Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

1 Av 5766 - July 26, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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War Diary — Day by Day

by Rifca Goldberg, Meor Chaim, Tzefas

July 11th — Thursday — Yud Zayin Tammuz

I went to a class this morning. It was fantastic! It lasted five hours. The rav spoke about fear, about different people in the Chumash, looking at the lives of the Ovos and what we can learn from them. One woman, from Australia, was scared because of the bombing at 5:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m. I told her that I've lived in Safed nearly two decades and there's never been anything in Safed! Nothing at all! And that Safed is the safest place in the world.

After the class I went to buy vegetables in a store on the main street of Safed. As I was paying, there was a huge "boom"; the store shook, the glass shattered above us, and I started screaming, then covered my mouth with my hand to stop myself since there were two children in the store and I didn't want to frighten them more than they were already frightened. I finished paying with shaking hands and walked home as quickly as I could. People in the street were crying from fear. As I came down the hill, I could see Mt. Meron smoking and I could hear sirens wailing.

I heard later that the woman from Australia caught the next taxi to Jerusalem.

Boy, did I have to eat my words!

July 12th — Friday — Yud Ches

We had at least twenty direct hits on Safed so far. There have been several casualties and I woke up to the sounds of bombing as well as the sound of helicopters whirling above — at least the latter are on our side!

It's weird how little the news is reporting. People are spending hours in the bomb shelters but I can't since I'm asthmatic and the closed in, airless, dusty bomb shelter is more of a threat of life for me than being in my house! Anyway, I don't believe it'll go on too long.

Those of us who are still here, staying for Shabbos, are somewhat calmer than those evacuating, so at least the panic level is not so intense. The only thing I did, personally, aside from saying Tehillim with the kids, is to arrange for my daughter Tzivia not to come home so she'll have to stay in Rechasim (north of Haifa) in her dorm. Poor kid. She looks forward so much to coming home for Shabbos and now I can't let her. G-d willing, it will all pass quickly but I don't know.

Meanwhile, here in Safed, the rumors are flying faster and harder than the missiles! I won't believe anything until I hear it from a reliable source. I have to get ready for Shabbos. It's a weird feeling having to ask oneself, "Should I risk MY life by going to the mini-market and buying challos, or should I send my 20 year old son and, G-d forbid, risk his life?"

I shake my head, as if by doing so, somehow, the question will have no meaning. In the end he decides to daven shacharis in the shul near the mini-market and he buys them on the way home with no mishap. So many people are leaving for Shabbos but I'm sure Shabbos will be quiet. I'm sure of it.

July 13th — Motzei Shabbos

I had to eat my words again! And this time they had an acrid taste! (Excuse my "black humor" — That's what stress brings out in me.) Shabbos was like a thunderstorm. The entire day and all night motzei Shabbos was nonstop — literally nonstop — bombing, jets, helicopters, ambulances. Whenever the kids squabbled I would say, "There's a war outside! We don't need one inside too!" They settled down quickly. The constant noise of bombing outside said more than I could.

Two of my boys came home after davening and told me about a Katyusha shell that fell about a block and a half from our apartment. It fell on the side of a hill with no homes and no people. "It was about 6 feet long and not really wide. We watched it hit, explode, and burst into flames. Ima, it was beautiful! Like the Lag B'Omer fire only bigger."

I had no response. I would never think of a bomb as "beautiful" but that's the perspective of a child. They see things so differently.

According to my count, the Safed area has had over 300 hits in three days but it's probably more. It just doesn't stop. Three were within a couple blocks of my house, rocking the whole building complex of several hundred apartments!

I wish I could write something good but right now I can't. I keep praying, telling the kids stories of all the times we've come out victorious against all odds. It's so scary. My stomach is in constant knots, the kids are all clingy.

A lot of people are frantic to leave Safed. I guess I wasn't the only one who thought that Shabbos would be quiet. The bus stops are filled, the buses overflowing.

July 14th — Sunday — Chof Tammuz

I'm not just receiving e-mails, but, also e-hugs, e-kisses, e- love, and e-prayers! Everyone cares so much. I wish we felt more united without having to go through these kinds of trials and tribulations.

My 16-year-old waited to catch the bus back to Bnei Brak but it was so full that the driver wouldn't let him on and he had to wait for the next one which was also too full — but the driver allowed him to sit on the steps. I spend the next two and a half hours waiting anxiously until his call comes that he's arrived safely.

