EL PASO, Texas -

The Iron Dome is Israel's missile defense system -- and is used to keep Hamas rockets from meeting their targets.

ABC-7 got a firsthand account of how the system saved the lives of a group of El Pasoans visiting Israel in July.

Shelly Mansfield and her son, Ben, 15, were among a group of friends and family attending a summer camp organized by the Israel Defense Forces.

"The purpose of the camp is to get the Israeli experience," Ben told ABC-7.
     
Did they ever.

He was with his mother and some friends at a beach in Tel Aviv as the Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted a rocket.

"We were out on the water when we heard the sirens," said Ben.

"There wasn't a lot of time to think," Shelly added.

"We weren't too worried when we saw the missile," Ben continued, adding, "We saw the puffs of smoke in the air as the rockets collided."

"And that was it," Shelly concluded, shrugging her shoulders.

The Iron Dome works by using radar to detect a rocket launch. If it is determined the point of impact will be in a populated area, a missile is launched to intercept it in a place that will avoid injuries.

Shelly said she encountered a lot of opposition over the family's decision to vacation in the Middle East.

"Most of my friends thought I was crazy letting my son go, or going myself," she said. She said she would counter the arguments by comparing it to an outsider's opposition to visiting El Paso when the drug cartel-related violence in Juarez was at its peak several years ago.

"It's a peaceful place, and being Jewish, you want to support Israel."

While her 15-year-old son agrees with her, Shelly's 10-year-old son may not.

"He was with my friend. They were going back to the hotel and they did have to go to a sheltered area," she told ABC-7.

"And he still doesn't like thinking about it or talking about it." 

The family's experience in Israel came weeks before Congressman Beto O'Rourke, (D) El Paso, voted against allocating $225 million more in U.S. funding for the program. The bill ended up passing the House this month with only seven others voting against it.

Israeli officials have said each missile costs $62,000 and they only launch them when an enemy missile poses an eminent threat to a population.

"Israel has a right to defend itself and very much wants peace," Shelly said, pausing as she clearly tried to hold back tears. "And that it's saving countless lives."

Including her life, and the lives of her family.