Musings from My Fortified Room

Categories: Israel

By Dana Maliniak, Adv

What is life in Haifa like these days, inside the fortified rooms? What is it like to live from siren to siren, to know that most of your friends and family have moved to the south and you are left alone in a city that has turned into a rocket target and the focus of world media overnight? Attorney Dana Meliniak, coordinator of YEDID’s legal department in the north, who was born on the northern moshav Shavei Zion and currently a resident of Haifa, reports from her fortified room. A war diary.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

7 a.m. A phone call from my mother who lives in Shavei Zion: Katyushas fell right next to her house! I spring from bed, still not digesting exactly what she said. Katyushas? She said that the security vehicles have been going around announcing to residents to enter the underground shelters, “and this time, it is serious.” It was just yesterday that we spoke of the necessity to fix up the shelter when she had a chance. Who would have thought that it would be needed the next day?

I told her that I was on my way. I called my sister and we drove north together.

Another barrage fell when we were in Shavei Zion. This convinced me that we should all go back to Haifa. We never dreamt that Haifa would also be included in the action.

A few hours later, Haifa joined the ranks of the frontlines. At about 8:15 p.m., a opening volley was fired: a Katyusha fell at Stella Maris. “No injuries, no property damage” (we will hear this expression many times over the next few days: too many times).

The class ended at 1, but no one was listening to the lecturer anyway. Everyone ran to students with laptops to find out the latest news from Haifa. The class scattered. I was very afraid to walk to my car, knowing that there might be more Katyushas on the way. The phone system shut down. I drove fast, very fast to my sister’s house, overcome by fear as I drove.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

I am reflecting on how our lives have changed so abruptly. I was always aware of the fact that my life could change – like so many others – as the result of tragedy, whether as a result of a traffic accident or a terrorist attack. Unfortunately our lives could change abruptly for many tragic reasons.

But it is different this time.

This time, the lives of tens of thousands of people changed all at once. The fact that so many people are in the same situation does not, however, change the fact that you are stuck at home, under “house arrest.” It makes no difference that your neighbors are also under house arrest.

At such times, one gets to appreciate any quiet times. A day that passes without you jumping out of bed at 5:55 a.m. at the sound of a siren. Or going to bed after the last siren of the night. . . .

You even begin to miss your daily routine of going to work in the morning.

You do not feel like you are on vacation. The opposite is true. You feel like you are under house arrest.

Today I took advantage of a break in attacks to do some shopping at the local supermarket. Ordinarily, there is nothing I hate more than shopping for groceries. But today it is a distinct pleasure: a parole from my house arrest. The fact that I forgot to buy a newspaper (which was unfortunately very thin and kept me busy for only an hour) was a good excuse to go out again. . . .

The most obvious change in me over six days of warfare is that my hearing has become more acute. Every plane flying overhead (and there are a lot of them) sounds to me like a launched rocket.

Another thing has changed. The amounts of SMS messages that I both send and receive these days. My cell phone’s limited capacity fills up quickly. In emergency situations you can really tell who cares about you and who does not.

At this time, we all hope that the army will achieve its goals and the threat from the North will disappear for at least a few years. . . .

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Today there was a break in the rocket attacks. The whole city started to wake up. People started to go outside, daring to tread farther than a walk around the block with the dog. There was kind of a happy feeling in the air. I also took advantage of the break and went out with a friend to the Carmel Center (on normal days I walk from my apartment to the Carmel Center. Today, I drove.) By the Panorama Tower there was a group of people, mostly policemen. An anti-war demonstration. Most of the demonstrators were Arab citizens. . . there were a few Jewish ones, too. People at the scene flung derogatory catcalls at them: the term “traitors” was heard more than once. It was obvious from the number of policemen protecting the demonstrators that they feared an outburst of violence. Both foreign and local media teams covered the demonstration: finally they had something to report to their viewers other than the usual monotonous litany of sirens and subsequent Katyushas hits. Finally some action to enliven the miserable sight of empty streets and closed stores.

Most of the coffee houses were closed. We went into the Panorama Center knowing that since there were so many media crews in the towers, at least some would open. And one was. It did not have much business. Haifa Mayor Yonah Yahav came up the elevator to be interviewed. Again. For one of the television networks.. . .

