In 2011, Israel’s brand new Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted its very first rocket fired from Gaza, high above the country’s battered south.
The all too familiar screeching whistle of the rocket siren was heard in Ashkelon, Ashdod and Sderot.
But this time, instead of people fleeing to their reinforced rooms in a panicked wave, everyone excitedly stepped onto their balconies to watch the light show that was the Iron Dome in action.
People clapped and cheered at the sight of the system’s first successful interception. Pride swelled in the chests of Israelis who knew that reality in the country would forever be changed.
Despite the south's newly found euphoria, many around Israel believed that this multi-million dollar system - whose missiles are priced at tens of thousands of shekels apiece - was nothing less then an overkill response to the ramshackle rockets cobbled together in Gaza’s dilapidated scrapyards.
That notion was a mistake. Iron Dome is one of the best things to happen to the communities adjacent the Gaza Strip in particular and the south as a whole. The fighters operating the system are seen as nothing less than family in every household in southern Israel.
The very deployment of the system both changed life in the south and signaled that Israel’s leaders finally understood the country’s home front had to be protected by any means.
It served as a stepping stone for the deployment of additional protective means in the south, such as the new and technologically advanced fence along the Gaza Strip border.
Still, back in 2011, the use of the system was subject to criticism, with some claiming that intercepting the rockets fired from Gaza would both make Israel too lenient towards the Strip and abolish any reason for a swift, powerful response against Gaza’s terror groups.
There is no doubt that Israel reacts differently to an attack in which a rocket is intercepted midair and one in which a rocket strikes down in the middle of a city and causes multiple casualties.
But the bottom line is that Israel has managed to develop a system that does nothing less than save human lives. Every time the people of the south hear that awful siren blare, they at least now know someone is watching over them.
Iron Dome batteries have become part of the scenery in the south. Far from being feared by the local population, these missile batteries are instead seen as guardians angels bearing the promise of proper safety.
Even so, real lasting peace in the south demands leaders who can and will make decisions on the Gaza Strip.
Compared to the Iron Dome, which excels time and time again, our leaders have failed repeatedly .