#Israel At War Day 6: Today I went into the missile zone and heard the air raid sirens & saw the rockets screeching across the sky

Israeli police from the bomb disposal unit inspect an undetonated warhead of the rocket that landed near us in Ashkelon today.

Today, I decided to Tweet (@joelcrosenberg) moment by moment on a visit to the Israeli city of Ashkelon, not far from the Gaza border. I thought it was going to be an interesting visit. I didn’t know the half of it. It’s one thing to watch on TV as rockets are being fired from Gaza into Israel, and to watch the Iron Dome system fire missiles to intercept them. It’s quite another thing to be there in person and hear the air raid sirens going off, and run for cover to the nearest bomb shelter, and see the contrails of the rockets and missiles screeching across the sky, and then hear the earth-shaking booms, and to feel your heart pounding in your chest as you thank God that He protected you.

May you never have to experience this.

As I headed to Ashkelon from Jerusalem, I was accompanied by several of my colleagues with The Joshua Fund. We had been invited by a dear friend to come back to visit a hospital that serves as the primary medical center serving some 500,000 Israeli citizens who live on the southern tier. For the past several years, The Joshua Fund has been honored to invest in the purchase of much-needed medical equipment for the hospital through the generous donations of evangelical Christians in the U.S. and Canada.

We knew that Ashkelon had been targeted for the past six days with a relentless barrage of rockets and missiles. We knew it was risky. But we also felt the Lord was telling to go and see how the staff was doing, encourage them, pray with and for them, and try to get a better understanding of what they and the residents of Ashkelon face. I’m so glad went. For awhile we thought we were going to be able to depart without incident, and that was what we were praying for. But Lord had other plans. Today, some 120 rockets were fired at southern Israel and 30 rockets were intercepted by Iron Dome. There is plenty of talk of a cease fire, but no evidence of one happening yet.

Here are the Tweets I sent today in the order they were sent:

  1. Heading into Ashkelon w/colleagues from #TheJoshuaFund to visit Barzilai Hospital staff in the epicenter of the missile zone. Pls pray for us.
  2. 3 rockets intercepted over Ashkelon. “Rocket fire from Gaza slows, IDF says terror groups’ offensive capacity reduced by 40%” (Times of Israel)
  3. Entering city of Ashkelon.
  4. Retweet report from Times of Israel: “#Walla news reports that a elementary school in Ashkelon has been damaged [by rocket attack].”
  5. Touring Barzilai Hospital w/#TheJoshuaFund team. No rockets, no sirens since we’ve been here, by God’s grace.
  6. Meeting w/Lea Malul, director of public affairs for Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon. The Joshua Fund loves this hospital.
  7. Sirens going off right now!
  8. Just saw rockets incoming as we ran to shelter — and saw Iron Dome take them out. Thank the Lord for His protection. Psalm 91.
  9. We’re on the street where a rocket landed, but didn’t explode.
  10. More sirens right now. Israelis running for cover. At least 2 booms, Iron Dome intercepting. Now 2 more booms. Thank you, Lord for safety.
  11. Our Joshua Fund team is now leaving Ashkelon. We’ve met and listened to people who live here and described to us what their lives are like.
  12. Reading Psalm 91, grateful for the Lord’s grace & mercy. Praying for the millions in this area traumatized by the rockets & missiles. #Ashkelon.
  13. Retweet report from IDF spokesman: “A short while ago, a rocket fired from #Gaza was intercepted by the Iron Dome over Ashkelon. Pieces of the rocket then crashed on a school.”

While I never felt scared (I certainly felt a surge of adrenaline, but also what the Bible calls “the peace that passes all understanding”), I certainly could better appreciate how difficult it must be to live a normal life when sirens keep going off and you never quite know where the rocket is coming from, or where it will hit, and how much time you have to get to safety. These Hamas rockets and missiles are weapons of terror. They are designed to kill and wound if they can, but also to instill fear and anxiety. I was impressed with all the Israelis I saw who could bounce back very quickly from each attack with a calm determination to get right back to their business. But I also met people who were deeply shaken by the relentless attacks and were having a much harder time than their neighbors. Please keep praying for the millions on both sides of this border — Israelis and Palestinians — who are living inside the missile zone.