Home Front soldiers instill security at southern communities

Photo: Home Front Command headquarters

Several more rockets fired from the Gaza Strip, IAF targets terror sites; IDF (Zahal) Website joins IDF (Zahal) commander as he preserves order among civilian communities

Date: 16/03/2012, 3:57 PM     Author: Adam May

Several more rockets have been fired from the Gaza Strip at Israeli communities in southern Israel over the past few days. The IAF responded to the attack with precise airstrikes targeting terror sites and thwarting additional launchings. During the recent escalation in the Gaza Strip, terrorists launched over 200 rockets at communities in southern Israel, including the cities of Be’er Sheva, Ashdod, Ashkelon, home to more than one million people. 

The escalation began on Friday (March 9) as millions of Israeli kids, teens and adults gathered to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Purim, characterized by colorful costumes and festive traditions. However in southern Israel, moments after the celebrations began, an alarm sounded indicating additional rockets had been fired from the Gaza Strip, sending everyone to nearby bomb shelters.

The peaceful weekend in southern Israel was shattered by unremitting rocket warnings and the sound of explosions over the city. This unfortunate reality has become commonplace for the reserve forces of the Home Front Command charged with defending the city.

Col. (res.) Erez Badash, returned to his army post as commander of the Home Front Command’s Negev Sub-district. Since the escalation began, he has been working non-stop to organize his soldiers, lending a helping hand wherever his forces are needed. During times of emergency, the safety of the civilian population becomes the number one priority. The Home Front Command forces work with both the police and the local authorities in order to protect the city.

During these days, life changes dramatically for the citizens. Schools are shut down, certain workers are encouraged to stay at home, large gatherings are prohibited, and at any moment, an alarm can sound sending citizens scrambling for shelter. Col. Badash and his team of officers and soldiers help maintain order in these chaotic times. They not only set the guidelines and procedures for staying safe from rockets, but provide all means of services to help make life as regular as possible.

Soldiers from the Home Front Command are dispatched all over the city on a variety of missions. Some soldiers are assigned to help the elderly and the sick reach shelter in the case of emergency. Others are assigned to the city’s call center, charged with informing the public on proper procedures and responding to requests for assistance. Some female education soldiers will help set up daycare centers so worried parents will have a safe environment to leave their children while they attempt to work as normal. “The army is a symbol for people, when they see us in uniform it makes them feel safe,” said Col. Badash.

A silver lining to the chaos of the last few days has been the dramatic success of Israel’s Iron Dome system. Designed to intercept short-range rockets and mortars, the Iron Dome has enjoyed an 85% success rate, keeping largely populated areas safe from rocket fire and adding a sense of ease absent in previous escalations. But such safety doesn’t come without a price, “The Iron Dome has definitely put people at ease, but you have to understand it’s not perfect,” said Col. Badash. “You can’t stand outside to watch it, you still need to be careful and take the necessary safety measures.”

With the recent announcement of the south returning to a state of normalcy, the relief is palpable. However, the Home Front Command’s work is hardly over. “These calmer days can almost be more complicated, when there are few rockets but the threat remains,” said Col. Badash. “People want things to go back to normal, but we still have to make sure that the return happens smoothly, the work never stops.”

But for these men, most of whom reservists who live in the city of Beersheba, the work they do is of an unparalleled importance. “You are defending your own city, you have your wife and your kids here, the work is personal and goes beyond the uniform,” said Lt. Col. Partook. “The rockets can break walls and houses, but they can never break our spirit.”