'I had just sat down when there was an explosion'

Even though Eve Malcha is only 11 years old, Wednesday's attack was the fifth one she survived.

ashkelon woman (photo credit: )
ashkelon woman
(photo credit: )
Even though Eve Malcha is only 11 years old, Wednesday's rocket attack on the city of Ashkelon was the fifth one she survived and the second one in which she was wounded. The other incidents involved Kassam rockets that landed close to her as she visited her grandparents in Sderot. "But there were warning sirens each time," Malcha told The Jerusalem Post as she sat in a wheelchair, bandages on both of her legs, in the emergency room at Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon. But the Grad rocket launched by Palestinians from Gaza that hit the Hatzot shopping mall at the edge of Malcha's hometown as she sat inside eating pizza with her friend was "more frightening than all the rest," she said. She had been dreamily watching a cute boy she had just met walk away. They had chatted only briefly, "but I immediately had a crush on him," Malcha said. "Now I'm worried because I saw him briefly after the attack, and he was injured," she said, and she moved her hand over her face as it welled with tears. The hospital blanket that was wrapped around her made it hard to see her white T-shirt and brown overalls. Her sandy hair was pulled back in a ponytail. Her parents and grandparents stood next to her in the cafeteria that had been turned into a secondary emergency room to treat the stream of wounded. Around her, people told stories of how they had survived the attack and answered phone calls from concerned relatives and friends. One small girl still shook as she sat in a pink sweatshirt with her arms wrapped around her chest. Malcha said that she and her friend had come to the mall with money their fifth-grade class had collected and bought a handbag as a birthday present for their teacher. They then took a break from shopping to eat. After the attack, she said, "everyone began running in the direction of a shelter at the bottom of the building. But I'm small, and so I was easily pushed aside." In the ensuing stampede, Malcha fell and twisted her ankle. She was so frightened and upset that she couldn't even dial her cellphone, so a rescue worker at the scene called her mother. Yarin Zigdon, 10, was luckier because she was with her father, David, at the mall. They had gone to get her cellphone fixed. "But the wait dragged on for over an hour," said David. Yarin wandered away to window-shop, but left the area of the attack only minutes before the missile hit. "I had just sat down when there was an explosion," Yarin said as she stood with her parents in the hospital, wearing a black T-shirt and a short denim skirt. She twirled her long black hair in her hand as she spoke. "I fell off the chair, I started to cry and shake," she said. Her mother, Linda, said that at that moment, she had been talking with her husband, wanting to know when they were returning, when she heard a loud noise. "What is that?" she asked. "It's a Kassam," said David, who understood immediately what had happened. Then the line went dead, Linda said. She called and called, but couldn't reach them. With the help of her neighbor, she drove madly to the mall, fearing the worst, but the police wouldn't let her in. It was only once David and Yarin made it outside that they were able to contact her. Linda said the family had moved to Ashkelon from Rehovot only four years ago. She had grown up there and wanted to be closer to her family. But the move hadn't been so successful. They had considered leaving the city, but this attack sealed the decision to go, Linda said. Shirit Hazot, 25, who was also hurt during the attack, said she would prefer to live almost anywhere else. "I'm afraid," she said. Like Malcha, Hazot is no stranger to Kassam attacks, since she works at a bank in Sderot. Sometimes there can be as many as 20 attacks a day, she said. She has gotten used to the sirens that interrupt the workday. "We seek shelter and we go back to work," Hazot said. But on Tuesday evening, there was no siren. Hazot had been waiting to see a doctor at the women's health center in the mall. Luckily, she thought she'd heard a nurse call her name. She got up and went toward the doctor's office, so that at the time the rocket hit, she was in a corner between two doors. "That saved me as the ceiling fell in," she said. At first she was pushed to the floor by the blast. "I fell on my leg, now everything hurts," said Hazot. Initially she worried that the ceiling had fallen in because of poor construction. "I didn't think it was a rocket attack," she said. Somehow she was able to stand up, hold on to someone's hand and run out. As she waited to leave the hospital, she watched scenes of the attack on the television. "I can't believe that I was there. It seems like it happened to someone else," she said.