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Sara Benarroch and family

Aliza Cohen Hornstein and husband

Jenni Heltay Menashe

Jason Schwartzman and family


Leiba Charach Smith and family


Sara Duvdevani (Bennaroch), Aliza Hornstein (Cohen), Ronni Kives, Michal Solomon, Jason Schwartzman, Koby Tanzer, Leiba Smith (Lori-Sue Charach), Andrea Rubinfield Levy, Rabbi Ari Enkin, Reesa Cohen Stone and Kerry Auriat send updates

by Rhonda Spivak, July 14, 2014

Sara Duvdevani (Bennaroch), Aliza Hornstein (Cohen), Ronni Kives, Michael Solomon, Jason Shwartzman, Koby Tanzer, Leiba Smith (Lori-Sue Charach), Andrea Rubinfield Levy, Rabbi Ari Enkin, and Reesa Cohen Stone send updates the WJR on their wartime experiences.


[Editor’s note: As you read this article, please remember that just under 50% of the world’s Jews live in Israel, which means that as I write this almost one out of every two Jews in the world today have sought the protection of a bomb shelter somewhere in this country and are extremely grateful for the Iron Dome. Also, Kinneret and Itz Rifkind and family form Winnipeg made Aliyah on July 9, the second day of the war. As I write this I am seeing and hearing military helicopters outside my sea view window patrolling the coast of Israel.]


On Saturday night July 13, 2014 some Hezbollah fighters joined Hamas in its war on Israel firing a salvo of rockets from Lebanon, in what is the second incident of its kind (There has already been a third incident earlier today). Former Winnipegger Sara Duvdevani (nee: Benarroch) who lives in Shlomi right on the border with Lebanon sent in this report:


“My husband Avner and I were watching the news getting caught up on everything happening down south. Neev, my son, went to watch the World Cup soccer game at a friend’s in Shlomi. Our youngest Tal was upstairs in bed and my father who is visiting from Canada was sleeping when suddenly the sirens in Shlomi went off this Saturday evening. We all rushed to the safe room and closed all the windows in the house. I called Neev to make sure he was in the safe room at his friend’s house. It's been a few years since the sirens went off on the Northern border. Yes, this is very stressful and we were all a bit shaken up. We are all just hoping that the rest of the evening will be a quiet one....Am Israel Chai!!!!”  (Editor’s note: Sara is not the only one here saying “Am Israel Chai”—I heard people tonight in the Netanya square in an act of solidarity saying the same thing. Am Israel Chai!)


Aliza Hornstein (nee Cohen, daughter of Joseph and Aviva Cohen, granddaughter of Jack and Malcha Cohen ) who lives in Kochav Yaakov, just north of Jerusalem, notes that “We have had two of our own sirens and overheard one of Jerusalem’s. We have gone into the shelter every time, which is about 40 seconds away. Since we moved here in 2012, this is the second period of time we have faced air raid sirens and rockets. This past week in particular has been more stressful because one rocket fell a mere 500 meters from our community. We have become prepared and ready, if we should need to go. We have a bag packed with bottles and diapers for our 10-month old, and water and canned food for ourselves. Our gas masks are close by, though they haven't warned us about needing them yet. The first time we heard the siren (last Thursday) we were blinded by panic, and in our rush of nerves and the loud wail of the siren we panicked the baby and since then have been staying extremely calm so she does too. It's a surreal experience to hear the siren, understand the danger, and feel the shake of the explosions overhead. We feel an intense surge of adrenaline that gets us to our safe room, and then the expected relief that comes from feeling safe. It is amazing and terrifying to think that this is only a glance at what our people in the south are dealing with. Constant sirens, explosions, fear and destruction. G-d willing we will soon see the end of Hamas and all those intent on destroying Israel, just as we have experienced in our history.


