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Tel Aviv beach
photos by Rhonda Spivak

Tel Aviv beach

Rabin square

Part of bomb shelter in Tel Aviv


Editor's Report: The Day I Accidentally Found the Tel Aviv Synagogue That was Hit in This Summer's Israel-Hamas War

by Rhonda Spivak, October3, 2014






During this summer's war in Israel, I did not venture into Tel-Aviv very often, but on the one day I did I rather unexpectedly discovered a location in Tel Aviv where shrapnel from the Iron Dome fell damaging a synagogue on July 11, 2014. Because of the military censor in Israel during war time, the exact location was not reported. (This policy is in place in order that Hamas not know exactly where it's rockets fell in order not to assist them in any way in refining their targets)



I went into to Tel Aviv that day because I had to watch some video of an earlier interview I had done with Shlomo Gazit, former chief of military intelligence in the 1967 Six Day War.


My cameraman lives in Tel-Aviv and I was supposed to get to his place a couple of weeks earlier to view some video, but when the missiles started, I asked him where the bomb shelter in his building was. He lives on the highest floor of his building (the fifth floor) and there is no shelter in the building. He told me that if there's a siren he goes to the stairwell or goes onto the roof.  At the beginning of the war, I joked with him that since he is gay, he shouldn't wear his bright pink sports shoes (he owns such shoes)   when he goes up on the roof, since Hamas is not gay friendly and if they see him up there, they'll try to get him. He laughed and said, "You're right, I'll wear my black sneakers instead."


On arriving to his street I learned that our little joke turned out to be much closer to reality than I realized. When I got to his street, I stopped into a carpet shop a few buildings down (to get out of the heat momentarily) and the owner told me that the synagogue about six buildings from where my cameraman lives suffered extensive damage when shrapnel from the Iron Dome fell on it. The carpet shop owner took me over to show me exactly where the shrapnel fell.  The Israeli media reported that a synagogue in Tel-Aviv was damaged, but didn't report the location. The damage was all cleaned up right away-- so no one could tell. The Iranian Jewish owner of the carpet shop also told me that the day before one of the rockets fell right near there into the sea, also not reported. It became clear to me that Hamas was targeting this particular area. The carpet shop owner did not have a bomb shelter to access, and when a siren went off he stood behind a post in his shop.


Had I known about these incidents before I wouldn't have gone to Tel- Aviv on this particular street to see my cameraman. My cameraman knew about the damage to the synagogue down the street (but didn't tell me about it because he thought I already knew!)  He says he spoke to a woman who worked at the damaged synagogue (which has no shelter) and she luckily had left fifteen minutes before the shrapnel fell. But my cameraman did not know about the missile that landed in the sea nearby him yesterday. As a result, when I next went to Tel-Aviv I made arrangements to view this video interview in a studio in Tel-Aviv with a proper bomb shelter-rather than at my cameraman's apartment. It is not a well-known statistic but approximately 21% of Israelis did not have nearby bomb shelters. My cameraman was one of them.


From my cameraman's place I went to a friend's place in Tel- Aviv for dinner. I took a cab rather than be on the street and wait for a bus since I realized that I was hanging out on a "preferred missile destination". Interestingly, neither my friend nor her husband knew that the synagogue had been hit, nor did the Tel Aviv cab driver who picked me up there. My point is that the situation in Israel during the war was that no one necessarily knew whether shrapnel or a missile landed relatively near them.


In the cab, the driver made me laugh when he said, "This war is all the fault of the Jews." When I asked why that was, he answered, "We invented monotheism and we should have patented the idea. If we had patented the idea of a God, then the Christians and Moslems wouldn't have been able to copy it. If we had patented God, there wouldn't be any Christianity or Islam. And if there was no Islam, there'd be no Hamas and then there wouldn't be this war."


I experienced another humourous moment this summer when I went to a shop in Netanya that had big signs saying "Holiday Sale." I walked in and said to the store clerk, "There is a war going on and you are advertising a Holiday Sale. What is the holiday?" The clerk smiled and said, "In Israel every day is a holiday!"  I laughed and said, "Really now, what gives?” She answered: “Well, we put the Holiday Sale signs up this past spring over Passover and we just never took them down. There are a lot of Russian Christian tourists here and they think that every Friday, when it's Shabbat, that it's a big Holiday. So we left the signs up. It's good for business." I laughed and said, "Well then, Chag Sameach!"


She responded, "Chag Sameach," and gave me a free gift -a bar of Israeli made vanilla and coconut olive oil soap. (So I could be extra-clean for the Holiday!) 


On a final note, I have often thought that as a result of this summer's war someone would write a book on how to tour Tel-Aviv when missiles are raining down on it.


My suggestion would be to go to Tel-Aviv museums that are national museums. The one other day that I went to Tel-Aviv during the war, I spent at the Tel -Aviv Art Museum. This was a good travel decision since there is a bomb shelter on every floor of the building and they have trained staff to direct you to the bomb shelter. I even managed to find one of the safe rooms as I viewed the exhibits.  It was functioning as a bomb shelter and a staff room, with a kitchenette.  The nicest part of course is that there were even paintings on the walls. Who ever imagined fine art in a bomb shelter!

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.