Home Page

How Did We Weather the Lebanon War of 2006?

B'Ezrat Hashem
Unlike 90% of Tzfat's residents, we decided to remain in Tzfat for the duration of the war.    Minyan of Israeli Soldiers in Lebanon, 2006
Sound Bite File   Date Described Below
AirRaidSirenKatyushas.mp3 Tuesday, July 25, 2006
ChayimInterview20060726.mp3 Friday, July 28, 2006
Here are the messages we sent to relatives as events unfolded:

Composed: Thursday, July 13, 2006
Subject: Katyushas

Today has been a fast day--the 17th of Tamuz, and we in the north of Eretz Yisrael have concrete Tzoros today.  Hezbollah's Katyushas from Lebanon have hit a number of northern cities, including Tzfat.  At 2 different times today, the last just before I started composing this E-mail.  It's loud and frightening, and I felt air rush into my office.  It sounds close.  The sirens of emergency vehicles are going.  A friend sent an E-mail earlier today, letting us know that, according to the police, we're allowed to break into the bomb shelters if the key hasn't yet arrived.

I'm walking to the Shul on the way home now for Ma'ariv, and then home to break the fast.  I'll be on the lookout at all times.
Date: Friday, July 14, 2006 4:23 PM
Subject: Tense Northern Israel

"...but the locations mentioned are not near Howard & Bracha's normal environs."

Completely wrong!  Last night, when I was in my office about to write you, Mommy and Daddy, one hit that was, I believe, about 100 meters from me--just at the beginning of Rechov Tet Zayin (if you go under the bridge, past the beginning of the Midrechov, and start to go down the hill, just at the sharp left turn to the Rimon Inn)!  Hadad gallery was badly damaged there, and the printer next door to it that did our Birkat Hamazon (Birkon) covers for our wedding was damaged.

Also, the house just above the Rezniks was hit, and the mother and several children that lived in that house were all injured and went to the hospital.  I saw Avraham Lesser (from Kosov, who announced at our wedding) with blood on his shirt, from carrying the injured children who had been playing outside.

Building Severely Damaged on Rechov Aliyah Bet in the first Katyusha Rocket Attack on Tzfat--resulted in one fatality.  Click to enlarge and see Ahalevy's whole slide show.Earlier yesterday, a building across from the grocery store I usually shop in on the way back from Davening every morning was hit, and that grocery store was closed the rest of the day.  (We shopped there this morning, though.)

One 33-year old man from the United States, on a bicycle, was killed in that hit--I don't believe I knew him.

Katyusha Rocket narrowly missed the Home for the Aged and damaged the road instead.  Click to enlarge and see Ahalevy's whole slide show.Yesterday, also, one hit near the Beit Avot (home for the aged), where I'll be saying Kiddush, with G-d's help, at least 3 times in about one hour.

This afternoon, during the visit with the children, a building was hit very close to our apartment, where Bracha was at the time.  Hannah was very scared, and spent a long time under the table.  She wishes we had stayed overseas longer.  [Bracha my wife, Hannah my 9-year old daughter and I just returned from a 2-week visit with family on Cape Cod and Victoria, BC, Canada, the night before it all started.]

Anyway, last night on the way to the Shul on the way home, I was invited into a bomb shelter, and we Davened there.  Then, having heard rumors about where damage had occurred, I went and observed a couple locations, getting sprayed near the house above the Rezniks, since the water feed had burst.  Then, I went home and broke the fast.  Many families with children spent the night in bomb shelters.  Simcha Layah [my former wife] felt they were all relatively safe in the big bedroom with the dome ceiling and no outside windows.  Bracha and I felt vulnerable in the top of our building, and we slept in my office.

The Davening with Rebbe Leifer (where I go every morning) was much more spirited on Friday morning than on Thursday (before the Katyushas started), but yesterday and today, many regulars didn't come.  (Many have fled to the center of the country, and many stay mostly in the bomb shelters.)

I thought perhaps there would be no aggressive activity from Hezbollah during the Moslem sabbath, but I guess I was wrong.

