"Fine, reserve duty, but why at 6 A.M.?" asked Chen, who was one of thousands of reservists reporting for duty at the base.
The soldiers were among the more than 30,000 reservists being called up as part of Operation Pillar of Defense. Over the weekend, the cabinet decided to call up as many as 75,000.
The meeting points looked like packed car dealerships: Hundreds of cars were lined up at intersections around the south, as the reservists sought parking. The wail of air raid sirens near the base didn't affect the action much. Many of the reservists kept on strolling toward the base, while others kept looking for parking on a nearby hill.
You could tell who had lived through Color Red alerts: those who attempted to take cover under a nearby bus stop, wondering what would happen should a rocket strike where thousands of reservists were congregating. Those who didn't live under constant rocket fire just kept walking. A few seconds later, Iron Dome shot a rocket out of the air.
"That's the first time that I've seen it. How cool," said Chen, who serves in the armored corps.
The entrance to the base resembled a scene from an Israeli comedy. An irritable NCO sitting out front was trying to explain to drivers why they couldn't bring their vehicles into the base. He yelled and waved his arms, but he couldn't convince the reservists to park farther away.
Meanwhile, more and more reservists were showing up.
"Let's go, war," said Gil Feigel, 36, from Rishon Letzion. He wasn't afraid when the siren sounded in his city, but the rocket struck quite close to his home, he said.
"I'd just brought the children into the house, I'd thought it would be pretty quiet, but five minutes later the siren went off," he said.
That was what scared many of the reservists: While they were off in the army, would their loved ones at home be left unprotected from rocket fire?
So far, a high percentage of reservists called for duty have actually shown up. One infantry battalion commander said the figure was approaching 100 percent. The rocket barrages only add to the reservists' feeling that by showing up, they can help improve things for residents of southern Israel.
"My house taking a hit is not a consideration. Rockets are being fired at it regardless of whether I'm in the reserves," said one man reporting for duty. The cabinet's decision to call up as many as 75,000 reservists has raised expectations. Feigel, who was called up during Operation Cast Lead as well, said his company was disappointed that they weren't ultimately sent into combat.
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