon, said that if they
were to hear a Code Red siren they would lie down on the beach and cover their
heads, and not run off in a panic searching for a safe area.
that the they have become used to such situations living in Ashkelon for four
years, and that dealing with the rocket threat is just another burden to
“C’est la vie,” he said, and headed for the parking lot with
his wife and daughters.