Anyway, I'm walking home with my parachutist helmet.  Simcha Layah got a good laugh when she saw.  Bracha and I are hoping to be able to spend Shabbat at home, but we'll evaluate as things develop.

Israeli English TV & Radio web links with probably more news than you see and hear there:


Also, to go directly to the IBA radio page:

Whereas the TV is probably updated only once a day, the IBA English radio is updated a few times a day: 6:30, 12:30 and 20:30 Israel time.

If you have a slow connection, you could still see the television, probably most satisfactorily, by letting it play and pause repeatedly until the end (while you do something else).  Then you could replay it from the beginning, and you'd see it continuously from the cache.

Have a Good Shabbos and please pray for our safety!
[In case you couldn't tell, I was very much afraid during those first 2 days.  Those first 2 strikes on Tzfat both came so close to my office, if they just duplicated that enough times, they could hit Bracha or me.  Walking home that first night, the street lights and the lights in most buildings were off, so we didn't even know whether a black-out may have been imposed, so Tzfat would be less visible a target for bombing.  We didn't know what to expect.  We didn't know whether the barrages of rockets would increase in frequency, or whether they'd go through the night.  Internally, my own imagination ran wild--I was afraid that the conflict could quickly widen, and we could be the target of bigger bombs, even an atomic bomb from Iran, for example.  When we made the decision to spend all of Shabbat in our own apartment, it was with great trepidation.  Most other families either left Tzfat or spent Shabbat in a bomb shelter.  We let go and had to trust G-d.]
Date: Sunday, July 16, 2006 6:53 PM
Subject: Shabbos, Tzfat Status

Many Shuls that are normally very active, are closed and locked up, even during Davening times on Shabbat.  Lelov (the closest Shul to our apartment now) was closed and locked, and so was the Arizal Beit Hamidrash Ashkenazi run by Rav Pinchas, who descends from several generations of Tzfat rabbis.  Kosov, although its doors were open, had its lights off and no people for Mincha and Se'udah Shlishit. 

Bracha and I saw the Katyusha hole in the road right next to the Beit Avot when we went there to do Kiddush.

Friday night, near the end of Davening was the only time we've ever gotten any warning of imminent rockets.  A siren-like air-raid siren sounded.  We finished Davening normally.  Then, as I was walking past the Rimon Inn home, a few Katyushas landed in quick succession, sounding closer and closer.  We ran to a bomb shelter I didn't even know existed.  Bracha happened to be walking from the apartment to meet me at the time.  She saw a flash, she believed, around my office.  Later, we heard there were 2 ambulances at the steep steps going down to Tet Vav near my office.

Later we heard that just at that time, a Katyusha hit the steps next to a Shul in the Old City--destroying and damaging all the Shul's doors and windows--just when services were over, when people were leaving another close-by Shul.  The damaged Shul had been empty only because too many people who attend there had left Tzfat.  The flash of light Bracha saw was probably that.

I never heard the sound preceding a Katyusha that David said he heard (with the close ones).  But, on Shabbos morning, early in my Davening, I did.  It sounded like a "whoosh".  Today I hear that that one hit near Hannah's school near there.

Everything else was more distant.  There were periods, though, of minutes on end, when it seemed another one hit every 5 or 10 seconds.  It sounded muffled--sort of like a bass drum being struck.  [Only many days later, we realized that we were mixing up the sounds of Israel's shelling/bombing of positions in Lebanon with those of enemy rockets landing in Israel.  After all, the closest point on the Lebanese border is only 8 miles northwest of Tzfat.  These strikes every 5 or 10 seconds were not incoming rockets, but we didn't know this at that time.]

I ended up spending Se'udah Shlishit in a bomb shelter with a relatively new English-speaking family in Tzfat.  The father told me one miracle.  A family was in their house on Rechov Bar Yochai in the Old City when a Katyusha hit their courtyard, and, although all their windows blew in, they all came away from the blast unscathed.  He can show me which house.