My husband is currently serving his last year in the army, and we don't know if that will lead him to the front lines. Unlikely, due to the nature of his job in Jerusalem, but we just don't know. So many of my friends have been left at home with a bunch of small children while their husbands get called up to serve. They are so strong.”


Ronni Kives, (sister of Bartley Kives and Cheryl Kives), who lives in Kfar Saba wrote to the Winnipeg Jewish Review: “One false alarm here - I was in a restaurant when it went off; then I went to the theater and salsa dancing in Tel Aviv Thursday night - no sirens, had a great time.”


(Editor’s note: Kives was over at my place in Netanya on Friday evening and noted she lives on the 9th floor. Her building’s shelter is on the main floor, meaning she can’t possibly make it in time to the shelter in the event of a siren. She and I discussed how people have been considering whether they ought to sleep with their shoes on, so they can be more ready to dash to a shelter if a siren goes off in the middle of the night.)


Kives adds, “Today (Saturday) I went with Winnipegger Rhonda Prepes and friend Eitan to Nazareth and all was peaceful there. There was an incident on Highway 6 but we were already off it at the time. I think one must mention that the biggest danger here are drivers....not paying attention, talking on phone, texting, etc.”


Michal Soloman (married to Ron Solomon), who lives in Kfar Yona, about a half hour from Netanya reports that “ There have been no bombings in the area in which I reside in but where I work in Zichron Ya’akov there was a siren and two missiles fell close enough that we could hear them. The situation here is difficult. We are constantly in an alert situation worried where the kids are, and worried if they can find a safe place if a missile hit. On the other hand we see miracles happening every day. With all the missiles that have landed there have been no casualties so far- Baruch HaShem. And to see it is to believe that we have more than the Iron Dome to protect us. It is what kept us safe as Jews from the beginning to now b"h.”


(Editor’s note: In Hebrew the word Dome is “Kippa” the same word as skullcap. Iron Dome in Hebrew is called “Kippat Barzel”. A radio announcer has said “The Iron Kippa is doing G-d’s work.”) 


Jason Schwartzman, a graduate of the Joseph Wolinsky Collegiate class of 1982 (with the Editor) lives in Ramat Bet Shemesh Aleph, “a nice American / Anglo community.”  He reports, “We have been usually quiet -- we moved here the year of Gush Katif (2005) and were not really too affected by rockets. This time we are actually getting sirens. At the same time I have kids around the country -- In Jerusalem (there is always some action going on there) and in Bnei Brak/Tel Aviv. (Since they don't have Safe Rooms there, everyone goes to the street or halls). I also work each day in the other end of the country in Herzliya Pituach and we haven't seen much action. What is worth noting is that at my office we have 10-15% missing due to their receiving a Tsav 8 (meaning a call up from the army) and even so it is work as usual. It is amazing to see and experience daily miracles living here. We are ever so grateful to be part of this.”


Jenni Heltay Menashe, who lives in Kochav Yaakov about 10 minutes north or Jerusalem, wrote to the WJR, “We had a siren on Thursday, saw a rocket knocked out of the sky by the Iron Dome and saw smoke and damage from the neighbouring Arab village. Then we had another one Saturday night. We don't have a bomb shelter, as we live in a Caravan. We have been invited to go a close friend’s nearby but for now have chosen not to. We're fine. My 11 year old daughter was hysterical on Thursday as I was out shopping when the siren went off. Tonight she got under the dining room table. My two little boys (7 and 5) are concerned. Family is fine. I walked through the Damascus gate of the Old City in Jerusalem on Tuesday and through the Muslim Quarter. My 18 year old's training was cancelled and his try-out for the navy seals postponed so he's not a happy bunny but he's enjoying some time with his grandparents up north.


Comfort foods seem to be the biggest issue here: Ben and Jerry's sales are up 70%. If Gunn's Bakery would like to help the war effort in Israel we would be willing to accept all knishes (I really love the potato) and Cinnamon buns. Anyone from Winnipeg on their way over?”


