Thursday, July 20, 2006

Some stories......

Here are a couple of personal stories from neighbors/friends:

Dearest Friends and Families; Neighbors from Tsfat who left and those who remained; Partners and Associates in Israel and Abroad, and to the few of you who made their way into my address book thanks to Bayit Chadash or other mail lists;

God's Blessings upon us all for Peace, Safety and Prosperity; May we all be protected from the wrath of war.

As NatanYah is well into her 9 th month and being that the repeated rocketing of our normally peaceful little ancient city was disturbing her and our little boys, and seeing as how Carol, our midwife, called us on Friday afternoon to invite us to her Yishuv for Shabbat rather than kiddush in a bomb shelter; we had decided to leave our lovely home in Safed's Artist's Quarter for the Religious Zionist community of Hosha'aya, a few miles from Nazereth. Our beloved friends, Racheli and Zion, had earlier invited us to their studio apartment in Tel Aviv (they would go stay at their parents) and as sweet an offer as that was, this later offer came with a ride, as I had no car and the Egged Central Station had been hit by a katusha an hour earlier as our friend Mike, who was waiting to leave town to see his son in the south, said busses were canceled for the day.

Carol gave us an hour to think about it. The news mentioned a katusha that struck 2 km from the Jordan River Wildlife Park where we had originally intended to camp out for Shabbat with Simcha Laya and her children, and I felt that our stone house was more secure than our nylon tent and so, despite NatanYah and Simcha Laya's feelings to the contrary, I put my foot down and squashed the camping plans.
Good thing too, as the park area itself was struck by a missile as well as Tiberias, on Saturday afternoon.

We heard from friends in Italy that, as of Friday at least, the media was making it seem as though the Israeli attack on Lebanon was only in response to the kidnapping of the two soldiers. They never mentioned the multiple missile attacks of over 200 katushas in two days. I suppose now, that Haifa is being rocketed and the death toll is into the double digits, that the media will finally mention the rain of rockets, at least as a side point.

Another rocket in Thursday's first barrage had damaged Beit Maimon, the furniture store where we bought our fridge, just a 2 minute walk from our home, and perhaps 50 meters from Michael and Lisabeth Oxman. They left town after the second barrage terrified their children and I hope they'll contact us soon, and with a phone number.

That second barrage struck a neighbors house near the Lessers and right behind the Reznicks, in the Artist's Quarter. Avraham Lesser heroically trudged through the mud and spray of a busted water main to the house, found three bloodied children and carried them down to the next street of Keren Hayasod to meet the ambulance. The medics found their mother in shock with a compound fracture to her leg and took them all to the Sieff hospital in Safed.
I merely turned off the watermain.

At the entrance to the Rimonim Inn road, near Tsfat's Canyon Mall (the Lamest Mall on Earth) another katusha struck the intersection, making a small crater, blowing off the doors of an art gallery, blowing out all the windows and tires of a nearby VW van and cracking a few windows of our deputy mayor and local entrepreneur, Reuven Sade, whose house stands on that corner.

Eliyahu McLean phoned on Friday afternoon to ask how we were holding up and if we can hear the katushas. I told him that we heard them very well as three struck within 150 meters of our house. He asked "What do they sound like?" I replied that the ones in the distance sound like a brief strike of a bass drum and the windows rattle a little.
"The closer ones begin with a whoosh—" and just as I was forming my mouth in an attempt to mimic the sound, outside there was a swiftly growing
whHHOOO oos HHH ---! BWOOM!!!

Our sons, Michael and David were frightened by the loud rocket impact that shook our house and the entire Artist's Quarter. Two year-old David cried out "BIG Rock…FALL!", as NatanYah took the boys into the back bedroom, where we feel the combination of domed ceiling, an upstairs made of stone, and 2 neighbor's houses bordering on ours, shield that room best from incoming missiles, and before I followed them, I shouted to Eliyahu "We're being bombed! Gotta go!" and hung up. I called him back two minutes later when it seemed that would be all until they reloaded the launchers, and apologized for the abrupt end of our conversation. He said that my verbal imitation over the phone of an incoming rocket was totally excellent and extremely realistic.

So Carol arrived within 20 minutes after we called, (25 minutes after I hung up with Eliyahu). I think she was already on her way regardless of our call, as she lives 50 minutes away. She gathered our family into her Fiat mini-van, with a little food, towels and bathing suits (she said we can swim in the yeshuv's pool) and the clothes on our backs. We didn't realize we'd be staying here, very possibly it seems, until after our baby girl is born.

