WATCH: A ground-zero account of Hezbollah’s attack on Israel

By Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz

South Dakota Army National Guardsmen launch reduced-range practice rockets during a live-fire exercise at Camp Ripley, Minnesota, July 19, 2022. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Elizabeth Hackbarth)

Editor’s note: Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz, a WND reporter who lives with his wife and children in northern Israel, offers this first-hand account of what it’s like to experience Hezbollah’s rockets raining down on your small town.

I am a Torah-observant Jew living in Katsrin, a small town of 9,000 residents in the eastern Golan located less than 10 miles from the Syrian border. On Oct. 7, I finished my Simchat Torah/ Shabbat prayers, and as I walked home, I was surprised to see the park full of people I did not recognize. As a Torah-observant Jew, I turn off my computer and cell phone on the Sabbath. When I inquired who the people were, I was immediately told about the attacks in the south and that Kiryat Shmona, about 25 miles to the northwest, was under heavy rocket attack by Hezbollah. Many of the residents came to take shelter in Katsrin.

All of Israel was traumatized, but being in a remote corner of our tiny country, I felt isolated and assured my wife that we were in the safest place in Israel. As the war in Gaza progressed, my statement seemed to be true. Horror stories were pouring out of the Gaza border towns as the southern region prepared for all-out war.

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We packed a few “go-bags” as preparation. Early in the conflict, we had a Red Alert siren that proved to be a false alarm. Kiryat Shmona was targeted regularly, leading to its 20,000 residents being evacuated. I was embarrassed when people expressed concern for my family’s safety. My quiet town remained blessedly quiet. The only signs of war were the nearly nonstop roar of warplanes flying low overhead on their way to pay a visit to Hezbollah.

I continued to assure my wife, but news reports warned that as the war in Gaza began to wind down, the focus would turn north. The Red Alert warnings were no longer benign. The now-almost weekly siren was accompanied by distant booms that arrived simultaneously, giving us no time to run to the nearby bomb shelters. When the town was first built soon after the 1967 Six-Day War, Syria was a significant threat, and bomb shelters were located every 50 yards. But there was no time to run to the bomb shelters. We were told by the civil authority to shelter in place. The first houses were built of thick reinforced concrete with this in mind. When the siren sounded, we ran for the center of the first floor as the first barrage hit.

The scene of a rocket impact in the southern city of Netivot, Israel, following a barrage fired from the Gaza Strip, Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024. (Israel Fire and Rescue Services)
The scene of a rocket impact in the southern city of Netivot, Israel, following a barrage fired from the Gaza Strip, Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024. (Israel Fire and Rescue Services)

And then, one Friday in April, the news was abuzz with warnings that Iran might attack Israel sometime in the next day or two. I was relieved when Shabbat passed without any alarms. But a friend called me late Saturday night and told me to check the news. Iran had launched 170 drones, over 30 cruise missiles and more than 120 ballistic missiles toward Israel. We were told the attack would take several hours to cover the more than 1,000 miles. So my family slept in the living room, wearing heavy shoes and emergency supplies at hand. At 3:00 am, sirens woke us, but no rockets fell. We were told that the Golan had been targeted by drones which had all been shot down before approaching our city. We managed to fall asleep, but one hour later, another siren sounded, accompanied by nearby rockets. They began as distant booms, but were walked in as the barrage continued. The last dozen or so rockets landed very close, rattling the windows violently. I later discovered that a few had landed inside the city. Thank God, no one was wounded and no houses were hit.

The weekly barrages were now targeting Katsrin. Despite the IDF’s Iron Dome, houses in Katsrin were being hit. The rockets began to zero in on our tiny city. About three weeks ago, Israel was hit by a countrywide heat wave. The Golan is lush, but the greenery turns brown in the summer. Hezbollah rocket attacks sparked massive brushfires, burning more than 13,000 acres in my area. Civilian volunteers joined firefighters, but nevertheless the fires burned large swaths of the countryside. We were hard-pressed to extinguish them. Hezbollah continued to target Kiryat Shmona and Tsfat, setting off huge brushfires in those areas as well. It was unclear whether the fires were an intentional aspect of Hezbollah’s battle plan. Still, even if not, they were devastating and dangerous, perhaps even more so than the rockets themselves.

Like many of the residents of Katsrin, I shop for Shabbat on Thursday. The weekly visit to the local supermarket highlights my social life. I waited in line to pay at around three in the afternoon when the sirens sounded. The staff directed the people to a large shelter in the back of the store, but as I began to make my way, a young bearded man ran past me, shouting, “My kids are in the car.” I ran after him, hoping to help. A large portable bomb shelter had been placed in the parking lot for such a circumstance. As the siren wailed, I ran around the parking lot, helping young mothers gather their small children. After 15 minutes, the staff announced the “all-clear.” But as we began to breathe deeply and return to our shopping, the siren sounded again. More sirens followed. We remained in the shelter for almost two hours, listening to the rockets fall around us. We finally emerged to a city where the sky was full of smoke.

In total, Hezbollah fired more than 150 rockets and 30 explosive drones, with about 50 landing in the Golan. Two rockets made direct hits on houses in Katsrin, wounding two people with shrapnel. We could not open our windows for several days without filling the house with a smoky smell.

My kids took it all in stride, though I wonder what lasting effects the war will have on them. My wife puts on a brave face, but I can tell that below the surface, standing by while rockets fall on our home is difficult for her. And to be honest, it is more difficult for me than actual combat. In the IDF, I was armed and part of a fighting force. As a soldier, I did not feel helpless. And I did not have to watch as my family was targeted by rockets.

I acknowledge that my experiences are trite when compared to what the people of Gaza are experiencing. But the Palestinians have a zero-cost Iron Dome that is 100% effective: Don’t fire rockets into our cities or cross the border to murder and rape Jews. The Palestinians hate us because we believe in life. Oct. 7 happened because Israel was about to make peace with Saudi Arabia. Hamas was in charge of Gaza because Israel pulled out, forcibly expelling 10,000 Jews in the hope of peaceful coexistence. Hamas was able to carry out the attack because Israel allowed Gazans to enter for work and medical treatment.

I have been to Gaza. I was there in 1992 to consider moving there. Security was a major part of the life for the Jews in Gush Katif. However, the region had a thriving agri-economy that employed thousands of Arabs and several resorts in the Mediterranean. It was not an open-air prison for the Arabs, though Jews were confined and restricted. It became an open-air prison for the Palestinians when the Jews were expelled and Hamas took over.

The Palestinians are not the enemy. They are the knife in the hand of the enemy. They have been fed lies, and told that the Jews are invaders even though the Quran specifically notes that Israel is the land of the Jews. The Palestinians have been told they are the historical rulers and that they can drive the Jews out.

These are all lies. But I am calm, knowing that Israel will win this war. We will win because it is not a war over land. The Palestinians do not want this land. And Jews have never stopped praying for this land.

We will win this war simply because we have nowhere else to go.

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