“It is clear to us that this is a direct result of Operation Pillar of Defense, the goal of which was to bring tranquility to the residents of Southern Israel”
In the last decade, around 9,000 missiles have been fired towards the city of Sderot, sometimes turning it into a silent ghost city, and sometimes turning it into the center of a raging war. In each case, tranquility was nowhere to be found. Today, a year after Operation Pillar of Defense, Sderot is experiencing a construction boom and the relative calm remains. In the Aerial Defense Division, active defense capabilities continue to be developed amid hopes that the silence will continue.
15 Second Haze
“The year that has passed since [Operation] Pillar of Defense has been among the quietest years we have known in the last decade”, says Colonel Zvika Haimovitch, Commander of the Active Defense Wing. “It is clear to us that this is a direct result of Operation Pillar of Defense, the goal of which was bring tranquility to the residents of Southern Israel”. Indeed, this past year has brought the city an economic boom; construction continues, classes have resumed at Sapir College, while housing prices have risen. “For the residents, it’s great, you can go out, have fun, and sometimes even forget that we are in a warzone”, says Kobu Harosh, security chief of the city. Kobi, who sleeps in a sweatshirt and sweatpants and showers for more than a minute, cannot remove the 15-second-haze from his thoughts. “As a security officer, I am even bothered by the quiet”, Kobi confesses. “I’m afraid of the first shot that will remind everyone of the laws of the neighborhood where we live, that peace doesn’t come so quickly and how unprepared we are and that we will always be caught unprepared”.
Last summer, a watermelon salesman was wandering around the city shouting “Red Watermelons!” in the streets, and after several weeks of uproar and confusion in the city, the security forces demanded that he only shout “Watermelons!”, in order not to adversely affect the tranquility of the residents. This is one of many examples that show the absurd reality of the city. Uncertainty in the form of 15 seconds, and that one moment can completely disrupt and change the lives of the residents. “It is impossible to know what will happen in half an hour and an hour”, explains Kobi, “You can sit and drink coffee and listen to music and, without being ready, all the serenity and quiet can come to an abrupt end.” This is the reason that the residents of Sderot are careful about calling the quiet “relative quiet”. Dr. Katz, municipal psychiatrist and director of the Center for Mental Health, thinks that it is impossible to be accustomed to the calm so quickly. “Of course, efforts are underway to resume the routine of a normal life”, she says, “but, it is clear to everyone that the quiet can be broken at any moment, the feelings is that we, either before or after, will always be tense.”
“Today we, the residents, feel a lot safer. After operations Cast Lead and Pillar of Defense, there is an understanding that has begun to sink in that we are not alone in this battle”, Kobi adds and explains that the feeling on the streets of Sderot is that the protection, mainly the “Iron Dome”, has proven itself. And the residents trust the army and the Active Defense Division, in particular. “The role of active defense is reduce the [missile and rocket] barrages and during Operation Pillar of Defense, this capability was proven magnificently”, says Colonel Haimovitch, who stresses that “of course, in the past year, the division has been upgraded and improved and always do this, but we will never be able to reach the point of complete defense and, as such, a combination of passive defense, that is to say adherence to the Home Front Command’s instructions, is so significant.