Monday, March 10, 2008

The Week After

Back in town now after the week away, Ashkelon is not the same city it was before. The map is now dotted with the sites where the rockets did their damage. People are preparing for the next round, be that sooner or later. Not so many are out and about as usual, especially in these warmer than usual March days. In the words of one resident:

On the counter of the old town district's Istanbul Restaurant is a bumper sticker reading, "We will win," and another that reads, "We're fighting for our home." I ask the owner, Rafi Levy, if he pasted those up in the last few days. "No, they're from another war, the last one in Lebanon. But they still apply today," he says.

A beefy, seemingly gentle man, Levy, 59, took over the restaurant from his father in 1976. He remembers being a young soldier during the War of Attrition "and getting shelled forever" by the Egyptians. Still, the spate of rockets from Gaza has shaken him somewhat. "On Friday night, I was lying in bed, sort of half-asleep, I couldn't really sleep, and then - boom! My grandchildren were with us in the house. It landed far enough away, there was no damage. But it's not a good feeling."
No, I can heartily concur it's not a good feeling.
He goes over to one of his regular customers, a lawyer, and tells him I'm doing a story on how Ashkelon is holding up. The lawyer's expression turns gloomy. "I hope this is a one-time thing," he says. "If it isn't, there won't be much left of this city."
We can only hope, but I doubt the terrorists have turned a new page in their rocket-firing ways. But the good (or bad) news is that at least one Ashkeloni isn't sitting idly by; he's taking matters into his own hands.
Ashkelon resident Moshe Nissimpor decided that the best way to halt rocket fire from Gaza - in light of what he terms the government's failure to do so - is some vigilante justice.

Nissimpor developed a homemade 200-millimeter ballistic missile which he planned to launch from Ashkelon into the Gaza Strip.
"From this day onwards, we will push back to the stone age every place which dares shoot missiles into Israel's sovereign territory," he said Wednesday. "It is time the world understood Israelis' lives are not expendable." ...

Nissimpor arrived at the Ashkelon Municipality building with the missile painted black and lettered "to Hamas, from the residents of Ashkelon" in red, and was planning to launch it.

Ashkelon residents gathered round to cheer him on and protest the government's conduct, but at the eleventh hour, police stopped him from firing the missile and seized it.
By the looks of it, that seemed to be a wise move for everyone involved.

On a more somber note, Ashkelon buried one of it's own yesterday.
[Staff Sergeant Liran] Banai, of Ashkelon, was driving the jeep when it rolled over an explosive device next to Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha, on the Israeli side of the border with central Gaza. He was taken to Soroka Medical Center in Be'er Sheva in serious condition, and both his legs were amputated. Family members stayed by Banai's side for three days, praying for the miracle that would keep him alive. The doctors fought for his life, but lost the battle. ...

Many of the mourners were deaf. They came to the funeral in a show of solidarity with Banai's parents, Guy and Gila, both of whom are deaf, and wanted to find a spot from which they could read the lips of the eulogizers. ...

His commander said that Liran could have been exempted from combat duty because of his family situation, but had chosen not to because of his dedication to his country.
That's real dedication and we are thankful for those who are on the front lines trying to protect us all. Meanwhile, trepidation weighs heavily on everyone's minds. Especially when one sees the results of an attack in a favorite place we have frequented more times that I care to recall.
And some more images from a house that was hit.

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