Yaacov Abutbul is no stranger to battle. As a 19-year-old soldier during the Yom Kippur war, he had his Centurion tank blown out from under him, lost his commanding officer and suffered shrapnel wounds.
But that experience, he says, was nowhere near as frightening to him as the barrage of Katyusha rockets that have rained down in the past week on his hometown of Safed, narrowly missing him twice and sending him to the operating suites of the city's Rebecca Sieff Hospital.
"The war now isn't what it was then," he told The Jerusalem Post from his hospital bed Tuesday night. "Back then you knew where the enemy was coming from. Here it comes from right under your feet."
On Friday, Abutbul, 52 , a slight and soft-spoken man who works as a chef's assistant in the hospital, paid a lunchtime visit to his parents, with whom he lives. As he was leaving, a Katyusha exploded just meters from where he was standing, putting shrapnel in his leg and back and sending him flying from the pavement. He lost consciousness and woke up in the hospital, where he learned he had undergone a three-hour operation.
Three days later, Abutbul came in for another rude surprise. On Monday night another Katyusha landed just five meters short and three meters wide of the hospital's pediatric wing. The shock waves blew out a quarter of the hospital's windows and once again sent Abutbul flying from his bed.
Today Abutbul is on his feet, more or less, walking slowly and painfully on crutches. He says he has lost his appetite and has trouble sleeping. He is considering joining one of his three children in Tel Aviv when he is released from the hospital, but does not want to abandon his parents.
So far, more than half of Safed residents have left the city, according to a hospital representative.