The earliest traditions of the Exodus from Egypt refer to the pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night, which accompanied the Children of Israel on their way through the desert (Ex. 13:21–22).

The visible symbol of the presence of God caused a panic among the Egyptians as it cut them off from the Israelites (Ex. 14:19b, 24a), and continued to guide and protect the latter uninterruptedly throughout their wanderings.

Later generations remembered it as a special sign of divine favor (cf. Ps. 78:14), no less important than the parting of the Sea of Reeds itself. Another early tradition connected the cloud with the *Tent of Meeting.

According to the view attributed by critics to the author of the Elohist account (E), the pillar of cloud served not as a regular escort marching at the head of the people, but as an intermittent presence, descending from time to time to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting when God conversed with Moses (Ex. 33:9–10; Num. 11:25; 12:5).

The priestly authors, on the other hand, taught that “a cloud of the Lord” (not a pillar) with a fiery appearance by night, permanently covered the Tabernacle from the day of its completion, lifting only to signal the breaking of camp for a new journey (Ex. 40:34–38; Num. 9:15–23; 10:11–12, 34; 14:14).

The Divine Presence in Solomon’s Temple was similarly accompanied by the descent of the cloud (I Kings 8:10–11; cf. Ex. 16:10; Lev. 16:2) though the pillar of cloud and of fire did not accompany the Israelites into the Promised Land.

Various explanations have been sought for the origin of these traditions. Among them is the attested use of braziers filled with burning wood at the head of caravans or armies, sometimes placed before the tent of the chief or carried before him.

Others derive the imagery from the *pillars before Solomon’s Temple, which, they contend, were fiery cressets emitting clouds of smoke and flame by day and by night at the time of a festival. Still others point to the smoke that rose from the altar of the burnt offering as the origin of the representation.

The most commonly accepted theory connects the pillar of cloud and fire with the theophany at Sinai, when the descent of the Lord was marked by a thick cloud (Ex. 19:9), by thunder, lightening, smoke, and fire.

Attempts to provide a natural basis for this narrative have pointed to the possible existence of volcanic action in the vicinity of Sinai – which is highly unlikely – or to the sudden outbreak of a raging desert storm. In any event, there can be little doubt that the imagery is as old as the time of Moses, and that the cloud, and, in a lesser degree, the fire symbolism proved effective in communicating the presence of God to the people.

Post-biblical legend embellished the biblical account. Thus, not one but seven clouds descended at Sukkot to envelop and protect the Israelites, one on each of the four sides of the camp, one above and one below, and one which went before them to raise the valleys and lower the mountains.

The Israelites were protected against the elements and wild beasts; even their garments did not wear out or become dirty. Eliezer maintained that the Festival of Sukkot commemorated the “clouds of glory” (Suk. 11b) which were considered among God’s special creations in the “twilight” of the first six days (ARN2 37, 95).

Operation Pillar of Defense (Hebrew: עַמּוּד עָנָן, ʿAmúd ʿAnán, literally: “Pillar of Cloud“) was an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) operation in the Gaza Strip from 14 to 21 November 2012.

It started with the killing of Ahmed Jabari, chief of the Gaza military wing of Hamas. The stated aims of the operation were to halt the indiscriminate rocket attacks originating from the Gaza Strip[ and to disrupt the capabilities of militant organizations.

The Israeli government said the operation began in response to Gaza militants rocket fire, and attacks against Israeli soldiers on the Israel-Gaza border. Gaza militants said the blockade of the Gaza Strip, and occupation of West Bank and East Jerusalem, justify the rocket attacks on Israeli civilians.

The IDF launched more than 1,550 air, tank, and naval strikes against targets in the Gaza Strip during the operation,including rocket launching pads, weapons depots, individual militants, and numerous government buildings, fields, and dozens of houses and apartment blocks.

According to the PCHR, 158 Palestinians had been killed in the conflict by 22 November, including 102 civilians, 55 militants and one policeman.Eight Palestinians were summarily executed by the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades for alleged collaboration with Israel. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimated that, as of 21 November, 219 Israelis and 1,202 Palestinians had been wounded.

Declaring that Jabari’s assassination had “opened the gates of hell”,the al-Qassam Brigades and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad further intensified their rocket attacks on Israeli cities and towns, in an operation code named Operation Stones of Baked Clay (Arabic: حجارة سجيل‎, ḥijārat sajīl) by the al-Qassam Brigadesand Operation Blue Sky (Arabic: السماء الزرقاء‎, as-samā’ az-zarqā’ )by members of the PIJ.

