Thank you for asking about my family & friends!
They all managed but had a very rough month—some details below—FYI!

HAIFA (7/14–8/14/2006)
during the rocket attacks by Hezbollah, from Southern Lebanon
(site initially assembled after the cease-fire and updated whenever possible)

By your colleague and friend
Pnina G. Abir-Am (http://pgabiram.scientificlegacies.org)
,
who grew up in Haifa & was there most recently for her High School Reunion on 09-29-05.

  1. What is so special about Haifa?
  2. How did the rocketing affect my family and friends;
  3. Direct hit on the train garage in Haifa.
  4. New aspects of the 2006 war between Lebanon-based Hezbo and Israel:
    Casualties among vulnerable civilian groups, such as minority communities; (Arab, Bedouin, Druze); the elderly; and children traumatized by numerous sirens.
    • BHLSI—Boston Haifa Life Science Initiative B2B Program
    • The war beyond the combat zone (center and south)
  5. What are the experts saying? Miscalculations & mistakes by all sides;
    Selected items from diverse media sources, including Haaretz.com (a critical daily, whose military analyst, Zeev Schiff, is regularly read by Hezbollah’s leader, Nasrallah)
  6. Why was the media so biased? (e.g. reference to war casualties as “civilians” if they were in Lebanon but as “Israelis” if they were from Israel; some facts about Israel you might not have known)
  7. What can we do to help with the recovery of Haifa/ the North and its people?
 
 
  1. What is so special about Haifa?

    Though a wide variety of towns and villages in North of Israel were hit, including the first to be hit Naharyia, a resort town 10 miles from the border with Lebanon on the Mediterranean; historical and religious towns in Galilee, such as Tiberias and Safad, and above all the hardest hit Kyriat Shmona in Upper Galilee, among smaller towns and villages, many inhabited by Israeli Arab, Bedouin, and Druze communities; I will focus on Haifa where I grew up very proud to be a “haifait”, or a resident of the nicest town in the country.

    Haifa resembles Naples, Italy by being located on a Bay as well as on the slopes of a mountain, (Carmel) a combination irresistible in its beauty (see PowerPoint by Michael Frost (4.2 MB) ). The largest city in the North of the country, the only port for a long time, the site of oil refineries and heavy industry, Haifa has the reputation of a “workers’ city”; it remains the only city which has always had public transportation on Saturday.

    Haifa, which enjoyed Arab-Jewish co-existence during the inter-war British Mandate of Palestine, also succeeded to persuade a good part of its Arab residents not to flee during the 1948 War of Independence. Its Arab-Israeli cultural center and theatre have always been a local trademark. Indeed, Haifa has almost never been a target of Arab hostility. (The sea cannon in 1956 from Egyptian ships, recalled by some were pretty much an exception) This is also why the current dense rocketing is so very disconcerting to me and anybody else who grew up or lived in Haifa.

    At the academic level, Haifa is renowned as the home of the Technion, a leading technological institute similar to MIT and Caltech. It was established there, much as my own High School, The Reali-Ivry Gymnasium, in 1913, during the Ottoman rule of the region. In the late 1960s, Haifa University was created to serve the growing population in the North. I recall an international meeting organized at Haifa University by its pioneering Department of Women’s Studies in 1981 at which Donna Shalala (later the US Secretary of Welfare) was a keynote speaker; however, for me the most exciting memory was the conversation between French scholars and my father, who accompanied me to the opening reception. They asked him whether he was a feminist, (a word he may not have known at that time) possibly because he told them that he had always believed in the best education for his daughters.

