The Iron Dome was one of Israel’s heroes during the 2014 Israel-Gaza Conflict, intercepting around 1,200 rockets. Behind this system stand brave soldiers who decide in less than seven seconds whether or not to intercept a rocket. These soldiers saved millions of lives last summer and this is their story.
Living in the North, Defending in the South
Born in Kiryat Shmona, a city in northern Israel, Staff Sgt. Coral describes her experiences serving in an Iron Dome battery in southern Israel. “I am charged with protecting the area around the battery. If there is a minor technical problem, my soldiers and I are responsible for fixing it as soon as possible, regardless of when it occurs. We make sure the Iron Dome can do its job.”
The soldiers’ work is vital in ensuring the functioning and effectiveness of the Iron Dome. Soldiers often endanger their own lives in order to optimize the air defense system’s efficiency.
When asked about her motivation to join this indispensable unit, Staff Sgt. Coral refers to her childhood growing up in the north. “During the Second Lebanon War, every time I heard a loud noise, I was afraid, rockets flew over our heads and we had nowhere to go. Now, it is different. I feel protected by the Iron Dome.”
Staff Sgt. Coral’s position has allowed her to channel the fear that once traumatized her into an empowering force that motivates her. By maintaining the functionality of the Iron Dome, she guarantees that residents can feel protected.
Staff Sgt. Coral and her soldiers’ work during the 2014 Israel-Gaza Conflict was crucial. “The first time our battery intercepted a rocket, it was truly an incredible feeling.” She describes how the residents in the nearby areas were grateful. They felt secure knowing the soldiers serving in the Iron Dome were there. “People are very fond of us here and you can really feel their love. During the operation they brought us food and everything we needed.”
Born in the South and Protecting his Home
2nd Lt. Dekel grew up in a community near Gaza and is unfortunately all too familiar with the sounds of rocket sirens. Today he is a squad commander of 13 soldiers in the “Dores” Iron Dome battery. Living under rocket fire throughout his childhood sparked his motivation to draft into the IAF’s aerial defense unit. “I have great pride in defending my home,” 2nd Lt. Dekel states. “I know that my family can sleep soundly due to the work that I do here.”
As his enlistment drew near, he hoped to combine the elements of combat and technological knowledge that a job with the Iron Dome requires. He has the important task of monitoring a rocket’s trajectory and making the 7-second decision of whether or not a rocket can be intercepted. The battery is responsible for the defense of 220,000 residents in southern Israel.
2nd Lt. Dekel encourages his soldiers to meet the people they protect by facilitating recreational activities in the surrounding communities. “We get to meet the people we are protecting. One time we went to a nearby kindergarten and the kids wouldn’t stop asking questions. It was an extremely gratifying experience.”
The Leader of the Iron Dome Team
Maj. Tal is the commander of the “Dores” Iron Dome battery. He is responsible for the proper functioning of the battery as well as for preparing his soldiers for any situation or threat that may arise.
During the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict, Maj. Tal’s soldiers worked around the clock. They were stationed in the Ashdod area and were faced with the challenging task of intercepting hundreds of Hamas rockets fired from the Gaza Strip. “It is a privilege to save lives and it’s a truly indescribable experience,” Maj. Tal explains.
“While the system is highly advanced, it doesn’t work by itself. It’s the hard work and commitment of these soldiers that make it such a success.” He and his soldiers are at the frontlines of Israel’s air defense, and understand the importance of each interception. “The continuing growth and effectiveness of the Iron Dome is a testament to the value that Israel places on human life.”
Israel continues to face significant threats from Hamas in the south and Hezbollah in the north. The soldiers of the Iron Dome Battery continue to prepare mentally and physically for conflicts on a larger-scale with exercises both in the north and south. They may be young, but they understand the threats and the importance of their roles in protecting the citizens of Israel. Moving forward, these brave men and women will continue to be a viable and essential asset for the security of the State of Israel.