From Yoni’s Desk: Triumph and tragedy on Israel’s birthday

Israeli Air Force (IAF) flies over the country during Independence Day. (WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

The Dahan family moved to San Diego in 2015 after their house in Sderot, Israel was hit multiple times by rocket fire from Gaza. One night soon after they settled in the United States, someone cut the power to their new house and spray-painted red swastikas on the Dahans’ garage and car.

Four years later, the family was at a synagogue in Poway, Calif., on the last day of Passover, when a gunman opened fire. Noya Dahan, 8, and her uncle Almog, who was visiting from Israel, were among the injured. She sustained shrapnel wounds to her face and leg, and he was shot in the back of the leg while helping children escape. In an interview with CNN, Noya was stoic as she set the scene inside Chabad of Poway, but admitted, “I’m feeling scared, unsafe. I just feel like I want to be with my family and in a safe place.”

The Reijnen family moved to Israel in 2018 from the Netherlands, where, according to a recent survey, nearly half of the Jewish population fears identifying as such in public. They settled in the Nahal Oz kibbutz, along the Gaza border. In an interview last year, Raymond Reijnen said, “When we explained to our two boys that if they hear a Code Red alarm, they have to run to the shelter, they thought it was really cool…. I assume we’ll have to get used to it and learn to live with it.”

On Saturday, the Reijnens were in their bomb shelter when their house took a direct strike from a Gaza rocket. “It was very loud and closer than usual, and the electricity went out,” explained Mirjam Reijnen. “We looked at one another and realized that the house was hit, actually hit.”

“The kids were very frightened,” she added, “but now they’re OK.”

Amazingly, the Dahans and the Reijnens are the lucky ones. They escaped brazen terrorist attacks on two successive weekends aimed specifically at Jewish people. Others were not as fortunate. After Poway, the Jewish world mourned the death of Lori Gilbert-Kaye, who saved her rabbi’s life but lost her own. Now, in the wake of a horrific weekend in Israel, four more names have been added to the list:

· Pinchas Menachem Prezuazman, 21, was running to a bomb shelter in Ashdod when he was struck by shrapnel. He leaves behind a wife and small child.

· Ziad al-Hamamda, 47, an Israeli Muslim of Bedouin descent, was killed when a factory in Ashkelon took a direct hit from a Gaza rocket. He is survived by a wife and seven children.

· Moshe Agadi, 58, and a father of four,  sustained shrapnel wounds to the chest when a rocket hit his house in Ashdod. He was rushed to hospital, but died on the way.

· Moshe Feder, 68, from Kfar Saba, was driving his car when an anti-tank guided missile slammed into it. He died in hospital, leaving behind two children and a partner.


As we mark Yom ha-Atzmaut this week, our celebrations are muted by grief. We must redouble our efforts against anti-Semitism around the world – for our sake, and for the sake of those who are gone.