Koby Tanzer, (son of Shira Waldman z’l) adds “Since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge (???? ??????), there have been a number of rocket attacks on Jerusalem and its suburbs where we live. In each case, the siren sounded well in advance – we are fortunate to have 90 seconds to impact – giving us time to reach shelter where we listen for the explosion, wait 10 minutes, and then go back to whatever we were previously doing. The Iron Dome combined with the Home Front Command’s alert system (sirens and SMS alerts) has been very effective and while being the target of terror rockets is far from normal; our day-to-day life is only mildly disrupted. Our community has been very active praying for the safety of all of Israel and in particular our brave soldiers. Letters of support, snacks, and necessities are being gathered and sent with much love. We pray that our leaders have the resolve to put an end to this terror once and for all.”


Leiba Smith (sister of Avrum and Gayle Charach, daughter of Ruth and Barney Charach), who lives in Gush Etzion with her my family (having moved here after being in Tsfat for the second Lebanon war) reports. “ We are still digesting the horror of the kidnapping and murders which all took place very close to home, and have had several sirens locally, during and after which we hear the booms very, very clearly, either from Kippat Barzel (Iron Dome) shooting rockets down or from rockets landing nearby.


What I think is important for those not here to know is the moment to moment considerations of those in rocket range regarding even the simplest and most routine of daily tasks. Do I go in the shower now? How long will it take to rinse if a siren goes and I have to run? Where are my children at any given moment and who are they with? Do they know what to do if they are on their bicycle heading to a friend’s and the siren goes off? What if I am on the bus on the way to work?


I have six children in various places in the country - one in Ramat Gan who has been repeatedly caught needing shelter, two in Jerusalem, one who works in a little boutique restaurant in our area with no siren or safe room, but very loud booms nearby.


We are strong, we are determined, we are not daunted, but we certainly are concerned on a day to day basis.


And, I might add, I am so, so happy to be here! At times like these, I would not want to be anywhere else! Despite the concern, there is a tremendous feeling of being in this together, of a shared concern and a sincere, heartwarming feeling of unity.”


Leiba also noted, “There is also a feeling of being hugged from without, in my case, specifically by Winnipeg friends, and former classmates, as well as others outside of Israel who show great support and really try to get others (at least thru Facebook) to understand Israel's position. And that helps a lot!”


Andrea Rubinfield Levy, (Joseph Wolinsky Collegiate class of 1981), who lives in Tsur Yigal just outside of Kfar Saba with her Israeli husband, wrote to the WJR “My eldest son, Daniel, lives in Ottawa, and my second daughter Tamar completed her army service last year and is presently in Australia. My youngest daughter, Meirav, is 16, and just finished grade 10. Our area has only heard one air raid siren since this whole thing started, and it turned out to be a false alarm, but nonetheless it was scary. My husband and daughter went into our “mamad” (Hebrew word for protected room), and I was in a taxi on my way to work at the NICU where I work as a nurse. I asked the driver what we were supposed to do, since I wasn't quite sure, and he said we should just drive really fast and escape. Later I found out that we were supposed to stop on the side of the road, get out of the car and lay on the ground with our hands over our heads. Luckily where I work the NICU was actually built as its own bomb shelter, so when I'm there I feel safe. A few nights ago I went to a friend's wedding with other colleagues and the groom was so thankful for our sharing in their occasion since so many people had cancelled out on them, but we told him that it wasn't something we would miss and we certainly wouldn't let Hamas have the advantage of ruining our plans or our lives. But like you stated in your article, the center of Israel, as well as, the northern areas, have really not been getting the brunt of the attacks, and I thankful for living where I do, but of course praying for those that live elsewhere here that they will not be injured or worse. I think it is important for those of us who have friends and relatives abroad to keep them posted and well-informed and that they know we remain optimistic in spite of everything. And I know that they will continue along with us, to pray for peace in this region.