Although we spent the night Thursday night in my office, we did sleep in our own bedroom next to an east-facing window both Friday night and last night.  (The Katyushas are coming from the northwest, and there are 3 apartments northwest of us, although the fact that we're on the top floor isn't so comforting.  At the home for the elderly, they brought the top floor residents down and combined them with the floor below.)  Working in my office all day is actually relatively safe.  Noach Greenberg agrees that the thick rock walls and domed ceilings are a good bomb shelter.  His family spent Thursday night at least through Shabbat in the bomb shelter that was used as a sort of night club called Ohel Avraham on Tet Zayin at the bottom of his alley.  Although their house is constructed that way, too, he explained the children would be less anxious in the bomb shelter due to the windows on their bedrooms at home.

This afternoon is calm here, probably at the expense of Haifa.  Bracha and I feel a real purpose to being here.  This morning, my boss, David Mason, offered to temporarily put us up in his home in Yerushalayim, but we aren't seriously considering it.
Date: Monday, July 17, 2006 6:44 PM
Subject: Calmer

Today has been relatively calm here in Tzfat.  The few Katyushas here have not been close to us.  It's a ghost town.  Rebbe Leifer has left town now, too.  This morning it looked like a heavy fog, but probably more smoke, especially dark toward Meiron where Katyushas had started forest fires, but, thank G-d, I didn't smell any smoke.  Maybe, also, smoke from Lebanon drifted here high in the sky.  When I walk anywhere outside now, I normally wear my parachuting helmet.  Funny--I don't see anybody else doing anything like that--of course, there's hardly anybody else to encounter.

I hope and pray the IDF disables Hezbollah for good before any ceasefire.
Date: Thursday, July 20, 2006 1:56 PM
Subject: Safe

Not to worry after not hearing from me for a couple days.  We're fine.  Mid days have been calm, like now, and no Katyushas as close as those the first day (last Thursday).  Bracha went with 3 other women on a get-away at Ein Gedi, and I expect her back today.  David and Hannah also went to camps out of town, and they should be back early next week.  Aharon says he's not afraid.

You may be interested in writings of fellow Tzfat friends.  One is on this page: http://mediablog.mail2web.com/McLevy/.  Another, I just received today, and I called up to thank--see below.

From: Riphael Rosen
To: consage@netvision.net.il ; Riphael & Adinah Rosen
Sent: Thursday, July 20, 2006 1:10 PM
Subject: Life

Miraculous days bring clearer insights.

After Tuesday's 52 rockets being shot at Tsfat and only three people lightly injured, I woke up Wednesday morning, with what was for me, getting to the kernel of this war.
[Click to see the rest of this letter from Adinah Rosen.]
Date: Sunday, July 23, 2006 9:29 AM
Subject: Improvement?

We want to let you know that we're all right, wishing all our friends would come back home.  Bracha returned safe and sound from Kibbutz Ein Gedi Thursday, as planned, thoroughly pleased with her experience, especially since she was treated by unknown benefactors.  It was interesting/alarming Friday afternoon for us to hear and see 6 rockets fall in the Wadi behind our apartment.  We saw the columns of smoke from the resulting Forest fires, and our plane dumping flame retardant.  Bracha cringes when it's so close.  Shabbat morning, relatively close Katyushas rattled the doors of the Nadvorna Shul where I was learning before moving on to another Shul with a Minyan.  We later heard that there had been a direct hit on a Tzfat house, with 2 injured, but didn't hear exactly where.  I suspect it might have happened then, and that the house was in the Har Canaan neighborhood (which is close to the Nadvorna Shul).  Last night and this morning have been relatively calm.  This is the first morning I remember since it all started that I heard no rockets during learning and Davening.  We've heard a few distant ones since.  Perhaps the Hezbollah positions closest to Tzfat have been destroyed, so further attempts to target us are less accurate--we hope.

The air-raid sirens are useless.  Last Monday night when Bracha and I were watching internet video news in my office, after hearing that we should take cover for 15 minutes, including lying down, whenever we hear the warning sirens, we heard 3 sirens--one every 15 minutes, and lay down on the (dirty) floor for nothing--thank G-d.  Since then, we heard that lying down is recommended when outside in the open and unable to take cover, since the shrapnel (ball bearings) explode up and out, so people lying down could be close and still relatively uninjured.  Also, we heard that the sirens go off throughout several northern cities at the same time if any are hit.  Since then, we've heard the Katyushas hit and finish, followed by the sirens, so we generally ignore them now.  Also, there is one siren right behind our apartment, which is terrifyingly loud, so the siren almost disturbs us more than the Katyushas.

