Forget the Beach: Ashkelon Kids Get Kicks by Watching Iron Dome Take Down Rockets

Near the anti-rocket system there are soldiers guarding, but also explaining to the visitors how it works.

Down a long dirt road, in the middle of a field with seasonal vegetation, one can find Ashkelon's newest attraction.

Many already know how to get there, and the rest will most likely hear about it in the near future. The Iron Dome system has become, in recent days, a favorite destination among the rubber-necking public.

Ashkelon kids - Ilan Assayag - 10.4.2011
Ilan Assayag

Near the anti-rocket system there are soldiers guarding, but also explaining to the visitors how it works. A small military base has been set up around the system: two tents, flags and a few roadblocks.

A little further away, there are the photographers, setting up their cameras in the hope that they can capture the moment of interception.

A few meters further are the curious residents of Ashkelon, mostly children and youth, waiting to see the system in operation.

"Some kid was here with his family and he told us," says Kobi Buskila, who came to see the Iron Dome with his brothers and some friends. "That is how the word gets around."

Some of the youths pulled out their cellular telephones and posed with the system, to show their classmates.

Haim Gahasi came to see the anti-rocket system with his children. He says they wanted to see it. "It has a calming effect on the children, you would not believe," he says smiling.

"We brought food and drink. We will stay here an hour, an hour and a half, or until they launch for the first time," said Neta Kramer, 14. "I wish there was something now, I am dying to see it."

She is eager to see a little action, despite her experiences during Operation Cast Lead two winters ago.

"A missile hit our yard two years ago. I was alone at home. It caused a lot of damage to the home behind us, and our storage hut blew up,' she says. "Now I am completely immune."

A siren can be heard in a different part of the city. Kramer is not nervous. On the contrary.

"We are no longer excited by this like we used to be. It used to be a lot scarier," she says.

Ben Sampson, 15, is sitting nearby. He emigrated to Israel from the U.S. three years ago.

"During Operation Cast Lead I was with my father in the car and a missile flew overhead and struck 200 meters ahead of us," he says. "During the war I was scared. Now it has become routine. I am no longer scared. The chances that it will hit us are small. In the U.S. we had snow days at school and here we have missile days."

Life returns to normal in south

Mayors in the south decided yesterday that life will return to normal in their cities, although it is not clear that there will indeed be calm after the recent rise in rocket fire from Gaza.

After consulting with security officials, Be'er Sheva Mayor Rubik Danilovich, Ashdod Mayor Yehiel Lasri and Ashkelon Mayor Benny Vaknin decided to open school and kindergarten buildings, despite the Passover vacation.

Students in the Eshkol Regional Council area who are preparing for matriculation exams will attend class in schools with reinforced spaces.

Approximately 100 children from locales near the Gaza border will be hosted by a Herzliya community center.

Residents in the Eshkol, Sha'ar Hanegev and Sdot Negev Regional Councils are still being asked to remain no more than 15 seconds away from protected spaces.

Matan Tzarfati, a high-school student at the Nitzanei Eshkol school said he and his friends "feel safer at school than at home."

All outdoor activities during the vacation for younger children at Kibbutz Nir Oz had to be canceled and most were moved to shelters. "Before Cast Lead, we were in rough shape. We're not at that point yet, but we're afraid the trauma will return," said Nir Oz's secretary, Haim Perry.(Yanir Yagna).