Earlier this week a rocket war raged in the south of Israel, as more than 300
rockets were fired at urban areas since last Friday afternoon, following
Israel’s killing of the leader of the Popular Resistance Committee, the
terrorist group behind the kidnapping of Gilad Schalit.
Ashdod was the
target of massive Grad rocket attacks from Gaza, along with close to a million
civilians living across the south.
As I entered the city around five in
the evening, the wail of the siren suddenly sounded and the bus I was traveling
on from Jerusalem suddenly stopped. The driver, an elderly man, halted to let
the passengers off according to safety protocol. Residents of Ashdod have 45
seconds to find shelter once a rocket has been fired from Gaza.
us lay on the ground with hands over our heads, while others took cover near a
cement wall. It’s strange how quickly you find yourself adapting to survival
mode. A few seconds later we heard a boom. And then the discussion began: “Did
the rocket actually land in the city? Or was it the sound of the Iron Dome
intercepting the rocket midair?” We got our answer a couple of seconds later, as
we saw a puff of gray smoke in the sky and heard a much louder explosion in
midair. The Iron Dome worked wonders during this escalation of rocket attacks
According to military officials, the Iron Dome had a
75 percent success rate on Monday, as the system was able to stop 23 of 31
rockets fired at urban areas. And it worked again.
The passengers made
their way back to the bus, some slightly hysterical and others more calm. The
bus driver checked twice to make sure that everyone was back on. And then the
phone calls began.
“It’s been the eighth time today that the siren has
gone off!” one woman exclaimed on the phone. Another passenger called her kids
to tell them she was on her way home.
The white-haired bus driver told me
that there was nothing to be scared of, that this was just another day on the
However, a few hours earlier, at around 2:30 p.m., a Grad rocket
that the Iron Dome was unable to intercept landed in a residential shopping
area, causing extensive damage to businesses, property and vehicles.
people were injured, including an elderly woman, who was evacuated to Kaplan
Medical Center in Rehovot after being struck by flying glass shards, along with
another person. Eight people were treated for shock.
still looked shocked from the attack a few hours later, as people milled around
broken glass and debris that covered the sidewalk. Clothing mannequins lay on
the floor in one store, with clothes strewn everywhere and the glass entry doors
no longer intact.
Yaniv Araha, part-owner of the Michel Mercier hair
salon, showed me a hairspray can pierced by pieces of shrapnel. “We were very
lucky,” he said. “One of the stylists had to be hospitalized for injuries, but
the rest of us – including our clients who were with us at the time – are
Araha showed me a protruding wall inside the hair salon where he
took cover. “The shrapnel was able to reach all the way to the back kitchen,” he
said, “but the wall protected us.”
Across the street, an apartment
building was covered in shrapnel holes, close to the crater-like hole in the
sidewalk that the Grad rocket left behind.
One resident held in his hand
tiny metal balls that had been packed in the rocket, which now lay harmlessly
outside the apartment building. “If one of these had struck someone, God
forbid…” he said and shook his head. “We experienced a miracle here today. The
outcome could have been much worse.”
ADI BEN-HAMU, the spokesman for
Ashdod’s municipality, explained that the municipality had worked very hard
since the last rocket escalation against Ashdod, during Operation Cast Lead, to
prepare residents for the next barrage of Gaza missiles.
“The first time
Ashdod residents were targeted by rockets three years ago, we were not
prepared,” Ben-Hamu said. “There was a lot of hysteria – almost 800 people
experienced shock and had to be treated.”
“This time, not only do
residents know how to act and follow safety procedures, but we also have the
Iron Dome, which has stopped many of the rockets and has helped boost morale,”
he said. “Residents must still enter a protected area in any case, because
shrapnel from the rockets can still strike from above.”
“We know how to
take care of ourselves,” emphasized Ben-Hamu. “But no civilian can tolerate
rockets fired by terrorist groups as a way of life, and no country in the world
would allow civilians to suffer like this.”
“The government needs to do
whatever it takes to stop these rocket attacks on Ashdod, Beersheba, Kiryat
Malachi, Gan Yavne, Ashkelon and smaller communities across the south. In Ashdod
alone we have close to 250,000 people, with 55,000 children unable to go to
school during these rocket escalations,” added Ben-Hamu.
In regard to
school, there was a temporary solution, with teachers assigning homework
assignments to students via e-mail and Facebook.
On a more serious note,
Ben-Hamu concluded that there was a much greater danger out there than the
current Grad rockets being fired. “Everyone here is aware that there could be a
much more serious and massive attack of missiles from Iran. This is what we have
to prepare for and for an attack of that proportion, we cannot wait till the
last minute,” he said.The writer is an educator at Hebrew University
High School and writes for Tazpit News Agency, Sderot Media Center and other
news sources. She made aliyah from Maine in 2004.