Friday, July 21, 2006

Report from Sefat

Yeshivah Gedolah shaliach at the Melbourne city rally for Israel on July 17
(Photo by Peter Haskin of the Australian Jewish News)

The following email was sent by Rabbi Shaul Leiter of the Ascent Institute in Sefat to a friend in Australia. I am reprinting the letter as I believe it gives those of us thousands of miles away a feeling of what it is like "on the ground" in the north of Israel.

Yankel, Shalom, hope you and family are well. Though the last two days have been relatively quiet, only 10 missiles in or very near Safed, there have been altogether more than 100 ketusha missiles to Safed in 7 days. Altogether, 30 people injured, 2 people killed. Of the missiles, 15 were near our home and another 10 near Ascent. Thank G-d, most fall in empty spaces and many do not explode because they have not been serviced and in storage for years. One slammed into our next door neighbors basement that thank G-d did not explode, one to the top floor of the building next door to my newly married daughters apartment, that also did not explode, and the one that exploded was in our back yard. Beside totally traumatizing my 20 year old and my 4 year old, all it did was break 15 double glass windows, fill the house with smoke and glass and leave shrapnel holes up the western side of our building. Katushas fell 100 feet in every direction of Ascent. The Lebanese claim that many more of their citizens have died than Israelis. It is certainly not for want of trying. People say that each missile is filled with nails or ball bearings or small pieces of metal meant injure people. I can only say from the damage it did to my house.

The Chabad shul is packed every evening for mincha/Maariv. Most community leaders all over town are staying. Rabbis, principals, politicians.
There is a definite feeling that someone has to stay. We are soldiers in Hashem's army, where else where would I want to be but on the front where G-d put me? Nevertheless, the city is 80% empty. Ascent which was full on Wednesday evening, emptied out Thursday and Friday when it was clear this was not a one day aberration and more important, Ascent does not have a bomb shelter (My next project,) Even though I want to be here (Chaya Brocha would not agree to leave anyway), it is hard to concentrate. Everything is closed, nowhere to get even a pizza. The city is distributing free food because almost all of the stores are closed, banks and post too. A lot of time helping in the house or keeping an eye on the kids, keeping them occupied. Obviously, the worst is the shelling. The barrages come in groups. Once you hear one boom, you wait to hear the others, if they are getting closer or farther. Sometimes there are sirens and then we go to the 'safe room'. But there is rarely an all clear siren and sometimes you just wait there in a hot and stuffy little room. On the other hand, I was caught downstairs during a close by barrage yesterday. The loud shrieking of the bombs paralyzed me for a few seconds but then my wife starts screaming, Shaul, get up here to the Mamad/safe room. We have to listen to our wives sometimes. I ran with all I had and was thankful to make it.

Just two days ago, they pinpointed the hospital and while ba"H there have been no direct hits, they have managed to break most of the windows in a 6 story building filling almost an acre. Bombs have also fallen in Gush Chalav and Nazareth, Arab towns near Jewish ones. The Talmud at the end of Sotah says that the Gallil needs to be destroyed for Mashiach to come. Let this be the last war that will herald in a millennium of peace. Then Ascent will really really be busy and double the size will not be any where near enough!

For the last 18 hours there have been non-stop planes and explosion, 99% ours as the air and ground war heat up. There is a relief that the passive tide is changing and we pray for the wellbeing of all of the servicemen. Not just me, but everyone around is buoyed. We hope for good news soon.

No need to call, thank G-d we really are fine, the big kids are working, the middle kids are in camp all out of Safed. The two little ones are with us. (If you want to send this out to others be my guest).

Only blessings,
Shaul and Chaya Brocha Leiter,
Director of Ascent, Safed, the holy city.
July 19th, 2006. Bein Hamatzorim, 5766