The rest of Sunday passed surprisingly quietly . . . until nightfall. Then the bombs fell fast and furious. Midnight. I couldn't sleep. Too much noise. 2:00 a.m. I still couldn't sleep. 3:00 a.m. I finally drifted off, sirens wailing in the blackness of the night.

July 15th — Monday — Chof-Alef

I went to the mini-market to do the weekly shopping. I'm scared to go out of the house but we do need food! Inside the store there was only one other woman other than the cashier. "How am I going to get through all these crowds of people to do my shopping?" I asked her humorously.

She chuckled and said, "Yeah, the whole three families that are left in Safed."

There are more than three families left in Safed (maybe three families per building that consist of dozens of apartments . . . ) but it certainly has emptied out. This time of year Safed is usually packed with tourists and guests. Not now. It feels more like a ghost town.

There were three men in my husband's shul. He'll have to try to find a minyan in a different shul. Other families have left or people are too nervous to leave the bomb shelters. But where can he find a minyan?

Everything's closed down; no school, no intercity buses, no stores other than the grocery stores, which are open for a couple of hours a day (or "until a bomb falls," they tell me when I call) and my husband has to go in to work at the pharmacy also for 3-4 hours a day. It's termed "emergency procedure." This is the second war I've been in (the first was the Gulf War) but I never had it so close to home.

At the moment, we're doing fine, thank G-d. The truth is, today was much quieter up here. I think they decided that they did enough damage to Safed although as I write this, I hear bombs falling. Maybe it's in the surrounding areas; maybe the other side of Safed. I don't know. They're hitting Arab villages as well. They really don't care as long as they can do damage. We'll get through this, though — we Jews always have; always will.

July 16th — Tuesday — Chof Beis

The e-mails and phone calls coming in from all over Israel as well as from the States are pure love and concern. Whether it comes from family or friends — it means so much!

I'm sure all the love, caring, and prayers, as well as everyone's love, caring, and prayers, are helping to protect all of us. It means so much. It does so much!

When we went through this with the Gulf War, it wasn't so close to Safed. Now it's in Safed! I've lived in Safed for 19 years without one incident so this has really shaken me up. But Hashem will prevail. Perhaps He's just shaking us all up to do teshuvoh.

It seems like about 80 percent of Safed has evacuated, although I have a friend that says it's "only" 40 percent.

A group of volunteers came to the bomb shelter. After two hours of games and singing and arts & crafts, the kids came home smiling and happy — they had a blast! (Maybe I shouldn't use that word...)

We'll get through this — Hashem does so many miracles! (And sometimes we even merit to see some.) While I tried to cook lunch today, my mind was so fuzzy with the constant noise of bombs falling, helicopters, sirens, etc. that I kept making mistakes. I was lucky I didn't cut myself. A neighbor brought over a big container of potato salad. That really helped. The kids loved it.

It's really boring being in the house 24/7, although today we watched 8 missiles fall in the wadi below us, about two miles from us. They started fires, then these little planes flew out and poured red stuff over it to snuff them out.

Boy, are those Katyushas loud! At least the missiles that fall in the fields and valleys don't do so much damage. Of course, people's incomes are being seriously damaged due to hardly anyone working. I won't say anything about the damage from direct hits and the many, many wounded. The news is covering that and it hurts too much to write about.

Even though we, personally, are doing okay, thank G-d, it's still tough. I don't pretend it's not.

Someone called today. Arrangements have been made for free transportation to Bnei Brak and free camps for a week or longer. My boys don't want to go.

"They're not saying when we can come home," my 12 year old son says.

"I know, sweetheart, but they don't know for how long."

"Then I don't want to go," he says, his large hazel eyes wide with — fear? The unknown? Wanting to be near me but not wanting to admit it?

"I won't force you, sweetheart."

"Thank you, Ima."

How is one supposed to know what's best for their children and their family in a situation like this? Who says that one place is safer than another right now? Some of these decisions could be life and death decisions!

I close my eyes, inhale fully, and try to feel what's deep within me. In truth, I don't want the family to be separated. I don't want my children to go away. They'll stay. I let my breath out slowly. We'll be together and Hashem will be together with us too.

July 17th — Wednesday — Chof Gimmel

This morning, my 12-year-old went outside to "build." I don't usually yell at my kids but I certainly broke that pattern now! I yelled at him like I can't remember ever yelling at him. "NOT ONE TOE IS TO GO OUT OF THIS HOUSE!"

