Ashkelon Makes Transition from Boomtown to Border Town

During the economic boom that followed the Oslo accords, Ashkelon become a boom town on the Mediteranean. Now, the Defense Minister says, the economically depressed city will become a border town.

Scott Shiloh, | updated: 19:56

During the heyday of Oslo euphoria, Ashkelon had become a boomtown. Real estate prices for beachfront and vacation property, reasonable by Israeli standards, were starting to skyrocket.

When Oslo went bust with the outbreak of war in September 2000, it took Ashkelon along with it. The city’s proximity to Gaza caused real estate prices to plummet. But with Israel about to withdraw totally from the Gaza district, leaving it up to the Palestinian Authority and Hamas terrorists to provide security, Ashkelon will be waking up to a new reality as a border town.

Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said on a tour of Gush Katif today that Ashkelon, located just a few miles north of Gaza, must get used to its new status. He said that the city’s proximity to Gaza turns it into a “town that requires special defenses.” Those defenses will be needed to protect the town from the threat of mortars and missiles that have become the mainstay of life in Gush Katif for the past five years.

But Ashkelon is not alone. Forty-six other Jewish towns and villages are within the range of Arab missiles that can be fired from anywhere in Gaza once the IDF pulls out.

According to Mofaz, none of these communities will be adequately defended, if the impending withdrawal and expulsion of Jews from Gaza takes place in just a few weeks.

No matter how much time is left, as the residents of Sderot have come to learn, the IDF doesn’t seem to have a solution to the missiles that occasionally fall on the city’s shopping centers and living rooms, except for sending in troops to Gaza to try to seize the rockets before the terrorists get a chance to fire them.

Ashkelon’s residents might have just a bit more time to adjust to their new security problems, however. While visiting the Gaza beach near the recently-evacuated Maoz Hayam hotel, Mofaz said he expects IDF troops to remain in Gaza until the end of 2005.

But after that, the only thing left booming in Ashkelon may be the sounds of the mortars and rockets hitting the ground. By then, the mild headache of falling real estate prices will have turned into a real migraine for Ashkelon.