The Palestinian militant groups fired over 1,456 Iranian Fajr-5, Russian Grad rockets, Qassams and mortars into Rishon LeZion, Beersheba, Ashdod, Ashkelon and other population centers; Tel Aviv was hit for the first time since the 1991 Gulf War, and rockets were aimed at Jerusalem.

The rockets killed four Israeli civilians – three of them in a direct hit on a home in Kiryat Malachi – two Israeli soldiers, and a number of Palestinian civilians.

By 19 November, over 252 Israelis had been physically injured in rocket attacks.  Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system had intercepted about 409 rockets, another 142 rockets had fallen on Gaza itself.A bomb attack against a Tel Aviv bus that wounded over 20 civilians received the “blessing” of Hamas.

The United States, United Kingdom, Canada and other Western countries expressed support for Israel’s right to defend itself, and/orcondemned the Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel.  Iran, Egypt, Turkey and several other Arab and Muslim countries condemned the Israeli operation. The United Nations Security Council held an emergency session on the situation but did not reach a decision.

On 21 November a ceasefire was announced after days of negotiations between Hamas and Israel mediated by Egypt. Both sides claimed victory.

Israel said that it had achieved its aim of crippling Hamas’s rocket-launching abiliity,while Hamas triumphed that “The option of invading Gaza after this victory is gone and will never return” and thanked Iran and Egypt for their help.

Iron Dome (Hebrew: כִּפַּת בַּרְזֶל, kipat barzel) also known as “Iron Cap” is a mobile all-weather air defense system developed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems.

It is a missile system designed to intercept and destroy short-range rockets and artillery shells fired from distances of 4 to 70 kilometers away and whose trajectory would take them to a populated area.

The system, created as a defensive countermeasure to the rocket threat against Israel’s civilian population on its northern and southern borders, uses technology first employed in Rafael’s SPYDER system.

Iron Dome was declared operational and initially deployed on 27 March 2011 near Beersheba. On 7 April 2011, the system successfully intercepted a Grad rocket launched from Gaza for the first time.

On 10 March 2012, The Jerusalem Post reported that the system shot down 90% of rockets launched from Gaza that would have landed in populated areas.

The Iron Dome system is also effective against aircraft up to an altitude of 32,800 ft (10,000 m).

During the operation “Pillar of Defense” Iron Dome made 421 interceptions.After several rockets targeted Tel-Aviv, a fifth battery was quickly installed there on 17 November 2012.

CNN relayed an estimate that Iron Dome’s success rate in Pillar of Defense was about 85%.

Statistics of the operation

Senior Operatives Targeted:

14.11 – Ahmed Sai’d Halil Jabri, head of Hamas’ military wing.
15.11 – Hab’s Hassan Us Msamch, senior operative in Hamas’ police.
16.11 – Ahmed Abu Jalal, Commander of the military wing in Al-Muazi
16.11 – Khaled Shayer, senior operative in the anti-tank operations.
17.11 – Osama Kadi, senior operative in the smuggling operations in the southern Gaza Strip.
17.11 – Muhammad Kalb, senior operative in the aerial defense operations.
19.11 – Ramz Harb, Islamic Jihad senior operative in propaganda in Gaza city.

Number of Rocket Launches Toward Israel During the Operation:

14.11 – 75
15.11 – 316
16.11 – 228
17.11 – 237
18.11 – 156
19.11 – 143
20.11 – 221
21.11 (Until 21:00) – 130

Rocket Launched Towards Israel:

Total number of rockets launched from the Gaza Strip – 1,506

Open areas – 875
Urban areas – 58
‘Iron Dome’ Interceptions – 421
Failed launching attempts – 152

With the United States on track to greatly increase funding for Iron Dome, there have been calls for technology transfer and co-production of Iron Dome in the United States. Just as the US and Israel share co-production of the Arrow III missile system, with Boeing manufacturing 40–50 percent of the production content, there has been support in the U.S. Congress, media and think tanks in favor of co-production.

The U.S. House of Representatives included report language in its FY-2013 Defense Authorization Act supporting Iron Dome with $680 million but also instructing that the Director of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, Lt. Gen. Patrick O’Reilly, “should explore any opportunity to enter into co-production of the Iron Dome system with Israel, in light of the significant U.S. investment in this system.”

There are media reports that the Pentagon is requesting similar language in the Senate Defense Authorization Act as well as the respective House and Senate defense appropriations bills for 2013.

Adding Iron Dome to the list of high-tech military programs built jointly by both nations would help further strengthen ties between Israel and America

In exchange for the second tranche of deployment funding, the United States is asking Israel for access to, and a stake in, elements of the system’s technology.

