Immigrants in besieged Safed absorption center 'unfazed'

By JENNY MERKIN, YAEL WOLYNETZ
July 14, 2006 03:37
2 minute read.

An Ethiopian new immigrant was on his way to his health fund when he was hit by shrapnel outside the gate of the Cana'an Jewish Agency absorption center in Safed on Thursday. The immigrant, who was not identified, was not seriously wounded and, after being treated by Magen David Adom, chose to return to his family at the absorption center rather than receive further medical attention at a hospital. The absorption center was hit by three Katyusha rockets on Thursday. Two landed by the gate of the center, which is home to 3,000 new immigrants, and the third hit the building itself. Despite a rocky new beginning in Israel, the new immigrant is not fazed by Thursday's events, nor has he become disenchanted with his new home. According to Eli Yitzchaki, director of Jewish Agency absorption centers, "the new immigrants are not intimidated by today's events. They are so happy to be in Israel. Despite what's going on, life for them here is still better." Veteran Safed residents never envisioned their hometown as a dangerous place, despite its proximity to the Israeli-Lebanese border. The city is best known as a holy site in the sleepy mountains of the Upper Galilee. Sarah Rubenstein, who has lived in Safed for 26 years, has never been concerned about Safed's location. "Only during the Gulf War were we slightly worried," she explained. "Almost everything passed us by and then the intifada was in the center of the country." Other residents were unsurprised by Hizbullah's attacks on the Upper Galilee. "It was like a pimple waiting to burst," said Yaffa Smolensky, upon reentering her house in Safed from a nearby bomb shelter. "We expected it when the soldier was abducted in Gaza and Katyushas were coming in throughout the country. Something was expected on the Lebanese front. We knew this was the beginning of the war." Despite the initial shock, Smolensky noted that the 20 neighbors gathered with her in the nearby bomb shelter all remained in a relative state of calm. "Of course they were agitated, as anyone would be if there were rockets flying above their homes, but there was no sense of panic." Gavriel Rubenstein, Sarah's son, who was originally locked out of his neighborhood bomb shelter, painted a different picture of the situation. "People are panicking," he said. "No one expected this to happen. We trusted the army to protect us when the time came and to destroy these rockets before they got too close."


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