'I want to continue as usual'

Haifa residents struggle through rocket barrages.

By
July 23, 2006 04:23
4 minute read.

 
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The rocket that wounded 30 people when it hit the post office building in Haifa's Hadar neighborhood on Friday afternoon left hairdresser Ronen Kanfi shaken but determined to head back Sunday to his shop, located directly across the street. It was one of five hits in the city on Friday that followed a day of calm, according to the Haifa police. The other four rockets fell in areas of the city that luckily were unpopulated at that moment so the damage was only structural, he said. Most of the wounded came from the hit in Hadar in which two people were seriously wounded and two moderately. The rest suffered light injuries or from shock, the police spokesman said. Warning sirens continued to ring out across the city on Saturday, but the more than nine rockets that flew overhead landed in open areas outside the city, said the police spokesman. On Saturday evening the Home Front Command reissued its request that Haifa residents remain indoors and in shelters. But already on Friday, Kanfi knew that it was a request he would ignore, just as he had the entire week leading up to Friday's attack. "I want to continue to work as usual, I don't want this to impact on my life," he said as he stood in his small shop, whose windows were shattered by the blast. "A piece of the bomb even landed inside," he said, holding up a small chunk of metal from the rocket that was sitting atop a box in the corner. He'd been in the midst of cutting a customer's hair when the rocket hit the building across the way, Kanfi told The Jerusalem Post. "We ran to the back of the store and hugged each other until the smoke and dust cleared," he said. So many friends and relatives called to check on him that he held two phones to his ear - the store's portable land line and his own cell phone. "I"m fine," he said repeatedly. Next door, Meir Attias said that his coffee shop had been filled with customers when the rocket hit. "They all ran for shelter and left without paying the bill," he said. Avner Tadiashuili, who was among those who closed his small clothing shop all week, was not in the square when the rocket hit, but came to survey the damage. Standing next to his broken windows and looking out at the downed electrical cable and a water fountain that was still running, he said that he hadn't wanted to risk being present when the attack happened. Among those arriving at the scene was Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav, as he has each time an attack has occurred. When the first siren in over 24 hours rang out, he was sitting in a hotel atop the city, taking advantage of the quiet to enjoy a milk shake. He had just told the Post that he felt the city was still in danger and that the lack of rockets over the last day was simply the lull before another storm. "It's my profound feeling that there will be surprises," he said. Then the siren sounded and he along with the police and rescue workers raced to the scene. As he stood in the Hadar neighborhood looking at the holes in the post office roof and walls, a second siren was heard. He and others at the scene headed into a nearby Carmelit station. Standing underground, he told the Post, "The war continues." He had been nervous to see how many people had gone out Friday morning to shop after an absence of rockets on Thursday. "I was in the market and it was packed," he said. Although he said he was concerned about the economic harm to the city after a week in which most stores were closed, he added he was even more worried about the people's safety. "I want the economy to get moving, but on the other hand, the fact is that the rockets are a special type containing special shrapnel that scatters on the ground. It's very dangerous," said Yahav. A former member of the Labor Party who switched to Kadima out of support for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, whom he has known since they studied law together 40 years ago, Yahav was among those who worked to bring Israel out of Lebanon six years ago. He had not expected that Hizbullah would target his city from Lebanon even though he had taken part in emergency preparations that had gone in the city for the last year in preparation for just such an event. Until last week, he said, he had been more concerned about a possible earthquake than a Hizbullah attack. Now that rockets are falling on the city, he has thrown his full support behind the government's actions in Lebanon which he believes are necessary. But not everyone in the city supports the government's decision to go back into Lebanon. Kanfi told The Jerusalem Post that the violence frustrated him because he felt it harms the country and wastes money that could be going to impoverished people. The government should talk with Hizbullah, and exchange prisoners for the two soldiers kidnapped earlier this month along the border, he said. "I could make peace in five minutes," he said, snapping his fingers to illustrate how quickly it could be done.

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