Ashdod still recovering from shock of rocket attack

Mother of four killed in Grad missile attack laid to rest; Mayor: We will not be broken.

irit sheetrit 88 (photo credit: )
irit sheetrit 88
(photo credit: )
Irit Sheetrit, 39, a mother of four from Ashdod, was buried on Tuesday afternoon in the city, accompanied by a large crowd of family members, friends and acquaintances who arrived at the cemetery despite the Grad rocket threats. "The Jewish people have been hunted forever only because they are Jews, and this is the reason for Irit's death. She is a victim for the sake of the Israeli people, a victim of hatred," said the rabbi who eulogized Sheetrit. As soon as the eulogy began, the cemetery was filled with the terrible screams of Sheetrit's children and sisters. "This is not real! It can't be real!" they cried. Sheetrit was born in Ashdod and served in the navy. She married Herzl Sheetrit, a businessman and a familiar figure in Ashdod, and they had three daughters and a son. The eldest daughter is a soldier, and the youngest is in fifth grade. On Monday night, Sheetrit and her sister Ayelet Morduch were driving back home from the gym. When the siren went off, they both stopped the car and looked for cover. Sheetrit stumbled a little and covered her sister, who was lightly wounded when the rocket landed. However, the shrapnel wounded Sheetrit severely, and she died shortly after the ambulances arrived to evacuate the casualties. "She was the most warm person, always smiling and helpful and the kind of person who is the center of the family," said Rina, one of the workers in the municipality, where Sheetrit used to work. Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Eli Yishai attended the funeral as well. "The heart is torn and the eye is crying, and there are no consolations," he said. Ashdod Mayor Yehiel Lasri also spoke at the funeral. "We hoped this day would never come, but unfortunately it did. In the past two years we have prepared for rocket fire, and we are paying a heavy price. We are hurting and crying, but we are strong and patient," Lasri said. "This war didn't start on Saturday. It started a long time ago," he went on. "It is a war on our normality. We will not be broken, and we won't let hate hurt us. This will be our victory, our comfort and our answer." Meanwhile, Ashdod locals were wary but calm on Tuesday. Dozens of people gathered around the site where the Grad rocket that killed Sheetrit and wounded four others had struck the previous night. "Today, we didn't go to school because of the rockets," said Almog, 10. "I'm afraid, but I'm also curious, and this is why I came here. Eventually, it's all in God's hands." Pico Zayidman, 61, also came to see where the rocket had fallen. "I believe life won't change much here. We have gone through many worse things in our lives, and this won't kill us or change them," he said. Policemen had trouble getting the crowd to disperse. Fearing the gawkers were presenting a prime target to Hamas, an officer finally announced via megaphone that another rocket was on its way to the same spot. The crowd took cover right away. Ashdod is the country's fifth-largest city and is home to 250,000 people. Almost 20 percent are haredi, and many are immigrants from the former Soviet Union and France. The city has no hospital, so casualties usually depend on Kaplan Medical Center in Rehovot, 25 minutes away. Dep.-Cmdr. Daniel Elgarat, commander of the Ashdod police station, said residents were well prepared. "Now they need to practice taking cover a few times and to put into practice things they were told for many years. I just hope they don't really need it," Elgarat said. Approximately 70% of the city was newly constructed, and therefore most apartments had safe rooms, and there were shielded spots to take cover, he said. "The residents of Ashdod have what we call here '45 golden seconds' to take cover, and that is supposed to be enough," he said. Elgarat said policemen in Ashdod were prepared for the attacks because they belonged to the Lachish region and had experience helping other communities that have long been within rocket range. "This reality is maybe new for the residents, but they have been prepared for it for a long time," he said. Elgarat said Monday's attack had given them an opportunity to check where the sirens needed to be strengthened. On Tuesday, Ashdod children did not return to school after the Hanukka break, and the usually vibrant city, with its shopping malls, recreation centers and crowded marina, was slow to wake up. "I didn't want to come to work today," said an employee in a clothing store in the City Mall near the municipal building. "I told my boss that if the alarm starts, I am going to run to the toilets and leave everything behind." Yehudit and Ya'acov Levy were having breakfast in one of the mall's coffee shops. "I don't believe our lives here will change, but we are prepared and ready. It's stressful only when the alarm is activated, but then it calms down," Yehudit Levy said. Levy, who works in a health fund clinic, said most people had canceled their appointments for Tuesday. "They weren't sure what they would do if the alarm was activated," she said. Municipality spokesman Edi Ben-Hamo said all workplaces were operating normally on Tuesday, but schools were closed following a joint decision by the Education Ministry and the Home Front Command. "We will evaluate the situation every day and decide how to proceed. This is a significant first for Ashdod and we are still in the phase of processing it psychologically. It will take some time," Ben-Hamo said.