Now we appreciate better how good normalcy is, with all the people here and everything thriving (stores, Shuls, families, zoo, mail delivery, etc.).  The unity and everyone's helping one another really is brought out by this time.
Date: Tuesday, July 25, 2006 5:30 PM
Subject: Dangers still lurk...

As it turns out, the relative calm of 2 days ago gave us a false sense of security.  That afternoon, a barrage of Katyushas came to Tzfat, at least one of which went into the heart of the Old City.  It hit a small building being used as a Yeshiva, directly between 2 very old and precious Sepharadi Shuls: Abuhav and Alsheich.  Only a few windows were shattered of those 2 Shuls adjoining the courtyard.  I witnessed Rav Shmuel Eliyahu, the head rabbi of Tzfat, come out of Abuhav after Davening Mincha there, and walk next door to inspect the damage.

Yesterday afternoon, another barrage came, but not as close.  They landed in or around the wadi--Bracha saw one resulting column of smoke and fire plane, from a back window of the apartment.  This relatively close barrage was the first that was accompanied by the air-raid siren, and I managed to record it on my computer--the attached file AirRaidSirenKatyushas.mp3.  (Sorry for the relatively high ambient noise--my computer's fans, and the room fan that I neglected to turn off.  Also, sorry there is clipping/slight distortion at the peaks, since I had the volume turned slightly too high.)  If you listen to the 22 seconds, you'll easily hear 3 distinct hits, all within 4 seconds, starting 9 seconds in.  If you turn the volume up and listen carefully, you'll also be able to hear another much further away, near the beginning, about 1 1/2 seconds in, just before the siren reaches its highest pitch the first time.  That is what I call the muffled base drum sound.  I thought this could give you a better idea of what we're going through.

Moshe Chaim has posted more at http://mediablog.mail2web.com/McLevy/, and you can see any you missed if you click on "My Blog" there.  Where people have gone is addressed for a number there.  Most go to the center of the country (around Yerushalayim/Tel Aviv).  We had at least 2 concrete invitations to escape to Yerushalayim, and one to escape to Alaska!

You can also find a photo album "Tsfat Under Attack" at http://community.webshots.com/album/552264230KExyld containing 78 slides.  Photos 12 - 22 are of the location where the 33-year old American man riding bicycle was killed on the first day--Rechov Aliyah Bet, near the corner of Rechov Yerushalayim, across from Bank Discount and the supermarket I often stop at on the way home from morning Davening.  Photos 51 - 56 are the result of the Katyusha that hit the road right next to the Beit Avot--the home for the elderly.  (We walked there later that day, in order to recite Kiddush a few times for residents.)

More barrages occurred today around Tzfat, but nothing very close.  Let's not hope for any diplomatic resolution soon.  Rather, Hezbollah must be crushed, and never able to threaten, intimidate or hold hostage northern Israel again, even from behind the lines of any UN/EU forces.  There's no negotiating with terrorists.  No more appeasement.

Date: Friday, July 28, 2006 3:29 PM
Subject: A Radio Interview

We're still OK, thank G-d.  More rockets and sirens every day, but none too close.  We look forward to another interesting Shabbat now.  Lawry, thanks for forwarding my last E-mail to Chuck.  He didn't even realize there was a sound file included when he called me to line me up to interview on their morning news program.  He was very happy to hear that there was one when I asked him whether he got the sound file, too.  I've extracted the interview on the attached MP3 file (sorry it's somewhat large), which you might be interested in hearing.  (It's disappointing, though, that the radio station's automatic level controls completely erased the sound of the 3 loud explosions.)

It turns out you can get almost any hour of any program from his web site wbt.com (for at least one week following the broadcast).  It requires those of us with PC's to download and install iTunes.  If you were interested in the whole hour, it's Charlotte's Morning News, 7/26/2006 Wednesday 7am, and this segment was at about 7:08.  David and Hannah came back from their camp yesterday, they go back to another camp Sunday.  I had a visit with all 3 today.

