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Israel's Iron Dome provides cover, but not normalcy (+video)

Israeli sources claim the Iron Dome missile defense system has successfully shot down most of the rockets that it has tried to intercept from Gaza.  

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That feeling that the government is doing something – most important, preventing casualties – has given Israel breathing room in deciding how to proceed, says veteran analyst Yossi Alpher.

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"It reduces public pressure on the government to do something," Mr. Alpher says. "With the expansion of [Iron Dome] to Tel Aviv, people are feeling relatively safe and able to withstand a longer-term campaign." 

Holes in Iron Dome

To be sure, there are still rockets that pierce Israel’s anti-missile umbrella. Around the corner from a huge Ashdod billboard peddling “Spikes to go” – with dagger-like high heels dangling from the fingers of a sultry model –  a Gazan rocket careened into a courtyard yesterday, creating a large divot in the dirt.

Alona Bererzin, a resident walking near the freshly filled-in hole in the evening, said Iron Dome’s batteries clearly needed improving.

“They do nothing,” said Ms. Bererzin, whose apartment is located less than 75 feet from where the rocket hit. “They tried to get three of them, but they didn’t get any.”

Half an hour away in Kiryat Malachi, family members mourned one of three people killed in a Nov. 15 rocket attack. The IDF would not confirm whether the town is protected by Iron Dome, afraid of revealing its weak points to Hamas, but the deep rumblings of what residents said was an Iron Dome launcher could be heard throughout the afternoon.

Mr. Herzog, the head of Israel’s missile defense program from 1999 until January of this year, says that typically missile-defense systems have a much lower rate of success than Iron Dome. But he says it’s crucial that the system be used in tandem with bomb shelters, because “from time to time the system does not intercept what it wants to intercept.”

Lack of bomb shelters

The bomb shelter on the ground floor of the damaged Kiryat Malachi building is piled with junk, allowing space for perhaps two or three people at most. Like many of Israel’s older buildings, it lacks a mamad – a bomb shelter within one’s apartment or just outside it, which is easier to access in the 15-to-90-second window that Israelis have to reach a shelter once missile sirens begin to wail.

“The big problem is that there are lots of old buildings that don’t have mamads,” says Hanna Shukrun, a resident whose daughter and 3-day-old granddaughter have come to take shelter with her. “Even without a war, it’d be a problem.”

But while the newer mamad shelters provide good protection, the routine of sirens and shelters is wearing.

“You are afraid of doing the routine things of your life, like going to the bathroom, going to take a shower, whatever,” says Ben Hay, the trauma expert.

“All your life stops,” says Mesodi Sugaker, a lifelong resident of Kiryat Malachi. “There is no school, no work…. Stores are open only until noon… Even the cows are afraid,” she and her sisters joke while enjoying tea on her balcony overlooking a local farm.

But she becomes more somber when the evening news comes on, showing a rapid montage of Iron Dome interceptors, Gazan missiles, and suffering on both sides of the border.

As Shabbat comes to a close, she takes comfort, however, in a higher power – implied in the Hebrew name for the operation, Pillar of Cloud. The name is a biblical reference to the divine light that guided Moses and the children of Israel through the wilderness.

“Everybody from Israel sees … He protects us,” she says, referring to God. “He’s with Israel all the time.”


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