  2. How the month-long rocketing affected my family and friends
    1. Ghershon, my oldest cousin, (probably the only one I called daily by phone from Boston), saw rockets landing next to his house, as well as next to his daughter’s house; yet another rocket made a direct hit on an Arab worker in a suburb where Ghershon’s son lives. Ghershon also saw a few rockets landing in the sea, including an explosive filled drone. (he has an unobstructed view of the sea since he lives in a 9-storey building facing a park) Yet, he persisted in his beach routine of walking the entire length of Carmel Beach, every day. (we walk it jointly whenever I visit) Ghershon has lived in Haifa since 1948, following an 8-month detour in detention camps in Cyprus, thanks to the British Navy’s warm welcome of him, then age 15, three of my aunts, and three of my uncles, in mid-1947. Ghershon retired from the Haifa Port Authority where he worked in the Customs Division all his life. Though he has been recovering from recent cardiovascular (enlarged aorta) and lung surgeries, Ghershon remained cool, yet worried about others, esp. the elderly who were afraid to leave shelters and thus missed life-sustaining medications.
    2. Batya, my sister’s sister-in-law, who is a physician, was designated “needed personnel”, so she had to drive to her clinic everyday even though patients were not showing up. After a few days of rocketing, she relocated her two teenage sons & freelance hubby to their grandparents in Rehovoth, while the oldest son, a sophomore at Haifa University, remained in the house, glued to phone calls from his girlfriend who had been recruited to the reserves. Batya’s mother, Leah, age 82, relocated to her sister in Tel Aviv but returned after two weeks, or just in time to hear a renewed rocketing of her southern Haifa suburb.
    3. Willy, an 81y old uncle from Upper Nazareth, stayed put until August (Hezbo rocketing killed kids in Lower Nazareth) when he went on a week of internal tourism to Jerusalem. But he said that all the “tourists” were elderly people from the North, who did not leave the hotel, so he had to tour J-m on his own.
    4. Shmuel, my High School classmate whose moving e-mail from this war’s early days I already shared with you, persisted in going to work everyday, in the targeted zone of Haifa’s Port. He was in the middle of writing an e-mail to me, on Thursday, Aug. 3, (his office is near the cable car connecting the Port with Carmel Mountain) so he had to run to shelter but returned later to complete the e-mail. This was the hit of nearby Vadi Nisnas where all but two residents were rescued alive from under the rubble of two collapsed houses. Other classmates living in Haifa—Tzipi, Ami, Ben, and Shai—e-mailed they were ok.
    5. Zeki, my High School adviser for senior thesis (“hibur shnati” which determines whether one can skip a bac exam), who has recently been appointed President of Tel Hai College (after retiring as Provost of the Technion) has been commuting between his house in Haifa and his office in Tel Hai, (in the Finger of Upper Galilee!) both hot spots in the rocketed North.
    6. Eva & Dov, friends from freshmen days at HUJ’s Institute of Chemistry, retained the routine of going to work every day in the EPA Authority in Haifa Bay, an epicenter of rocket landing; he has had back problems, so they do not go to shelter when the rockets fly. In the midst of all this she found time to advise me on a conference trip to Cracow. (which I have meanwhile decided to abandon)
    7. Anna, a friend from elementary school who works at IEC, mostly stayed put but sought relief for a couple of days at her twin brother’s (the famous Umi, the source of the funniest internet jokes that I occasionally forward to you) in Tel Aviv where she found 15 other refugees from Haifa’s suburbs and the Galilee. Since her dog did not get along with Umi’s dog, she soon returned to Haifa, to be greeted by more rockets, landing nearby in the eastern part of the Haifa Bay.
    8. Adela, my former neighbor and cemetery visiting companion in the last two decades (her husband is buried near my father, so we go together every time I visit the cemetery) lives with an aloof Persian cat, which however does not like the siren sounds and behaves accordingly, or as an animal in danger.
    9. Moshe, my lawyer, who has recently celebrated 50 year of law practice in Haifa, faxed that he is ok, though he said that his office, in the very center of Hadar, was closed most of the rockety month.
    10. Last but not least, Ben, 20.5y old son of my youngest cousin Aliza; he completed the pre-military wing of my High School in Haifa, in 2004; he is also a former classmate of my daughter Estee at Tapuz elementary school in Pardesyia, who visited us in Boston three summers ago, together with his classmate Harel. (whose family lives in a moshav near Naharyia—the first city to be rocketed) Ben has been scouting for Hizbies as part of a Golani unit. We very much hope that he and his unit return soon and safely, mission completed.
  3. New aspects of the 2006 war: A war directed at Israeli civilians with many casualties among previously unharmed groups of civilians, such as minority communities (e.g. Arab, Bedouin, Druze); the elderly; and children traumatized by numerous sirens. Some photos of the damage.