I want to add that as I have relatives around the country, after each siren goes off and I hear where it was, I spend time contacting them to ensure they're ok, which at present sometimes feels like a full-time job in itself.”


[Editor’s note: Since Andrea wrote this, there have been sirens in Kfar Saba today]


Rabbi Ari Enkin sent in this update to the WJR: “We are in Ramat Beit Shemesh. We have 4 kids (14, 11, 8, and 4). The kids were freaked out at the first siren. One child vomited. In RBS, every apartment has a room that also serves as the bomb shelter. When the sirens go off, everyone goes into that room. (it’s the "boys" room). Last few nights all the kids slept there because they were scared.


We're now on our 4th siren or so, so the kids have essentially gotten used to it though there is still some freaking out every time it goes off, but they proceed to the room a little calmer.


Our mirpeset faces the Ashdod/Ashkelon, so we've had great views on the Iron Dome shooting down missiles. Great fireworks.


The miracles taking place and the success of Tzahal/Iron Dome are on par with biblical proportions and prophecies.”


Reesa Cohen Stone adds from Be’er Sheva:

“Unfortunately, the sound of the siren is not something you can get used to but most people are well-trained to calmly make their way to the nearest safe area - be it a shelter, or safe room, or stair well. 


On the first day of the operation, my son got emergency call-up orders, leaving his wife and baby with us. They don't have a safe room in the house, we do. 


We are waiting for the second son to get his call-up also. My third son is scheduled to begin his regular service next week, so we are definitely in army mode. 


My daughters have barely left the house since this has started. Home Front Command recommends staying close to a safe room. It's summer time, and there is no hanging out at the pool or the mall with friends. But that's the least of our problems. 


The highways are more dangerous than the cities. First, there is no siren between cities, so you are unaware of incoming missiles. Second, the Iron Dome Anti-Battery system doesn't activate if the missile is calculated to land between populated areas. So any missile between cities is not shot down. We are basically trapped where we are. 


We need people abroad to understand why we are attacking Hamas and let their voices be heard. 


All we want is for our boys to come back soon, healthy and well and to be left alone to live in peace.” 


Kerry Auriat adds: 

"Last Tuesday, while shopping in Jerusalem’s high-end Mamilla Mall, the air raid sirens went off. While we were intellectually prepared to the sirens to occur, emotionally the sound was shocking. In the seven separate trips I have taken to Israel, only once before have I experienced the air raid sirens, and that was during the Second Lebanon War in 2006 when I was visiting friends at Rambam Healthcare Centre in Haifa.


"We were rapidly escorted from the shop to the second floor parking lot/bomb shelter by extremely composed staff. While one of the employees was panicking somewhat, the remaining staff and customers were orderly, composed and calm. We tried to follow their lead.


"A short time later, maybe 10 minutes, the all clear signal sounded and we returned briefly to shopping. Given the relatively late hour, the mall emptied quickly and stores closed.


"Since that day in Jerusalem, air raid sirens have been somewhat regular in Jerusalem including the following day. While one member of our party had to deal with that, the rest enjoyed a tourist visit to favourites including Masada and the Dead Sea.


"We have subsequently traveled to the north via the Jordan River Valley. Our visit included a day tour of the Golan, plus Akko, Tiberias, and our usual stay in Vered HaGalil.


"While the air raids sirens can be unsettling at best, we have been thoroughly impressed by the calm demeanour of the Israeli people who have taken this all in stride and remained friendly and hospitable to tourists like me. Off to Haifa tomorrow.


Postscript: The Winnipeg Jewish Review has also heard from Cheryl Hechter Raphaeli (daughter of  Gail and Ted Hechter) who advises that she was on Dizengoff  in Tel Aviv when a siren went off and she went to a nearby bombshelter which had wine and Israeli flags. She has declined giving the WJR a further interview as  she is hoping to be interviewed by CNN first !

Am Israel Chai.











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