As we left Tsfat and got onto the road from Rosh Pina to Tiberias, I looked behind us and saw 4 plumes of smoke from rockets that hit the south slope of the hill, close to where we had just driven on the new highway that goes down from Tsfat. Then Carol's cell rang and we heard Gedalia's wife, Shira, on the speaker, who had heard and felt impacts from that last barrage. Carol immediately offered to take their whole family and her visiting sister's out of Tsfat. She then phoned a friend from her yeshuv and asked her to come pick us up from a gas station before the Golani Junction where she dropped us off, turned around, and headed back to Tsfat to get them.
An hour later we were in Hosha'aya, about 7 km from Nazereth. It is a lovely Religious Zionist community of what seem to be mostly very modern, cultured, European descended people, and perhaps 15% Anglos. The 3 different families who hosted us for Shabbat meals all spoke excellent English, served delicious meals and had wonderfully loving and close families.

When we returned with the kids from the community pool (different hours for men, women and families), we were pleased to find Amanda Cohen and her 4 children at Carol's. Amanda and her kids live up on Biriya mountain, next to Tsfat, about 20 meters from the gates to the Northern Command for Israel's military and probably the true target of all these katushas that are landing on Tsfat; Biriya's downhill side. The Cohen's had a meeting under their kitchen table regarding where they would dine for Shabbat and decided to take up Carol's offer for a shabbasdik refuge. So Carol returned to Tsfat for the 3 rd time in as many hours and rescued the Cohen clan from perhaps the most dangerous spot in Israel these days.

Carol's son, Akiva, is stationed at Biriya and I believe her fear and concern for her first-born is transformed by her into heroic action. She reminds me of medics in jeeps driving back and forth from M.A.S.H. units to the front lines and back during the Korean war.

Carol brought us to the home of Avi and Tami, who recently added a beautiful 1 bedroom, 2 bath apartment with brand new furniture and top of the line appliances in an attempt to entice Tami's parents into relocating near their 5 grandchildren. Avi is a border policeman and Tami teaches art to children and they have offered us this beautiful space to live and have our baby, should the conflict last so long that we can not return to our home to give birth there, where Michael and David were both born. This tremendous act of chesed continues to blow me away; not only for the temporary shelter (which beats a 4 star hotel) but primarily for the peace of mind which is so essential to us in the days before the birth.
We are considering "Hoshaya" as a name.

Yesterday, NatanYah closed the bathroom door in this echo-filled apartment, and little David ran to grab me and said "Big rock." I calmed him, explaining it was just a door.
But one can easily see how children may be traumatized by these events and if one has another place to take one's family, then perhaps one should do so regardless of one's personal or "religious" beliefs. Get the children out of danger. There is halacha about this.
And if one has no other place then please contact us here and we'll find a place for you here amongst the Tzaddikim of Hosha'aya

July is the height of the Tourist Season; one of a few months where businesses are so in the black that it makes up for the red we're in most other months. I was working my tush off, trying to sculpt enough cute little candle animals and candle chassids as to keep things on the shelves while tour groups walk in and out with a dozen of my pieces per hour. Before the Katusha War, I was mostly concerned that NatanYah would give birth before the summer rush slowed down, causing me to have to take a 2 week leave during the height of their need of me.
No such worries now. The Tourist Season is canceled due to rocketing rockets.

While I understand the military necessity of eliminating Hezbollah's rocket launchers, ammunition, bunkers and their offices in Beirut, and even the strategy of destroying roads, bridges, electric substations and cell phone towers in southern Lebanon, I am very saddened to see the tremendous damage being done by the IAF in Beirut, a city that has had such a short ceasefire after such a long and violent civil war. I pray that all children, women and other innocents got out of the areas bombed by our jets; that our generals be merciful in their precise surgical bombing of Hezbollah centers to protect the rest of the city, and that the basically Christian country of Lebanon take responsibility and control of their own borders, perhaps with US or UN help, away from the Muslim fanatics of Hezbollah following this war.

The news is on now, showing pictures of the outside of the Safed factory that was hit. It has a road paved with cobblestones and several, well-kept olive trees in front. Never seen it before.
At this very moment (5:10pm), air raid sirens are sounding in Tsfat, Karmiel, Nahariya and Haifa. It is amazing how the 3 rd greatest airforce on Earth can not prevent nearly 300 missiles per day from being launched and striking our land, our towns and cities; our homes.

6:07pm – Another bomb shelter was hit, this one in Naharia, has taken a direct hit! That makes THREE that I know of. ZAKA, a Haredi unit responsible for picking up bodily remains, is combing the lawn above the shelter for the rest of the man who took a direct katusha hit, while walking past on his way home.

