Eyewitness: My mother says I'm living Jewish history

A New Jersey volunteer describes how his teaching trip changed course.

shelter 88 (photo credit: )
shelter 88
(photo credit: )
I came to teach English at a Nahariya day camp this summer along with other volunteers from Bergen County, New Jersey. Nahariya and the northern New Jersey county are working together under the United Jewish Appeal's Partnership 2000 program. On Wednesday morning, July 12, my fellow counselors came back from a cigarette break claiming they had heard missile impacts. We were immediately told to enter the camp's building and for everyone to stay inside. The campers had no idea what was happening because it was impossible to hear the missiles inside, so camp proceeded as usual. At this point, I had only heard that there had been some sort of attack and that missiles were being fired at our general area. I was not nervous because I didn't know the severity of the situation. I definitely did not think that war had broken out. I had made plans to hang out with a friend on the boardwalk in Nahariya after camp. When our sherut - communal taxi failed to come, we called our adviser, who told us that that the sherut company had closed early and that there were no cabs available. I remember that while we were waiting for the sherut, we saw smoke rising from a mountain in Lebanon. Together, those two events made me realize me that something larger was going on. My friend and I returned to our apartment and decided to stand outside to see if we could hear anything. We were discussing the "situation" when the sirens went off. They were so loud that we figured that everyone in Nahariya would hear them. Then, a heavy accented voice came on saying that everyone would have to enter the bomb shelters. We weren't hysterical but rather in a composed sort of panic. A man from the UJA came over and told us that the sirens go off from time to time and that "it is usually nothing." We decided it would be best to go to the shelters and we stayed there for four hours. No one else bothered to come. We went back to the apartment at around 3:30 a.m. but I didn't fall asleep until 6:45. I remember that right before I fell asleep I heard sirens go off, but I didn't think anything of it. About an hour later, I was awoken by another counselor telling me that I had to pack for the weekend and go to the bomb shelter because Katyushas would be hitting Nahariya for an indefinite period of time. We were told we would be taken out of Nahariya as soon as it was safe for a sherut to drive us away. I fell asleep in the bomb shelter. David later said he had felt the ground shake. Eventually, a sherut came. Some people were hysterical but I was relatively calm. We were brought to Shechanya, where we stayed there until Tuesday morning, when we traveled to Jerusalem. We could hear Katyushas all the time. We spent 17 minutes in a bomb shelter in Shechanya and people there told us that it was their first time being in the bomb shelter. Later, we found out that the people there had spent the majority of the day in the bomb shelter. So much had changed in the last few days. Everyone on the program has left except for me and a friend. As I heard the news and how people were dying, it really saddened me. You can't have any idea what this experience is like unless you go through it. I have been in a war zone. My mother told me the other day that I am experiencing the history of the Jews firsthand. When I read The Jerusalem Post article about the man from Nahariya who was killed by a Katyusha, I put down the paper and cried. I had been to Nahariya. It was personal.