We crowd into the elevator in the empty Haifa mall and
take it down to the parking lot on -2.
There are no sirens down here.
There are no siren warnings for incoming Katyushas, no
whistle of the rocket overhead, no boom of the
explosion or and no vision of the smoke cloud after.
That’s why this is an enclosed shelter; an extra-safe
shelter with no windows that can shatter, no open
areas where a blast can enter.
And that’s why we’re down here, this handful of the
StandWithUs group, those who were not afraid to come
to Haifa, in the North of Israel, as scheduled.
It’s rather dark down here, even though it’s 11 A.M.,
the time when Nasrallah told Sky News reporters he’d
be sending another round of Katyushas into Israel.
And so we go downstairs to wait, to wait to visit the
summer camp that’s been set up down here.
The municipality of Haifa has set up four mall parking
lots into a playground, of sorts. There’s still the
oil stained asphalt of the garage, the colored pillars
with numbers on it so people can find their cars, but
there are no cars. Instead, a few dozen kids and their
parents playing games and making crafts.
“Yesterday there were more than 200 kids,” says Mira
Steiner, an employee of the Haifa municipality, which
has set up these summer camps, and sent its workers to
run them. When she says yesterday, she means the
Monday, the day the Katyushas hit Haifa, for the first
time in weeks, surprising its residents—shocking
them. Depressing them. Keeping them at home the day
after, even though it’s probably safer here
“They express themselves in artwork,” Steiner says,
pointing around the room at kids making paper plate
turkeys; the walls are papered with coloring book
pages filled in and other evidence of time spent here.
Today there are two social workers here too, to deal
with yesterday’s trauma. And even though the children
are hidden down here, away from television and radio
and katyushas and rubble, “they always want to know
‘Was there a siren? where did it hit? how many
casualties were there?’ And every day some kid steals
the microphone and fakes the sound of a siren,” says
Steiner. “But it’s not funny. Peoople are so anxious.
They are so nervous.”
Today, after an hour in the shelter and giving blood
in the empty mall upstairs, there has been no siren.
We leave the kids, and resume our tour of Haifa.