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It took me 20 minutes to drive to Ashdod from Tel-Aviv on Sunday morning, August 21st, 2 days after Ashdod, the fifth biggest city in Israel, was hit by seven Grad missiles fired from Hamas-controlled Gaza. According the IDF Spokesperson’s Office, over 100 rockets and mortars were fired towards Israel since Friday, August 19th.
As has been the routine in Sderot for the past five years, my car windows are rolled down, the radio volume is lowered, and I get ready to hear a siren that will give me and everyone else 45 seconds to find a safe place. On the bright side, 45 seconds to run for your life is an improvement over the 15 seconds you have in Sderot.
The local news on the car radio announces burial plans for Yossi Ben Sasson, age 38, who was killed from the Grad missile the night before in Beer Sheva, when he was taking his wife, nine months pregnant, for a medical check up. And the news item that follows is about a young woman fighting for her life at the Soroka hospital, also in Beer Sheva.
I reach ‘Admor Me’gor’ street in Ashdod, where only a few days before – at 8:12 a.m. on Friday morning, August 19th, – a Grad missile exploded within range of 900 yeshiva students and high school kids who were beginning their school day.
Yakkov Bozaglo, 56, who was taking shelter from the Grad missile on Friday morning, described the huge explosion and the scene of three seriously injured men as they left their small synagogue; how they were treated for shrapnel wounds on the spot, while thanking G-d that the high school and elementary students were set to arrive 15 minutes after the explosion.
Driving onto the next scene where a missile penetrated three meters deep into the sand, burrowing into a ditch between two synagogues, causing damage, but leaving all the holy books and Ark with the Torah scroll unscathed.
Ariel Zeldman, age 26, who came to see his synagogue that morning, where he prayed during the attack, described how everyone ran outside, crossed the street to the 7th floor apartment building to take cover. Ariel described how he held the hand of an elderly man who only reached half of the distance and was also injured by debris, even though he had 45 seconds to find shelter.
Leaving Ashdod and driving south towards Sderot, “the bomb shelter capital of the world”, there was a sign post on Route 4, next to Nitzan’s tent city encampment, with signs screaming: “6 years, until when?!”
The tents and sign depict the plight of Jewish residents from Gush Katif in Gaza who have been living in refugee-type conditions in Nitzan, since the IDF pulled all civilians and military personnel out of Gaza exactly six years ago, in August 2005.
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