Malka Carasenti, 70, believes the hand of God spared her from the rocket that hit her apartment building in Haifa Monday, after she found herself cowering for safety in the bathroom with rubble falling around her.
"My home was destroyed. I have nothing left, not even a pair of underpants," she told The Jerusalem Post as she lay in a hospital bed still partially deaf from the blast and suffering from smoke inhalation.
Carasenti was among 11 victims of the blast who were treated at the Rambam Medical Center, located a short distance from the site of the attack in the Bat Galim seashore neighborhood. By late afternoon five of the victims had been released while the rest remained overnight. One was in serious condition and one was moderately wounded.
In another Katyusha attack in Haifa on Monday night two people were injured.
For the second day in a row, Hizbullah rockets from Lebanon flew into Israel's third largest city throughout the afternoon sending residents scurrying for bomb shelters and protected rooms. Some seven missiles landed harmlessly.
But around 2:30 p.m. one missile struck the side of a three-story apartment building on Rehov Nahalal. It blew out two side walls, caused some of the floors to collapse into the apartments beneath, shattered windows in nearby homes and destroyed the cars on the street below.
Carasenti told the Post that she had been resting in her bedroom when she heard the warning siren and moved quickly to the bathroom believing it to be the safest spot in her second-story apartment. "There was a loud explosion and then one of the walls fell on me, covering me with debris," she said. In the silence that followed she called out, "Save me, save me." Within 10 minutes, she said, rescue workers arrived to take her away from the remains of the home she had lived in for 36 years.
Leah Korin and her three children fared better than Carasenti. They hid in a protected room on the side of the apartment that was unscathed by the rocket.
"But the building shook in such a way that we were sure our home was hit," she told reporters in the late afternoon as she emerged from the apartment with a gym bag of possessions she had salvaged. "Thank God we survived," she said, adding that it was sad to lose her home. "I don't know where we will live. I feel like a refugee."
As she crossed the street strewn with glass, she was greeted with a scream and a hug by her former neighbor Alice Risner who, until that moment, had not known Korin's fate. Risner had lived on the top floor until three months ago when she rented it out because her husband's cancer made it hard for him to climb the stairs. On Monday she had just finished sitting shiva for her husband when she heard of the rocket strike and came to survey the damage.
"I've gone from one war to another," she said, gazing at her former home and still wearing a shirt that was ritually torn for mourning her husband's death.
In the apartment next to hers, which suffered the brunt of the blast, two of the walls were missing, but a brown curtain and a hanging plant with a red and pink flower that had escaped destruction still hung from the ceiling. From the street below one could see that the clock on the wall still kept time and the chairs were still set around the dining-room table even though much of the rest of the furniture lay in a twisted heap. Metal bars from the windows were twisted. A phone receiver hung randomly from one of them.
Across the street Gila Gilor, a mother of four, stood in her glass-filled driveway and answered multiple phone calls from concerned friends.
"Thank God, we're fine," she said again and again, as she moved the shards around with her sandaled foot. Her husband, Effi, said he had at least 20 messages on his phone. Only that morning he had sent an e-mail to a friend in Los Angeles to tell him not to worry, that the family was fine in spite of Sunday's attack at an Israel Railways maintenance depot that killed eight workers.
Given that the city was still on high alert, Gilor said she had an uneasy feeling all morning even as she hung the laundry outside and watered the lawn. She had just finished lunch and had started to clean up when the siren went off. Gilor said that she, her husband and her children raced for their youngest daughter's bedroom which serves as their protected room because it has a metal door and special windows.
"It saved our lives," she said showing how all the other windows in the ground floor apartment had been destroyed and pointing to the window frame that had fallen across a sink filled with dishes. Even the glass jars of food were broken, so that rice and pasta littered the counter.
As she and her family worked in the afternoon to repair the damage, Gilor said that she would not consider leaving the city.
"Where would we go?" she asked.