Ashkelon’s Answer to Katyushas

Just days after the latest Gaza Katyusha rocket landed in Ashkelon, with no casualties, city leaders laid the cornerstone for a new neighborhood.

Hillel Fendel , | updated: 6:35 PM

Just days after the latest Katyusha rocket fired from Gaza landed in Ashkelon – no one was hurt – city leaders laid the cornerstone for a new neighborhood.

Mayor Benny Vaknin and former Shin Bet chief Avi Dichter were among the hundreds of people who gathered for the festive ceremony on Wednesday morning. The new neighborhood, to be known as Park Alon, will consist of 450 housing units, alongside the central entrance to the city.  

Several of the speakers noted the symbolism of this show of Zionist vitality in the face of rocket threats on the city. Twelve days ago, a Grad Katyusha slammed into a city street near an apartment building; eight people required trauma treatment. Many dozens of Kassam and Katyusha rockets have hit Ashkelon and environs in recent years.

“We're familiar with the Likud's horror stories,” the late Yitzchak Rabin said in 1995. “They promised [when the first Oslo agreement was signed, in 1993] that there would be Katyushas from Gaza - but Gaza has been mostly under Palestinian Authority control for more than a year now, and there hasn't been a single Katyusha, and there won’t be any…”

Eight years later, announcing his plan to withdraw from Gaza, leaving a leadership vacuum filled shortly afterwards by Hamas, Ariel Sharon said, “The purpose of the Disengagement Plan is to reduce terror as much as possible, and grant Israeli citizens the maximum level of security.”

Ashkelon is Israel's 13th-largest city, after Bat Yam and ahead of Rehovot, with about 112,000 people.

Dichter spoke of his childhood in Ashkelon: “When I was a boy, this location was considered to be the other end of the world, but now, when I see it just ten kilometers away from Gaza as the crow flies, I say to the Arabs, ‘If Gaza wants peace, then welcome, but if not, then ‘Elul’ – a Hebrew acronym for ‘Woe unto the evil one and woe unto his neighbors,’ meaning, Woe unto Hamas and woe unto whoever helps him in war.”

Mayor Vaknin promised that Park Alon is planned to be one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in Israel, with green areas and top-quality environmental development. He announced that Ashkelon had recently signed a twin-sister agreement with Uman, where Rabbe Nachman of Breslov is buried.

The ceremony also featured the writing of the final letters in a new Torah scroll, which was written especially for the establishment of Park Alon. Rabbi Ophir Cohen, formerly of Kfar Darom in Gush Katif who now heads the local Torah core group, spoke as well.