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(photo credit: AP)
For Ashdod residents Tamara Chachanshvili, her husband Mamuka and their two children, Ben, 10, and Natalie, 5, the Hamas rocket attacks and emergency procedures over the past two days are a painful reminder of events this past summer when the family still lived in Tbilisi, Georgia.
"We lived near the airport [in Tbilisi] and a bomb was dropped on a factory nearby," Tamara Chachanshvili, who made aliya on August 12, told The Jerusalem Post Monday. "It was 6 a.m., we were all still sleeping, then suddenly there was a huge explosion and the sound of shattering glass."
According to Chachanshvili, who was a real estate agent in Tbilisi and speaks fluent English, the Russian-dropped missile blew out every window of the family's apartment and sent them into extreme panic.
"The children were very scared," she said, adding that within hours they had decided to make aliya and in less than a day were on an airplane bound for Israel.
"We had to pack up all our belongings in two hours," she said.
The four, who were among 147 Georgian Jews who chose to escape the escalating conflict between Georgia and Russia in the two regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, were among the first to reach Israel.
"Nothing had been planned for us in advance and when we arrived, we had nowhere to go. They [the Jewish Agency for Israel] sent us to the Absorption Center in Ashdod," explained Chachanshvili, pointing out ironically: "I feel as though war is following me."
When the emergency sirens sounded in Ashdod on Saturday morning, Chachanshvili said that at first she did not know what was happening.
"We ran out of our room and just followed everyone else down to the first floor," she said. "Of course I knew that there was the possibility of rockets reaching us [in Ashdod] but I did not expect it to happen at that moment."
After spending most of the day in and out of the center's bomb shelter, talking to relatives in Georgia in an attempt to calm their fears and trying to understand what was happening from news reports, Chachanshvili said that the war-like situation reignited some of the memories from the Georgian-Russian conflict this past summer.
"I did not sleep at all on Saturday night," she said. "I just kept thinking that if there was going to be another attack I didn't want to be in a deep sleep, like I was when the bomb hit our neighborhood in Tbilisi. Sleep is the worst possible place to be when a bomb hits."
Despite the escalating rocket attacks of the past few days, Chachanshvili, whose children are staying with relatives outside the danger zone in Bat Yam, said that she had no desire to return to Georgia.
"We are very happy here and have received so much help settling into our lives that we could never think about going back," she said, adding that she has been especially impressed with the emergency procedures and the flow of information over the past few days.
"When there is an attack here, at least there is a warning signal, a Code Red, that alerts us to what is happening," continued Chachanshvili. "In Georgia, there was nothing, we just woke up one morning to a bomb."