Haifa rocket survivor: God saved me from the hole in my heart and my liver
'Smash the entire infrastructure of the state of Lebanon,' says city's mayor.
By HILARY LEILA KRIEGER
Sami Raz and Yossi Hadad worked side by side every day at the Haifa railway depot until last week. Since then, they've lived side by side in Rambam Hospital, recovering from wounds they sustained when a Katyusha crashed through the station's roof, spraying them with ball-bearings.
Raz still has one such piece of metal lodged in his heart; Hadad still has blood leaking in his chest. But both are expected to make full recoveries. In the meantime, they are visited each day by colleagues lucky enough to have avoided being wounded. Eight others were killed in the attack.
Despite their close calls, the roommates are looking forward to returning to work. And despite the rockets that have rained down on Haifa ever since the IDF began its campaign against Hizbullah, the two men said they support the army and want to see its efforts continue.
"If they will do nothing, it will be worse," said Hadad, a 39-year-old father of six. "I think they should have done it a long time ago."
He added that, even with the risk, "We believe that we're supposed to do whatever we can. We're not going to stop living our lives because of these threats."
Raz, also 39, and a father of three, had dismissed warnings that the Katyushas could land in Haifa when he first heard them. That he survived once the attack came, he said, "was a miracle from God." After all, when he was hit, "There was blood and I couldn't breath... I had a hole in my heart and my liver."
Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav told a delegation of the American Jewish Committee, which visited city hall after traveling to Rambam and meeting the wounded workers, that Hizbullah packs 40 kilograms of ball-bearings in every rocket that it launches to maximize casualties.
He stressed to the group that he supported the government's action in Lebanon, which was particularly significant since he had been a leading voice in favor of unilateral withdrawal before the Israel removed its forced in 2000.
"I'm in favor of smashing the entire infrastructure of the state of Lebanon," he said, adding that the Lebanese government must bear the burden of Israel's incursions since it has been "a full partner" with Hizbullah.
His conversation with the AJC visitors was interrupted by an air-raid siren. He had prepared the group at the beginning of the meeting to congregate in the corridor of his office - where there are no windows - should the warning sound. When nothing happened and the group prepared to return to the conference hall, a security official told them to wait a few more minutes in case there were more rockets.
Yahav quipped, "If you stay much longer, we'll make you pay taxes."
The 40 members of the group laughed at the joke, but AJC Executive Director David Harris took away a serious reflection.
"You feel the sense of common destiny and common determination," he said, adding, "We want to be here not only in the good times, but in the bad times too."
The three-day AJC solidarity mission was organized over the weekend and concluded Thursday. At the same time that the delegation departed, the AJC sent out an appeal for emergency funds to help those in northern Israel. Within the first hour, $25,000 had been raised.
The effort is one of many being undertaken by Diaspora Jewry in light of the recent events in Israel. The Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations will be undertaking a solidarity mission this weekend, as will an international delegation of the European Jewish Congress. The United Jewish Communities leadership will follow with its own trip next week.
"The impact of the missile attacks is not just military, economic or political, but also psychological. By our physical presence in Israel at this time, we will demonstrate our solidarity with the government and people of Israel and our commitment to their security," said Conference executive vice chairman Malcolm Hoenlein. "We hope this mission will encourage others to visit Israel and not allow the terrorists a victory."
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