Jewish Pittsburgher recounts Iran’s attack on Israel
A country at warBut operating like it's 'business as usual'

Jewish Pittsburgher recounts Iran’s attack on Israel

It feels special that we shared the moment on Saturday with the Israelis.”

Lisa Taerk (left), Gerry Tissenbaum, Ellen Tissenbaum, Charlene Tissenbaum and Allen Tissenbaum (right) stand before a freshly painted bomb shelter at Kibbutz Urim in the Gaza envelope. The five took part in a recent JNF mission to Israel. (Photo provided by Charlene Tissenbaum)
Lisa Taerk (left), Gerry Tissenbaum, Ellen Tissenbaum, Charlene Tissenbaum and Allen Tissenbaum (right) stand before a freshly painted bomb shelter at Kibbutz Urim in the Gaza envelope. The five took part in a recent JNF mission to Israel. (Photo provided by Charlene Tissenbaum)

You’ll excuse Charlene Tissenbaum for experiencing a bit of mental whiplash.

The South Hills resident arrived in Tel Aviv on April 12 as part of a mission organized by the Jewish National Fund. She was prepared to enter a country at war. When she arrived, she found Israel operating under the maxim of “business as usual,” despite its mission to dismantle the terrorist group Hamas in Gaza.

“We went out to dinner,” she said. “We’re staying at the hotel, hanging out at the beach and I kept saying, ‘This is crazy. There’s a war going on.’”

She spent Shabbat morning at the beach while people played soccer around her. Soon, she started to hear from friends at home asking if the mission, which was supposed to start at 4:30 a.m. the next morning, was still taking place because there was talk of an attack from Iran.

Tissenbaum and her husband, Allan, fell asleep Saturday night believing they — along with her brother, sister-in-law and mother-in-law — would be doing the sort of things members of the Diaspora do when they come to Israel in the middle of war: working on farms, making sandwiches, cleaning and repairing buildings, etc.

Iran, however, had other plans.

The Tissenbaums were woken by notification after notification on their phones. It wasn’t long before a message arrived saying that the mission had been canceled.

“And then we started getting notifications about the drones that were being sent from Iran,” she said. “At first, it was like, ‘What? How could this be?’”

Tissenbaum and her family were staying at a small, boutique hotel and were unsure of what to do if Tel Aviv was hit by rockets and drones.
“We were told that if an alarm goes off, we should go in the stairwell because it’s the safest place. We got dressed in the event the alarms started and waited and waited and waited,” she said.

Fortunately, the drones and missiles launched by Iran around 11 p.m., never made it to Tel Aviv.

In fact, most of them never hit anything inside of Israel. More than 300 drones, low-flying cruise missiles and ballistic missiles were fired at the Jewish state — 99% were shot down by Israel and its allies, including the United States, Britian and even Jordan.

The coalition’s ability to target the incoming barrage is even more impressive when broken down by weapon type. Of the 170 drones, zero crossed into Israeli territory. All 30 of the cruise missiles fired failed to enter the country and only a small number of the more than 120 ballistic missiles entered Israeli territory. Those that did fell at the Nevatim Air Force Base, causing only minor damage to infrastructure, according to IDF reports.

The lone injury reported was a 7-year-old Bedouin girl from Arad. She was taken to Soroka Hospital in Beersheba.

By 2:30 a.m., the explosions seen over the skies in Jerusalem stopped, Tissenbaum said, and she and her family began getting notifications about Israel’s impressive take-down rate.

“The scariest part is that when we spoke to Israelis, yes, they’re used to bombs going off,” she said, “but they never experienced the amount of drones sent by one country to Israel.”

That information led to some tense moments felt by the country’s citizens.

“The Israelis themselves were very alarmed and kind of freaking out,” she said.

By 3:30 a.m., Tissenbaum and her family were back in bed trying to fall asleep, unsure of how the next few days would play out — she wasn’t sure if Israel would respond to Iran’s attack immediately or if there was an opportunity for the mission to continue.

As it turned out, 85 of the 150 expected to take part in JNF’s mission were already in the country prompting the organization to modify its plan and continue with some of the work planned.

“It changed a bit,” Tissenbaum said.

When the Pittsburgh resident spoke with the Chronicle, she was at an IDF base helping to prepare food. The volunteers spent the previous day at a farm that had employed both Israelis as well as Gazans and those living in the West Bank.

“Of course, they’re not there now,” Tissenbaum said.

The volunteers worked five hours on the farm.

“It was hard work,” she noted, “but it was so satisfying.”

JNF, she said, did a “great job” changing the mission while keeping the 85 participants safe.

Of special significance, she said, has been speaking with IDF soldiers.

“They’re defending our country. It’s amazing. They are so grateful. They’re thanking us and we’re like, ‘No, thank you, you’re doing this so our kids and grandkids will have a Jewish homeland,;” she said. “It feels special that we shared the moment on Saturday with the Israelis.”
PJC

David Rullo can be reached at drullo@pittsburghjewishchronicle.org.

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