(sunset over the Gaza strip)
Our most recent study tour took us to sites near the Gaza strip. Brig. Gen. Shalom Harari was at the top of his game: we discussed the security issues Israel faces from within the Gaza strip, the history of the area in the Arab-Israeli conflict, and what civilian life is like in towns near the Gaza strip (among many other things).
This is a security wall outside of a town just north of the Gaza strip. Painted on one side, soliders on the other.
As Shalom was lecturing he pointed out the remotely-controlled artillery along the security wall (left-hand picture below) we were standing nearby and said (I kid you not): "It's almost 3pm, so if you hear them testing the weapons don't freak out. But if you hear more than three bullets, get on the ground."
We drove by a prison housing convicted terrorists at one point in the afternoon. We didn't stop, but our bus driver, Hezzi, went slowly so we could take pictures. In the picture below the words "emergency exit" are on the window of the bus, not a sign outside of the prison.
Below is the port at Ashdod, along the Mediterranean.
One of our stops was Sderot- a town that lies 840 meters from the Gaza strip. For the last 10 years this town has been a target of daily rocket attacks from militants within Gaza. When the siren is sounded, the residents of the town have 15 seconds to get to shelter. For this reason you can see that they have had to construct bomb shelters all over the town. Below you can see the bus stops that are reinforced (and decorated to add a little levity) outside of the school pictured next to it which has been reinforced on the walls and roof to protect from kassam rockets that fall on the city. There are bomb shelters on the playgrounds here.
We also drove through an area near Ashdod that is one of Israel's satellite centers. There are high tech companies which manufacture and operate the country's intelligence and defense satellite systems. This area happens to be across the street from an Orthodox religious community. It was an interesting juxtaposition of tradition and modernity.
This was by far one of my favorite tours so far. Our guide was able to provide some fascinating insight about the security issues faced by Israeli decision makers and citizens alike when it comes to the Gaza strip, and I feel so fortunate to have opportunities to learn like this.
I'll leave you with a few more photos of the stunning sunset we watched over the Gaza strip before heading home.