What we saw
A reflection from Elli & Paul Price on their recent trip to Israel.
On the evening of October 2, 2023, we arrived in Israel with great anticipation of being with our kids, experiencing Sukkot, Simcha Torah, the 2nd birthday of our granddaughter, and the impending birth of another grandchild.
They live in Tzfat (Safed), a city of 36,000 people, known to be the highest city in Israel but also situated approximately 28 miles from the Lebanese border. Tzfat is a very hilly city, one that attracts tourists and locals for their artist quarter and frequent music festivals. On October 5th, there was a huge Ladino music festival. The streets were brimming with tourists and locals. All the restaurants had erected sukkahs on the sidewalks. They were filled with customers making a very festive atmosphere celebrating the Chag week off—a party in the streets. In retrospect, a sharp contrast of what was to come.
On Saturday morning of the 7th, we woke to the horrific and shocking news of the Hamas invasion. The body count climbed by the hour. We couldn’t call our family because phones were off. We walked the 45 minutes to their neighborhood to inform them and their neighbors, who were eating in their sukkahs. I asked if they knew what had happened that morning. Yes, sadly, they had learned of the attack because the IDF had sent personnel who came knocking on their doors to gather reservists to come with them. News spread by word of mouth. Instead of dancing with Torahs, the residents focused on how they could help the soldiers. After Shabbat, they gathered supplies and donations to bring to the front.
Immediately, the skies were punctuated with the constant sounds of IDF jets, helicopters, and drones. We did experience a few air raid sirens that made our hearts pound as we ran as fast as we could for cover. No rockets dropped, but we did see an Iron Dome explode an errant Hezbollah rocket. Honestly, it looked like fireworks falling from the sky.
The streets were eerily quiet. Kids were no longer playing outside. All stores, restaurants, and shops were closed. Only groceries were open, and they were quickly being deluged with shoppers stocking up. Our kids made us prepare a safe room (in our Airbnb) with non-perishables and various supplies. We bought lots of bottled water and filled buckets to flush toilets, in case the water got shut off.
On the 5th day of the war, we greeted a new granddaughter. A blessing of joy and hope in the midst of war. We fell into a routine of family time, mostly indoors, glued to the news day and night. Be aware that there is a stark contrast of what and how the news is reported in Israel and in the States.
All airlines, with the exception of El Al, canceled service to and from Israel. The American Embassy was transporting US citizens by boat from Haifa to Cyprus. But we had managed to arrange a flight out of Tel Aviv to Lisbon and then connect with United Airlines. It took us 48 hours to get back to South Bend. It’s good to be home, but our hearts are heavy for those that have perished and those that still will. We worry for our son and his young family, and we pray that they will remain safe. May G-d protect them and the citizens of Israel.
Elli & Paul Price