On 17 May 2012, when Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak met with U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, the Pentagon issued a statement from the Secretary saying in part, “I was pleased to inform Minister Barak that the President supports Israel’s Iron Dome system and directed me to fill the $70 million in assistance for Iron Dome that Minister Barak indicated to me Israel needs this fiscal year.”

On 18 May 2012, the United States House of Representatives passed the Fiscal Year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, H.R. 4310, with $680 million for Iron Dome in Section 227.

The report accompanying the bill, 112-479, also calls for technology sharing as well as co-production of Iron Dome in the United States in light of the nearly $900 million invested in the system since 2011.

On 4 June 2012, the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee included $210 million for Iron Dome, in its version of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2013, S.3254.

The bill has been reported out of committee and is waiting to be assigned a date for consideration by the full Senate.

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In 2010, Iron Dome was criticized by Reuven Pedatzur, a military analyst, former fighter pilot and professor of political science at Tel Aviv University for costing too much compared to the cost of a Qassam rocket (fired by Palestinian forces), so that launching very large numbers of Qassams could essentially attack Israel’s financial means.

The estimated cost of each Tamir interceptor missile is US$35,000–50,000 whereas a crudely manufactured Qassam rocket costs around $800.

Rafael responded that the cost issue was exaggerated since Iron Dome intercepts only rockets determined to constitute a threat, and that the lives saved and the strategic impact are worth the cost.

In an op-ed in Haaretz, Jamie Levin suggests that the success of the Iron Dome system will likely increase demands to field additional systems across Israel.

Budget shortfalls mean that Israel will be forced to weigh spending on missile defenses against other expenditures. Such funds, he argues, will likely come from programs intended to help the most vulnerable sectors of society, such as social welfare.

Iron Dome has been criticized as ineffective in countering the Qassam threat for the southern city of Sderot, given the short distance and flight time between the much-attacked city and the rocket launching pads in the Gaza Strip.

Other anti-rocket systems, such as the Nautilus laser defense system, were argued to be more effective. From 1995 to 2005, the United States and Israel jointly developed Nautilus but scrapped the system after concluding it was not feasible, having spent $600 million. The US Navy continued R&D on the system. American defense company Northrop Grumman proposed developing a more advanced prototype of Nautilus, Skyguard.

Skyguard would use laser beams to intercept rockets, with each beam discharge costing an estimated $1,000–$2,000. With an investment of $180 million, Northrop Grumman claims it could possibly deploy the system within 18 months.

Israeli defense officials have rejected the proposal, citing the extended timeline and additional costs. Officials also insist that with recent improvements to Iron Dome, the system is fully able to intercept Qassams.

David’s Sling (Hebrew: קלע דוד‎), also sometimes called Magic Wand (Hebrew: שרביט קסמים‎), is an Israel Defense Forces military system being jointly developed by the Israeli defense contractor Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and the American defense contractor Raytheon, designed to intercept medium- to long-range rockets and cruise missiles, such as those possessed by Hezbollah, fired at ranges from 40 km to 300 km.

The interceptor is a two-stage missile, with two targeting and guidance systems installed in its nose-tip (a radar and an electro-optical sensor). In 2006 Rafael was awarded a contract to develop a defense system to counter the threat of medium- to long-range rockets with ranges between 70 km and 250 km.

In order to enable Israel to make use of the financial aid provided by the United States to further develop the system and to produce it, a partnership was established with Raytheon which will develop the missile firing unit and overall logistic system and assist Rafael with developing the interceptor.

In some of Raytheon’s publications, the interceptor is referred to as “Stunner.” As of May 2012, David’s Sling was expected to enter operational service in 2013.

The increasing danger of rocket and missile fire against Israel (Qassam rocket fire from Gaza, Katyusha rocket fire from southern Lebanon, and Iran’s ballistic missile arsenal) has led to the development of defense systems to counter this threat.

In addition to the David’s Sling system, which is designed to intercept medium- and long-range rockets, the Iron Dome system, with which it will be used in conjunction, designed to intercept short-range rockets (4–70 km), and the Arrow missile, designed to intercept ballistic missiles, are already in use.

According to Lieutenant General Henry Obering, former director of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, “We wanted a truly co-managed program because the United States will be very interested in this for our own purposes.”

On 17 November 2010, in an interview Rafael’s Vice President Mr. Lova Drori confirmed that the David’s Sling system has been offered to the Indian Armed Forces.

On 25 November 2012, Israel successfuly tested the Stunner interceptor missile. The David’s Sling battery, stationed at an undisclosed desert location in Southern Israel, fired and destroyed the incoming missile with a two-stage interceptor.