In Ashkelon, trauma runs deep

By Nathan Jeffay, March 15, 2012
An Iron Dome battery

An Iron Dome battery

The intense bout of rocket fire at southern Israel may be over, but Ilana Shemla-Laloum of Ashkelon expects to feel its effects for two years.

That is how long it was after Operation Cast Lead before her youngest daughter, now six, felt safe sleeping in her own room instead of her mother's.

Ms Shemla-Laloum said that, during periods of rocket fire, her daughter wants constantly to be close to her for a feeling of security, and finds it difficult to return to normality afterwards. "When the alarm goes off, she panics," she said.

Like 200,000 other children in areas where rockets fell, her school was closed due to the security situation. And, though heart-wrenching for Ms Shemla-Laloum, she had to leave her daughter in the care of others because she is an essential health-care worker. "I had to leave her and her sister at home afraid, and they worry for my safety when I am out, which makes it so difficult," she commented.

I had to leave her and her sister at home afraid

But despite the tense atmosphere in cities such as Ashkelon, Ashdod and Beersheba where rockets were falling, some smaller locales that usually bear the brunt of escalations were calmer than normal. "The past few days was much better for our members than it used to be during the violence three years ago," said Ofer Shlomi, a resident of Kibbutz Sa'ad near Sderot.

He said this is because increased range of terrorists' rockets means that they have a greater ability to reach big cities, which are further from Gaza. Conversely, this means they send fewer missiles to small, border-area targets such as his kibbutz.

Improved bomb shelters and the Iron Dome missile defence system also make residents feel safer, he said.

The Iron Dome has impressed Israelis, successfully intercepting almost 90 per cent of rockets it targeted. But, while some citizens were surprised, in view of the negative publicity that preceded its deployment, Israeli military spokesman Arye Shalicar said: "We were pretty confident about our system."

Last updated: 3:32pm, March 15 2012