This breath of fresh air gave us strength to get through the next few days.

Friday, July 21, 2006

This was a most difficult, hectic day. There were many sirens, one after the other. There is no way one can get used to the chilling sound of the sirens. It always affects you, in your guts.

Around noon, rockets fell in Hadar and in the Hadar Center, some fifty meters from where I work. A rocket fell on a post office branch, but since it was the middle of the day, the branch was closed. This time, the loud “booms” were more earth shattering than usual. I can not deny it: this time I was afraid. There is only one floor above my apartment. I live in an old house and I readily admit to myself that if a Katyusha wee to make a direct hit on my house, it is highly doubtful that I would survive.

A new immigrant was injured in the Hadar attack: 43-year-old Galina Goldiianka, in the country for one year. Her foot was torn off. She loves reading the newspaper and showing the affection of a new immigrant for her adopted country. She relates that her wound was very difficult, but in spite of the unpleasant scene, people helped her all along the way, never leaving her alone, and she found this very touching. She said, “Yes, I was wounded, but I will never leave. I love this country. There is nothing like Israel in the whole world, and no city can compare with Haifa.” There were media reports that Galina is going to have a hard time climbing up to her fourth-floor apartment (no elevator). I hope that YEDID will be able to somehow help her relocate.

I wonder if our office has been hit. . . are the windows shattered?

Shabbat, July 22, 2006

Notwithstanding the fact that the University is closed and all the exams I was supposed to have this week have been postponed, I decided to study for one of them. The subject: “stress.” Reading the material, I learned that stress that is caused by factors over which we have no control is the most stressful. Sounds familiar, very familiar. Sitting at home for so long has taken its toll. I find myself in the above-mentioned category.

I decided a long time ago that I want to volunteer, but I did not know what I would do. A girlfriend told me about the possibility of volunteering at the Haifa municipal information center. A good idea: I was in charge of coordinating many events when I was in the Air Force. I have the necessary nerves of steel and I know what to do. So I sent email offering my services.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

The twelfth day of warfare in the North

I have started to get used to my daily routine. You get up in the morning to the sounds of explosions accompanied by sirens; more sirens, more explosions. A natural alarm clock. You go through the morning with more sirens. By the time lunchtime comes around, you feel that it has been a long day. Fatigue.

Today I was awoken by a telephone call at 9 a.m.. The Municipal Center called; they want me to come work a shift tomorrow. I am so happy to finally be able to do something useful!

My mother alternates staying with me and with my sister. We spend the day making lunch together, watching television, reading newspapers. It is hard to concentrate on anything more demanding.

Friends and relatives invite me and the family to come stay with them. But I feel that I want to remain in Haifa. Maybe I will change my mind, like all my neighbors and friends from Haifa who went south “to air themselves out.”

Towards evening, I feel like I am living in a forgotten city. It is so quiet. Most of the people who live in my building and in the immediate area have left. No cars drive by. It is so quiet, you can hear the Katyushas falling in Akko.

At this stage of the fighting, I have learned to locate where the rockets land, according to the sound of the “boom.” If it comes from the direction of my porch, it fell into the sea, in Kiryat Eliezer, or in Bat Galim. If the noise came from the side where the kitchen is, the rocket must have landed in Hadar, in Nesher, or in the Haifa Bay. I can tell the distance, too, more or less.

Without a shadow of a doubt, we here in the North can tell there is a war going on. Both soldiers and civilians get killed every day. We hear the unrelenting noise of planes and helicopter zooming over to Lebanon. On television, you see the warfare from the Israeli side only. To see the other side, I look at the foreign media. I assume that no one wants to negatively affect the consensus that has sprung up over this war. Today, it is clear to me that the fighting will not continue for too long and political negotiations will start soon. Everyone is aware of this.

Now all we can do is wait and see what happens.

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One Response to Musings from My Fortified Room

  1. linda zurndorfer says:

    I read your article and was interested in Shavei Zion. I know that the history of the moshav dates back to a group of German Jews from Rexingen. My husband’s family is from Rexingen and we are very interested in contacting anyone on the moshav who is from the first settlers, or their children. We are planning a trip to Rexingen in Nov. 2013 and are trying to locate my husband’s family (Rothschild) homes.

    Thank you,
    Linda Zurndorfer