It was a testing time. The Gazan terrorists were firing hundreds of rockets at targets throughout Israel, with the clear intention of killing as many innocent civilians as possible. The Israel Defence Forces were doing their best but were handicapped by Israel’s moral duty not to bomb civilians. Terrorists were able to fire with impunity, hiding in schools, old-age homes and other places that the IDF could not attack.
Over the years, we have become used to hearing about short-range rockets hopping over the border, but I don’t remember longer-range missiles reaching Rehovot. The long-suffering people of the South regularly make the headlines when yet another salvo of missiles come in from Gaza, but Rehovot is the Centre, we don’t have missile attacks.
Many years ago, during a flare up of fighting, I was working in a Rehovot hi-tech company. When the sirens sounded, I ran, together with my fellow workers to the shelter deep under the building. I was holding onto a pillar and felt it move as the incoming bomb hit (we were still in the age of bombs dropped from an aircraft). The crump of the exploding bomb was not loud, but I heard it, even deep underground. When the all-clear sounded and we were able to leave the shelter, I looked for the damage expecting to see the company’s buildings reduced to a pile of rubble To my amazement, there was no sign of damage, nothing had been touched. It was a false alarm – there had been no bomb, no hit, just my vivid imagination.
But this time was different, my imagination was not needed. Missiles really did reach Rehovot, although, thankfully no-one was injured. And, the world has changed since that first visit to the bomb shelter. Perhaps the biggest change is the way we speak with each other. We no longer wait three years for the Ministry of Communications to get a phone line to our house. In fact, we no longer need a line, everyone has a cell phone in their hand at all times. We have Skype, we have WhatsApp, we have SMS – instant communication at our fingertips.
Shortly after the attack, I spent a long time on my phone, checking that the grand-children were OK, and not too traumatised by the rush to the shelters. Friends, out of range of the missiles, were quick to contact us, to hear of our experience of a direct attack on Rehovot, better known for its science park and orange orchards than missile bombardment.
And this time, we were not alone. Not long after the attack on Rehovot had made the news, buried deep in the UK’s Telegraph a long way after the sports news, and ignored by Sky News, I received anxious e-mails from friends as far apart as Japan and America. Are you OK, they asked, our thoughts are with you. It was good to know, with all the anti-Israel sentiment in the world today, that we still have friends we can count on.