Jessica Goldberg recalls hours in a bomb shelter in Haifa

Jessica Goldberg said being afraid to go to the Haifa mall for fear of rocket fire was “surreal.”
Jessica Goldberg said being afraid to go to the Haifa mall for fear of rocket fire was “surreal.”
Photo: 

Jessica Goldberg, ConEd ’07, was studying for her final exams at Israel’s University of Haifa when Hezbollah abducted two Israeli soldiers.

During the ensuing clash between the Israeli Defence Force and Hezbollah, the atmosphere in Israel grew tense.

“I remember, we were out for my cousin’s birthday and suddenly on the news there were reports of bombings in the suburbs,” she said. “It was the first time stuff happened in Haifa.”

Knowing her mom would be worried, Goldberg managed to telephone through to her family’s cottage in Ontario.

“I said, ‘Well, a rocket landed and everyone’s okay’ … she started flipping out,” Goldberg recalled.

Over the next few days Goldberg said she grew accustomed to the sound of sirens that meant she and her friends had to go underground and wait in a bomb shelter until all was clear.

Goldberg said they stopped frequenting beaches, malls, buses, restaurants and virtually any public space for fear that it would be the next to be targeted.

“We basically didn’t go out,” she said. “If they’re going to target public areas, you want to stay away.”

Goldberg added that the one time she had to go to a mall to get contact lens solution, she found it deserted.

After days of intermittent rocket fire, spending hours crowded into a bomb shelter became frustrating and tedious.

“It was really stuffy down there—it’s just too much,” she said.

One of the scariest moments, however, was when there was no alarm warning them to take cover in bomb shelters.

“We heard explosions without having heard the sirens first … that would have been a scary moment.”

Most of the time, Goldberg said, day-to-day life was too bizarre for her to be really afraid for her safety.

“Because of where I was and because it was so surreal, I was not afraid,” she said, adding that her family back in Canada was more frightened than she was.

Goldberg said she was lucky: she was in the centre of Haifa, and not in the suburbs which were more heavily hit.

Once she came home to Canada it was hard to adjust to civilian life, Goldberg said.

“It’s a big culture shock to come back here,” she said. “I hear a siren, I’ll say, ‘Oh, where’s the bomb shelter?’ It’s a joke, but it’s not a joke.”

Back in Canada, it seems like a big deal to not make a point of knowing where the nearest exit is.

“If I’m going to class, I don’t have to open my bag for the security guard … everything’s a hell of a lot more laid back,” she said.

Goldberg said the outlook of the Israelis around her varied, depending on their age and culture.

“Many of the people in Haifa are immigrants whose first language isn’t Hebrew,” she said. The situation was all the more frightening and confusing for them.

“A lot of people just didn’t understand what was going on,” she said. “[But] when people are blowing up your house, you’re pretty scared.”

Goldberg said the position of Israelis regarding Israel’s actions “depends on who you ask.”

“There were lots of peace rallies … for both sides,” she said.

Goldberg said she thinks people who criticize Israeli actions as being disproportionate to those of Hezbollah don’t see the whole picture.

“What they don’t realize is Hezbollah has been shooting at the border … for years,” she said. “When people are shooting at you, you have to make them stop.”

All final editorial decisions are made by the Editor(s)-in-Chief and/or the Managing Editor. Authors should not be contacted, targeted, or harassed under any circumstances. If you have any grievances with this article, please direct your comments to journal_editors@ams.queensu.ca.

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.