Rockets Rain on Israel's North, Residents on Alert

Rockets Rain on Israel's North, Residents on Alert

REUTERS/Max Yelinson

An Israeli woman sits with her daughters in a hospital after a rocket fired from Lebanon landed in the northern city of Nahariya January 8, 2009

by Zalman Nelson - Israel

January 8, 2009

( Four Katyusha rockets slammed into the northern coastal city of Naharia Thursday morning, one of them landing directly on a senior citizens’ facility.

Piercing the roof and causing a meter-diameter opening, the rocket exploded in a bathroom that was unoccupied at the time, shattering water pipes and extensively damaging the facility. Two residents of the facility were wounded, as were four civilians.

Falling without warning sirens, but after Home Front Command warnings throughout the week to be on alert, the strike realized Israel’s fears that it would be hit from a second front in the north .

Since the Gaza war’s beginning, the IDF has been on alert in the north for rocket fire from Hizbullah and responded immediately. An IDF spokesman confirmed retaliation of artillery fire aimed at the source of the rocket firings and a continuing investigation. Meanwhile, schools in Naharia were closed and residents instructed to head for shelters.

“I was walking out the door with my kids to take them to school when a rocket suddenly fell across the street, maybe 200 feet away,” said Chabad of Nahariya director Rabbi Yisroel Butman. “There was a general feeling in the city that something was going to happen, but it’s still shocking.”

Rabbi Butman visited the old age facility to lend support and assistance after first securing Chabad’s six preschools in the city where school starts at 8am and kids arrive as early as 7:30am, right around the time the rockets fell.

“Kids are walking to school or in transport at exactly that time of the morning.”

School director Rabbi Chaim Kvishevsky said he heard the noise, saw smoke from a rocket that fell near his house, and immediately contacted each of the classrooms to ensure the safety of teachers and students.

“The teachers did a great job of keeping the calm, reassuring kids and frantic parents until every child was picked up and brought home.”

A tour of all school sites was conducted confirming the status and safety of all locations. He said that many parents, in a panic, responded immediately, while others know this situation all too well. “Some parents called me to see if school would be closed. They were surprised by the rockets, but we’ve been through this before.”

Rabbi Kvishevsky told that during the Lebanon war in 2006, “rockets were falling all the time, like rain.” Then, the Chabad center ensured that frightened, hungry residents stuck in their homes had food by delivering food packages throughout the war. Since then, all school sites have been updated and protected as necessary.

“Our teachers, unfortunately, are very skilled at handling this kind of situation.”

At 7:30am, Chabad preschool teacher Aliza Chayut was riding the train to Naharia when the rockets struck. She was unaware anything had happened until after she arrived at school and parents started showing up and calling.

“The kids were happy, playing and singing in their own world, totally unaware anything had happened.”

She checked in with Rabbi Kvishevsky and began contacting all parents to assure them everyone was fine and to facilitate getting the children home. Mrs. Chayut moved the class into the protected room, leading the kids through their regular routine of prayers, songs and giving charity, maintaining the calm until the last child went home.

“Some parents were totally shocked and hysterical. They were happy their kids were okay and we were on top of the situation.”

On his way to the Home Front Command center of operations in the municipality building to put Tefillin on soldiers and other outreach activities, Rabbi Kvishevsky said the next few days are critical.

“If it remains quiet and calm, then good. But if the rocket attacks continue, things could really escalate.”

At this time, Hizbullah has not taken responsibility for this morning’s rocketing. Israeli sources are concerned the terrorist organization has smuggled in as much as three times more rockets than it possessed before the Second Lebanon War two years ago. Meanwhile, northern Israeli’s are playing a waiting game.

“The general feeling is tense, waiting to see what will happen next and hoping for quiet,” said Rabbi Butman. “It is a time to encourage faith and mitzvahs, as well as many prayers.”

According to an investigating police officer at the scene of the old age home, “It was a miracle that the rocket landed on the roof of the old age home.” All residents have been evacuated from the building.

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