So why am I writing you all this travelogue of a war zone? To CONNECT with YOU; to tell our loved ones that we are fine where we are. BETTER than fine, as we have food, bedding and a spacious 1 bdrm apt. and are down the street from our midwife in these last days before we bring another Jewish child into the world.

But for those friends and neighbors who, like us, left Tsfat: where are you? Please be in touch. Even more so, for those who remained, like Danny and Mike, the Rosens, Simcha Laya and the Yates: HOW are you? Is everyone safe and sound? And who is where? Can we post a phone contact list, perhaps on the Tsfat Yahoo page? Can we get info on the status of our homes, on any looting or arrests for looting?
For those from chutz l'Aretz (outside Israel) who are trying to contact their beloved Tsfatnikim, and are fearful for them, a contact list would be most helpful.
Carol's husband, Michel, drove me back up to Tsfat the other night (despite a broken hand) where I packed the minivan with clothing, food and spices, toys and books, and thanks to this wonderful man, I have my computer and scanner up and running.
Since a State of Emergency has been declared, does that mean there may be some National Insurance compensation for lost income being offered by the government?
I hope we will all be in contact soon; first via phone or the Net, and soon, at our Shabbat tables back home in our peaceful city of Tsfat.

Love and Peace to you all,

Moshe Chaim, NatanYah, Michael Yehuda & David Azriel

P.S. – You are all welcome to fwd this letter to anyone, as you feel appropriate, but please erase all the e-mail addresses above first so they not be sold to spam merchants.

I've kinda lost track of days and such, but since Iwork at the Ziv Hospital in Safed, I decided to stayhere for a couple of nights. I have everything I needand the miklat is much nicer than the one in theneighborhood. Sunday nite the hospital had anear-hit. A katyusha fell at the periphery of themain building. There was no structural damage tospeak of, but tons of broken glass. 14 staff weretreated for shock. I was either under my dining roomtable or in my local miklat in Karmiel at the time,but not everyone was so "lucky."The miracle is that the attack took place at about10-11 p.m., so the public areas were empty, and theheads of departments had already taken the precautionof moving patients from the north to the south side ofthe building, and mommies and babies had beenrelocated to the day surgery center in the bowels ofthe main building. All but one window in the Pedsdept was blown out by the force of the blast as weremost of those in the surgical ward, the waiting rooms,and others.A 13 year old boy recovering from surgery for aruptured spleen and internal bleeding was watchingt.v. in the dining room when the blast took place andwas hit in the head by flying glass, suffering anasty, deep gash. No brain injuries, but lots ofstitches. A patient in the orthopedics dept, recovingfrom shrapnel wounds and the subsequent surgeries, wasthrown out of his bed. He said he could feel the wholebuilding move.Sunday and yesterday (Tuesday) I heard loud booms andsaw the aftermath of rockets which had fallen acrossthe wadi, some hundreds of meters away, but scareyenough to see out of your office window...I met with 4 groups of reporters yesterday (they'vediscovered us!) Most of them were reallyprofessional--(From today's Daily Mail as reported by one of ourvisiting journalists yesterday. ignore that bit about my being anexecutive...what a riot! An ozeret makes more than Ido, but I guess he had to call me something!!!)--but when the chickie from CBS called to make anappointment for 8 PM and asked if there was any chancethat they could interview a patient who had been hurtby this attack (yes), and wanted to know whether -- bychance he might be from New York (nooooo -- Safed byway of Morocco), she decided to come but not tointerview. "I really wanted to talk to someone fromNY, or at least an American," she said. I told herthat I was sorry that I hadn't received more notice sothat I could have arranged to have an American woundedfor her... It went right over her head. BTW, theyshowed up at 10:30.Anyhow, I'm tired and testy. Slept in the cardiology'benoni' room with 4 other women, one of whom soundedjust like a diesel truck warming up on a cold winter'sday. I don't do well on hospital mattresses (and whodoes?), so I was up at 3:30 again. But it was nice tohave other people around whom I know. And since Ihave a vacation in the US scheduled for a few weeks,perhaps I will catch up on sleep there.Something I didn't anticipate was that my grandkidsare watching the news on t.v. in America. Andrew justturned 12 and David is 7. I had no idea they watchedthe news or that they had any understanding.Apparently they are very upset and David just wants tohold his Bugs Bunny. And that's from yo-manythousands of miles away. The kids here are reallysuffering, as most of you parents must know. I knowof two families among my acquaintence who had to go asfar south as they could just so the children wouldstop having panic attacks.This is really (fill in your expletive), this massive,indiscriminate bombardment of innocents.Stay safe,Sylvia

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