Rocket roulette: A street of miracles... and a fatality

“I felt like the building had exploded,” Miriam Gottlieb said

May 7, 2019 23:56
4 minute read.
MIRIAM GOTTLIEB stands next to a blown out window and section of a wall in her building, destroyed i

MIRIAM GOTTLIEB stands next to a blown out window and section of a wall in her building, destroyed in Sunday’s rocket attack against Ashdod.. (photo credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)

Miriam Gottlieb, 51, ran to the bed in her safe room, threw the comforter over her head, called her adult son and screamed after hearing the warning siren ring out in Ashdod on Sunday night.

A rocket landed just below her first floor apartment, just hours before the midnight ceasefire went into effect. The force of the explosion was so strong that it uprooted a tree.
“I felt like the building had exploded,” the dark-haired, olive-skinned woman told The Jerusalem Post, as she described the harrowing moments of the attack.

Throughout her hometown of Ashdod, people returned to their normal routine on Monday, after an intense two days of violence between Hamas, PIJ and the IDF kept them running to shelters to avoid becoming the latest casualty of rocket fire from Gaza.

On Sunday, the rocket fire claimed four Israeli civilian lives. The last victim of the day, 21-year-old Pinchas Menahem Prezuasman, was killed in the Ashdod explosion as he sought shelter in the entry way of Gottlieb’s building.

The next day, the sidewalk by the explosion site was crowded as families returned to the dozens of apartments damaged in the blast. City and government workers were also present to assess the damage and to remove the debris and glass.

Red and white police tape was still strung around two apartment buildings that were the most damaged in the blast, as people talked about the dozens of miracles that occurred on the street and the lives that were saved – expect for Prezuasman, who was buried later that night in Jerusalem.

He had been driving on the street when he heard the siren and sought shelter, as Home Command instructed, but was fatally hit by a piece of shrapnel from the rocket.

Yigal Ben Hamu, who sells lottery tickets at a small convenience store down the street, said he saw Prezuasman attempt to seek safety.
Watching him from across the street, Ben Hamu himself wasn’t sure he needed to seek shelter and simply moved deeper into his store, never thinking that his street was in danger.
Shattered glass on the porch of Gottlieb's apartment with a view of the street below. (credit: Tovah Lazaroff)
As Gottlieb swept debris from her floors one flight up, she could hear the murmur of conversations from the street below and the sound of clinking glass moving across the pavement. Every window in her apartment and a portion of some of the walls had been destroyed in the blast. A section of a mural of galloping horses was blown off the wall and was now strewn across the floor in one of her rooms.

Gottlieb returned to her apartment first thing the next morning, but even though the ceasefire was in place, she said, somehow she still feels more secure near the safe room that allowed her to survive the attack.

She feels that it was a higher power that swayed her to enter the safe room. After the explosion, Gottlieb felt her safety was so tied to the room that she was afraid to leave it. She took so long to emerge that a rumor had spread among her neighbors that perhaps she was seriously injured, or even worse.

“I was traumatized,” she said. “My chest was tight. I had lost control. I felt that the room had saved me so I was afraid to leave. I thought that as long as I stayed in there, I would be safe.”

When she left the room, she walked through an apartment filled with smoke and onto the porch. When she looked down on the crowded street below, it seemed like dozens of cameras were focused on her, as if she was suddenly some sort of celebrity.

“It’s a miracle,” someone called out.

Then rescue and medical personnel burst into her apartment. Her cell phone range incessantly, with calls from friends and relatives who had seen her on television or heard that the rocket fell on her street.

A mother of four adult children, Gottlieb had already been the victim of a rocket attack. During the Third Gaza War in 2014, a rocket fell on a synagogue across the street from her previous home.

“I hid in the stairwell, because there was no safe room,” she said. “The building shook. Glass flew. Car alarms went off.”

But the trauma from that attack paled in comparison to this, she said.

“I recovered,” she said. “But this – now it almost feels as if the rockets ‘are chasing me’ from place to place.”

Gottlieb is no stranger to disaster. Her first husband died in a car accident, and her second husband died of a heart attack just eight months ago. A decade before, her home was destroyed by fire.

But until the rocket fell outside her home, she felt as if she had been somewhat cavalier about the danger the rockets posed.

“In past times, I didn’t think anything would happen to me either,” Gottlieb said. “I thought it will fall here or there, but not near me.”

She said people have to take these rockets seriously, and shouldn’t dismiss them. “This isn’t a game. There is nothing like longevity. Don’t think that ‘this won’t happen to me.’”

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