I told him I'll send him to Bnei Brak since he doesn't realize that there's a war going on. He's been good the whole day, poor kid. We've all been holed up for seven straight days now. How much can they play with Lego and read the same books over and over again? There are almost no neighbors left and no one wants their kids out of their sight so, it's us, here, and that's it.

July 18th — Thursday — Chof Daled

Yated came out today and the poem I wrote last week was in it. My friend sent me this e-mail: " `Storming, in The Holy Land' is amazing. No rhythm, which in this case really fits. It touches feelings that I buried long ago, and am not sure I can find.

"I'm quietly going nuts, being away from my home in Safed. I miss having my own space, my own bed to sleep in, my own fridge and chair and everything! No rhythm to my life right now. This is the hardest part for me. I discover that my life is built on structures that are there to keep me safe — and some are hollow.

"Hang in. I don't know which is harder — having the bombs or being completely out of place. My son came with his wife so we are four families in a 3 room flat. We've mostly been paying for food and it's been running close to 200 shekels a day. People who are nervous eat lots. And it's the only thing that will keep nerves down. Mine, anyway.

"I hold you safe in a huge huggggggggg."

She has a good point: at least I am in my own home with my own things. Having to go away might be quieter, it may be less dangerous, not as life threatening but it's not necessarily easier. So, I do appreciate my friend's feelings of missing being in her home. I wish that she and every other "exile" could come home already. Soon. I really think it'll be soon.

The first several times that there were rounds of fifteen, twenty, or more bombings in quick succession, I called friends in Jerusalem or Bnei Brak just to get that link to normalcy but they would have to get off the phone to take their kids to school, go to work, etc.

I felt shocked: school? work? Such things exist right now? My life consists of boom, boom, and boom! To think that a two and a half hour drive away there is no war.

This afternoon was much quieter. There are I-don't-know-how- many bombings per minute but now we're the ones shooting. Still, the noise...

I fall asleep around 6:00 in the afternoon and am awakened half an hour later from a siren near the house. All three boys fell asleep too. This war is exhausting.

"Devory," I say to my youngest daughter, "You wake up Yitzhak Shneur and I'll wake up the other two boys. They have to eat dinner and go to shul."

From Yitzhak Shneur's room I hear her singing out dramatically, "Yitzhak! Wake up! The Geulah has arrived!"

I can't help but laugh. Children! They're wonderful!

My husband takes the boys to daven but he's getting more and more concerned about having a minyan on Shabbos. The few people that are left seem to be leaving. The bombing is getting so nerve wracking.

Meanwhile a friend of mine is aching to come home and she calls me three times a day to find out exactly what's happening. Today is the first day that's quiet enough (or at least we're not the ones getting hit — "only" two hits in Safed that I know of...) that I tell her that considering where her apartment is located and because she doesn't have little children that, yes, now I'm finally willing to say that maybe it's okay for her to come back (until now I kept saying "Not yet. Not yet...")

"But I take no responsibility for the bus ride up here and take into account, my dear friend, the constant sounds of bombing and jets. It's very hard on the nervous system. Think it through carefully . . . Do you think you and your husband will be able to tolerate it?"

I can hear her thinking hard over the telephone line.

This is such a tense time. No one can make judgments on anyone. Every person, couple, and family has so many angles to consider. Everyone has to do what's right for themselves.

July 21 — Friday — Chof Hei

I woke up at 3:00 a.m. I lay in bed for a full hour and a half listening to the jets soaring through the sky. I hoped for a five minute interval so that I might be able to fall asleep again but there wasn't even a one minute interval. I wonder if my friends that call think I'm exaggerating when I say it's nonstop bombing. I wish it were just exaggerations . . . 4:30 a.m. I get up.

After sitting and writing for awhile, I turn to look out the window at the olive tree swaying gently in the breeze outside my apartment and there — there are birds, hopping from branch to branch. The sun is rising and it dawns on me that I haven't seen any animals [outside my `ark'] for the past nine days! I take out the garbage and see something I haven't seen in over a week: cats. Two of them pawing their way through the bags and scraps of food. The animals have been holed up the same as we've been!

But now they're back. We can all hearing the bombing still going on in Lebanon but the birds and the cats are coming back. G-d willing, lehavdil, the residents of Safed will start mending their way back to the dawn of normal life.

As I get my candles ready for Shabbos, all I can think, hope, and pray for is when the day will arrive when — "the Merciful One will let us inherit that day which will be all Shabbos...for life everlasting".



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