See a great animated map showing where the rockets are being fired from and onto which locations at http://www.conceptwizard.com/n-israel.html.
Date: Wednesday, August 02, 2006 10:48 AM
Subject: Hit the Ground!

The last 2 days were a nice respite--no sirens, no rockets heard (or at least nowhere near Tzfat).  I was wondering whether we'd be rudely awakened by a resumption at 2:00 a.m.  last night.  But no, we weren't.  So, I really had hoped that the Hezbollah positions that target Tzfat had been destroyed.  No such luck.

After breakfast this morning, before going to work in my office, Bracha asked me to accompany her to an open air egg man to buy 30 eggs in the "Darom" (the south part of Tzfat, below our apartment), specifically in a neighborhood called Rosco.  Just before we left, a siren started.  (Bracha has counted--it's 16 cycles of going up and down in pitch--another siren just occurred now, and I just verified that.)  The apartment is so close to one of the siren sounders, and the sound is so loud, that we couldn't hear any rockets landing.  Once it finished, we ventured out.  On the way, another siren sounded, when we were almost right next to the sounder, and we were at a loss for shelter.  I tried hugging the rock wall next to the steps we were descending.  When that siren finished, we hurriedly made our way to the egg man, and waited for the customer ahead of us to finish.  I believe it was when we were paying for our eggs that a loud whoosh went over our heads followed by a very loud boom behind us!  I hit the ground, not knowing whether another, closer, might follow.  Bracha picked up a small piece of road asphalt that fell on or near me.  A few people were worried that I was either hurt or in shock.  When they realized that I had done it intentionally, they agreed I had done the right thing.  On our way home, we passed by the site, which was only about a block away from us with the egg man.  The police were putting up ribbons, and stopped me from approaching all the way.  The rocket had hit only the road--no injuries and no significant damage.  Both when walking there as well as when returning, we passed only a few meters from the spot!  Also, we had been on the sidewalk just under an 8-story apartment building which it must have narrowly missed.

I dropped Bracha off at our apartment while I continued on to my office, interrupted by at least 2 more sirens and stops in 2 bomb shelters on the way.

I guess I shouldn't be too hard on myself if I have a little difficulty concentrating on work just now.  Tonight and tomorrow are the fast day of Tisha B'Av.  This will conclude a 3-week period of semi-mourning that started on the fast of the 17th of Tamuz, which was the day rockets started landing on Tzfat.  I've heard people say that G-d has an ulterior motive for bringing this on us--He just wants all us Jews to do and become what He created us for.  If little nudges don't do the job, then He'll resort to "big nudges" (jolts?).
Date: Wednesday, August 09, 2006 12:24 PM
Subject: Happy Tu B'Av!

We're still fine, here in Tzfat, among the estimated 10% still here.  For those who wondered, no, not one of Bracha's eggs broke.  Bracha didn't move at all, and the explosion was too far away, and eggs shells are genetically engineered (by the Creator) to resist external pressure.  Not wanting to alarm, I'll try to correct some impressions we've given you.  That piece of road didn't fall on me--only beside me (Bracha has verified it).  Also, that piece of road was only the size of a pebble.

David and Hannah went to overnight camps (for free) in the middle of the country until Tisha B'Av last week.  They returned on Tisha B'Av itself (being forced to fast longer than children their age should have been expected to).  This week, they have day camp right here in Tzfat, so our visits include all of them now.  The children seem to be used to the situation now, and not so frightened (even Hannah).  I heard from a friend yesterday who was a guest at Simcha Layah's for the Shabbat day meal.  He relayed that when there were sirens, she invited everyone into the safe bedroom, "Join the party!"

A friend recently ridiculed Hezbollah--they wage "war" on bankers' hours!  We've never heard sirens or rockets landing in Tzfat at night (excluding that first Friday night when a rocket landed just next to a small Shul at the time when people were leaving to go home--not from that Shul--it was empty--but that was barely night).  Generally, we can plan on sirens and rockets late morning and in the middle of the afternoon.  Usually, but not always, sirens sound before rockets land, and the sirens have gotten better about indicating that it is Tzfat that is being hit.