    Links to the articles below will open in a new window.

    1. Recent Fundraising for Haifa
    2. Rocketing casualties among minorities and elderly
    3. Voices from Haifa—daily life under rockets (courtesy of CJP)
    4. Damage to residential buildings & landscape
    5. Eulogy for Uri Grossman (son of renowned novelist David Grossman, author of Someone to Run With and See Under: Love, among six other novels)
  4. What are the experts saying? Miscalculations & mistakes by all sides;

    Selected items from diverse media sources, including Haaretz.com (a critical daily, whose military analyst, Zeev Schiff, is regularly read by many, including Hezbollah’s leader, Sheik Nasrallah; you are of course most welcome to browse directly, but then you will be drowning in items of local interest only)

    Links to the articles below will open in a new window.

    1. Errors of the War on Terror” By George Soros, Ha’aretz, 1/9/2006
    2. Israel reservists vent war anger,” By Bethany Bell, BBC News, 24/8/2006
    3. Interim report finds failures in preparing home front for war,” By Gideon Alon, Haaretz Correspondent, 22/8/2006
    4. TEXT: Protest petition by IDF reservists back from the war, 21/8/2006
    5. Reservists rally in Jerusalem as protests over war snowball,” By Haaretz Staff and Agencies, 21/8/2006
    6. Watching Lebanon: Washington's interests in Israel's War,” By Seymour M. Hersh, The New Yorker, 21/8/2006
    7. Those Poor, Innocent Lebanese,” By Irwin N. Graulich, MichNews.com, 4/8/2006
    8. War of deception and stupidity,” By Prof. Zeev Maoz, Yedioth Ahronoth, 3/8/2006, also posted at Lebanon Under Siege
    9. We Will Not Capitulate”—Ben Caspit proposes a speech for Ehud Olmert to deliver. Ma’ariv, 31/7/2006.
    10. “ANALYSIS,” By Ze’ev Schiff, Haaretz Correspondent:
      24/7/2006: “Hezbollah cell based in Tyre wreaking havoc on Haifa
    11. Boycotting Israel” (tongue in cheek), By Michael Savage, “Savage Nation” radio talk show
  5. Why was the media so biased? (under construction)
    • Some facts about Israel you might not have known (a range of achievements in Medical Inventions, Electronics/ High Tech, Basic Science, Water, Agriculture, Film, Sport, Arab-Israeli Coexistence, and Economic Indicators)
  6. How best to help?

    The question of “How best can we help?” preoccupies many of us a lot these days. Besides showing support by phone and e-mails to those who endured daily rocketing, it seems to me that those who stayed in Haifa (or elsewhere) need a break from the daily routine of running to shelters 5-8 times a day. (15 times! during the last day before the cease-fire)

    Hence, our “youth floor” (where Estee’s friends watch TV; Estee and her friends return to school as junior-year students late in August) has been prepared to accommodate friends from Haifa whose circumstances are conducive to spending an extended recovery period in Boston. (e.g. one month)

    But most Haifa residents I talked to are not keen to leave now for such a distant trip; the question thus persists what helps most when one has to recover from such a traumatic month on one’s own grounds? I was very impressed with the activity of “Psychologists without borders”, as well as with CJP’s 15 points of “Crisis in Israel: How you can help”, but any other ideas are very welcome from both Haifa residents and anyone willing to participate in the Haifa recovery effort.