Ashkelon residents seek shelter, await IDF call-up

Amid constant rocket-fire, residents of the southern town await draft notices for a chance to defend their homes.

Damage from a rocket in Ashkelon 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem / The Jerusalem Post)
Damage from a rocket in Ashkelon 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem / The Jerusalem Post)
Arkadi Ivanikov usually sleeps on his mother’s couch, but on Saturday he spent the night out, quite possibly saving his life.
Surveying the damage to his mother’s home in Ashkelon on Sunday – a Gazan rocket came in through the roof directly over the living room sofa – Ivanikov said he’ll help her pack her things to stay with family in Tel Aviv, while he’ll bide his time in Ashkelon until he gets the order to report for IDF service.
“I’d rather be in Gaza in the reserves than just suffer here. It’s a disgrace the state can’t protect its citizens,” Ivanikov said, as his mother, Irena, sobbed and tried in vain to pick up around the apartment, which was covered in dust and concrete debris.
The rocket caused severe damage to the Ivanikov apartment and to other homes on her floor and the one above. It also knocked out all but one rooftop water heater and left shattered glass strewn across the building’s courtyard.
In the parking lot, a religious family was cramming suitcases into their car, saying they were heading north because the situation in the South had become unbearable.
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The rocket fire was indeed incessant in Ashkelon and across the South on Sunday, when more than 120 rockets were fired into Israel. Though other days – since Operation Pillar of Defense started last week – have seen more rockets, those on Sunday came in much heavier, more intense salvos; each time the Color Red siren went off in Ashkelon at least five loud explosions would be heard shortly thereafter.
The apartment building houses many Ethiopian Israelis, as well as immigrants from the former Soviet Union and native Israelis. Unlike countless other buildings in disadvantaged neighborhoods in the South visited by The Jerusalem Post over the past two weeks, the building has a rather expansive bomb shelter, where a half a dozen Ethiopian women took refugee on Sunday morning.
Anat Kindiye, a mother of five originally from Ethiopia, said on Friday she and others helped clean out the bomb shelter, and brought down a TV, to help give the children a safe place to play with school canceled across the South. Neighbors in the building have done their best in recent days to make the shelter livable, with one resident, Moshe Gazai, 26, describing how on Saturday he brought six large pizzas to the kids spending Shabbat in the shelter, or meters away in the courtyard.
Kindiye has one son who serves in the IDF reserves, but has not been called up yet. Along with her desperation at the constant stress and fear caused by the rockets, she expressed concerns about the possibility of an IDF ground incursion into Gaza.
“Both sides have families. We have children here and they have children in Gaza, too. I just want this to be over,” she said.