Last Thursday, I was returning from most of the day in Shul (reading Kinot--dirges) about 4:00 p.m., when many sirens and barrages hit.  I had to go into bomb shelters on my way home several times.  And as we both rested, lying down in the bedroom in our top floor apartment, weak from the fast, the continued sirens and barrages were someone discomfitting.

This past Shabbat found a similar situation as we were trying to take a Shabbos nap.  Then we heard one Katyusha fly over that sounded like it was cutting the air followed quickly by a loud boom nearby.  In the days since then, from the safety of my office, I've heard a couple similarly sounding like they were burning fuel/air at an incredible rate as they whizzed over, but there was a longer time until the boom--I expect they went down the hill of the Darom before hitting.

I go to Shul in the morning and evening at times when the rockets haven't been flying here.  Most of the rest of the day, I feel safe working (as best I can) in my office.  Bracha generally has remained in the apartment, reading books from the English library (which is still open, and even expanded hours).  It's hotter, though, in the apartment, and noisier when the siren goes off, and not as safe.  So, I've set up my old computer in a network with my new computer in my office, and Bracha is planning to spend more time with me in my office--she'll explore the worldwide web on my old computer on the same internet connection that I do my work.  (It'll be a completely new experience for her.)

P.S.  Today is Tu B'Av, a happy day when we don't say Tachanun (certain supplicating prayers, with our head down on our arm, in particular).  It's known as a propitious time, historically when marriage matches were made, dating to the shunning of the tribe of Binyamin following a tragic event in the territory of Binyamin that sparked a civil war, eventually leaving only 500 men in the tribe--in the book of Judges.
Date: Tuesday, August 15, 2006 1:48 PM
Subject: The End of the War?

We're still here and safe, thank G-d.  Yesterday morning, less than hour before the start of the ceasefire at 8:00 a.m. was the last air-raid siren, and everything has been quiet since.  [We're sensitive to every sound now.]

The loud siren near the apartment had become less annoying (usually to Bracha, where she normally was weekdays), because it developed a malfunction: it started sounding at a lower frequency than it was designed for.  The lower pitches of the siren were now below its capability to sound, and the result was that it resembled a loud lawn mower just starting up as the siren's pitch rose from the bottom, and a loud lawn mower stalling as the pitch fell to the bottom.

Many have been returning to Tzfat, including the Rosens whom I saw unpacking their car last night.  Some, though, have started new lives in the middle of the country.

The cost to Israel has been high, in both lives and the economy.  The economy of the north has been completely disrupted, and I believe many businesses will fail.  We would have been willing to go through even more of this, as the price to pay in order to achieve the stated objectives. (Return the kidnapped soldiers and destroy Hezbollah.)  Neither objective, however, has been met.  Words of a Security Council resolution don't disarm terrorist organizations, nor do disinterested international forces, and the Lebanese government says it won't.  Our government, led by Olmert, has been a disaster, with plenty to say, but hesitation and reluctance to actually get the job done--to fight a war the way a war needs to be fought.  [Furthermore, Olmert should have consulted the rabbis.  He would have learned that to start a new project, even a defensive invasion, during the 3 weeks from the 17th of Tamuz to Tisha B'Av, perhaps even through the entire month of Av, is not a propitious time for us.  During that time, he should have built up forces and prepared only.]  It seems this may have only been round one.  And, we shouldn't have needed to go through this ever again, whether in another 6 years or whatever.  Professor Paul Eidelberg (http://foundation1.org) has a mouthful to say about all this, and I totally agree with him.  You can also hear him on every Monday's Tamar Yonah show (which is available until the next week's show) at http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Radio/.

All agree.  We could sure use Moshiach now.

Click to see page and video "Safed Residents: City Alive Again - News from Israel, Ynetnews" of August 16, 2006.  The video (relatively high quality--probably 300 Mbits/second) includes interview segments with our friends Moshe and Elisheva Philips.

Times indicated above are the time the message was sent, Israel Standard Time (not Israel Daylight Time, even though the time of year was Summer Time).

This Page Last Revised:  October 1, 2006