Walter's Israel journal (Part 3): Haifa under seige


The strain on the Israeli populace is evident on another day with bombs falling.

After leaving Afeq, I spent the following day touring Haifa while covering the visit of a Hadassah solidarity mission to the city. I relate to Haifa as my hometown, since I spent two years living there as a would-be new immigrant 30 years ago, when I was in my mid- 20’s. Haifa was and remains, Israel’s most liberal and secular city, with a community center called Bet Hagefen (House of the Vinyard), where members of the city’s Jewish and Arab communities meet for cultural events and rap sessions.

The day we were in town we found counselors from Bet Hagefen entertaining Arab and Jewish children in a stifling parking lot underneath a kenyon (shopping mall) in the city’s ethnically mixed Wadi Selib section, that is serving as a large bomb shelter. Amidst a deafening clamor as children banged away on drums and danced to Middle Eastern music, an Arab youth leader named Shadi Alowia shouted into a microphone; “The Jews and Arabs of Haifa stand together in this crisis as we always have. We won’t allow Nasrallah to drive us apart.”

The severe impact of the ongoing missile barrage on Haifa’s civilian population hit chillingly home for myself and members of the Hadassah group, when an air raid siren sounded as they were reboarding their buses; compelling them to take shelter in the basement of a 1950’s era apartment building in the seaside Bat Galim section that had clearly seen better days. As the groups filed down the narrow staircase, they ran into a middle aged woman, screaming incoherently and banging on the walls. Moments earlier, the woman’s husband had rushed into the street, shouting that he would rather be killed than go back into the shelter. Several of the Hadassah ladies tried to console the woman, but she was sobbing uncontrollably, saying; “The idiot will be blown up by a missile. He cares only for himself. What will happen to me if I am left alone?”