Qassams Wreck Israeli Idyll Near Ashkelon

It's 2 P.M. on Friday at Moshav Nativ Ha'asara, south of Ashkelon. Red-roofed homes, green gardens, sunbeams hitting the greenhouses. From the highest points the sea is visible. The concrete wall next to the deserted playground is the first false note in the idyll. A large, gray concrete barrier stands in the background. The Gazan town of Beit Hanoun begins a few yards from the other side. Welcome to the land of the Qassams.

It's 3 P.M., and 50 men have begun their weekly soccer game. Their kids play nearby. The benchwarmers joke with the reporter: "Never mind the Qassams, see to some lights for the field and we're golden."

Twenty minutes into the game, the "Tzeva Adom" alert - Color Red - bursts from a hidden loudspeaker. Sweaty and panting, the men run to a nearby migunit shelter. As soon as the missile hits the ground they return to the game. A few meters away, a column of smoke rises. Seconds later, Color Red is repeated and it all begins again.

The moshav's security officer, Gil Ta'asa, invites us to come with him to find the spot where the missile fell. In a red motorcycle jacket and sunglasses, he had hoped to spend Shabbat on his quad bike, but instead he picks us up in an armored SUV and shows us what to look for. Ta'asa's pagers don't stop beeping and his cellphones keep ringing, but he doesn't seem concerned.

A fire truck passes us. Ta'asa looks around and for no clear reason points and says, "There it is." We see a plowed field, nothing more, and then we get out to look at the missiles. There's another alert. We start running for the SUV but Ta'asa orders us to lie flat on the ground. We hear a loud explosion, very nearby. We look at the Qassam in amazement and burst out laughing - it's a common defense mechanism. The shock comes in a moment. We look at the black cloud and begin to shake. Is this anxiety? Either way, we get into the SUV and leave.