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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 September 2006, 06:51 GMT 07:51 UK
Ask Haifa residents about the conflict
Composite image of panellists' faces

Haifa, Israel's third largest city, came under regular fire from Hezbollah rockets during the recent conflict.

Thousands of residents fled during the five weeks of fighting; of those who stayed, 11 people were killed.

The BBC News website put questions sent in by readers to some of Haifa's residents in a live laptop link-up, throughout Thursday 7 September.

This followed a similar event on the other side of the border in the Lebanese town of al-Khiyam:

Click on the links below to read more about the Haifa panellists.

NAVA KEREN, ELECTRICAL COMPANY EMPLOYEE

Nava Keren
Nava was at home with her husband Menashe and their two boys, aged 13 and 10, when the first rocket hit Haifa.

"At first I thought it must have been a mistake," says Nava. "I didn't think Hezbollah would attack Haifa."

But then a few days later, while Nava was at work in the city centre, a barrage of rockets landed on the city killing eight workers at a train repair garage.

She said her initial instinct - along with all of her colleagues - was to phone home and check that everyone was okay.

As the Hezbollah rocket attacks continued, Nava learned that she had to phone her family as soon as she heard the siren. If she waited too long, the communications network would crash under the weight of calls.

Israel map showing Haifa

Nava thought about leaving Haifa but her mother is ill with Alzheimer's disease and she was reluctant to change her surroundings. One of her sons went to Jerusalem for a week-long break and a charity paid for her older son to go to New York for a holiday, something she was very grateful about.

For Nava, the worst experience during the war was attending the funeral of a family friend's son who had been killed while fighting in Lebanon.

"Everybody was crying, even the photographers covering the event were crying," she says. "I just thought, we don't want this any more. We've had enough and just want to live in peace and not have to pay this terrible price any more."

DORON MILCH, IT TECHNICIAN

Doron Milch
When two Israeli soldiers were captured triggering the Lebanese conflict, Doron says he thought things would probably quieten down in a couple of days.

But when rockets started falling on Haifa, he knew he would be called up for military reserve service.

Doron received the call two weeks later. He took part in a two-day military exercise in Israel before being sent to fight in southern Lebanon.

"I was defending my country and was happy to go," says Doron, who was part of an infantry unit. "But you feel a little scared because you don't know what to expect."

Doron had served in Lebanon before Israel withdrew its troops from the country in 2000. "When I left Lebanon I said goodbye to the place as I didn't think I would be back," he says.

Doron's parents stayed in Haifa during the war but his sister and her baby went to Jerusalem. He says that the war was probably harder for his parents because they didn't have their children close at hand. And in his case, there was the possibility that he could be injured or killed.

While some Israeli reservists have strongly criticised the Israeli government's handling of the war saying that they were ill-equipped and trained for the job, Doron is not one of them.

"I can't say that everything went perfectly in Lebanon, but we did what we had to do and that was enough," he says.

MAQBULA NASSAR, COMMUNITY WORKER

Maqbula Nassar
Maqbula works for an organisation that aims to empower Arab women.

During the war, Maqbula protested against what she saw as Israeli aggression in Lebanon.

"I thought Israel had overwhelming power," she says. "It was like a blind monster wandering in the dark killing innocent people."

Maqbula is an Israeli Arab. This community makes up about a fifth of Israel's population. Most Israeli Arabs are descendants of Palestinian families who remained in their towns and villages after the establishment of Israel in 1948.

During the war, Maqbula visited the town of Acre to produce a radio report for a local Arab station. While she was there, a barrage of Hezbollah rockets landed, killing five people.

"Minutes later I got to the scene and saw the blood and the victims," she says. "But that wasn't my main fear. My main fear was that people would discover that I'm an Arab and would direct all their anger against me."

The level of racism towards Arabs during the conflict was intolerable, says Maqbula. She says that Israeli Arabs had far less access to the bomb shelters provided by the Israeli state.

"The war emphasised the discrimination against Arabs that has always been there," she says.

ADI BORAZ, TRAINEE PSYCHOLOGIST

Adi Baroz
Adi says that things quickly returned to normal after the attacks because of her 14-month-old daughter Romi.

"It has only been over for three weeks but it seems so long ago," she says. "Friends who don't have kids can allow themselves to think about what's happened but having Romi doesn't allow me the time to do that."

But Adi says that the war made a mark on her. She rarely left the house and was constantly anxious. But she tried to hide her feelings from her baby daughter.

"When I saw her looking at me, I realised I needed to be calm," she says.

Adi says that the minute her daughter heard the siren she would hold up her arms knowing that her mother was about to come to her and carry her off.

If Adi was not close to Romi, the baby would crawl over to her mother and point in the direction of the bomb shelter.

But while no rockets are falling on Haifa, Adi is anxious that trouble will flare up again.

"I don't really think it is over," she says. "There is only a ceasefire and everything seems very fragile."

MOSHE NOVAK, SCULPTOR

Moshe Novak
Moshe is an artist and has lived in the same house in Haifa for 50 years.

He built the house's bomb shelter himself, but never thought he would have to take cover in the structure.

"I never imagined that here in my surroundings I would be the frontline," he says.

When the rockets began to fall on Haifa, Moshe and his wife Tvika went to the shelter along with their neighbours. One day, Moshe was in the shelter 17 times.

Moshe has served in the Israeli military in all the country's major wars - 1948, 1956, 1967, 1982. He believed that these wars would help keep Israel safe within its borders. But now, he says, the latest conflict with Hezbollah may have proved him wrong.

"I was never scared during the war," he says. "There is still the old soldier in me. I've seen many bombs in my time and many of my friends fell on battlefields."

Moshe stayed in Haifa during the conflict to tend to his 94-year-old mother who lives a five-minute drive from him in the city.

He and his wife have two children and several grandchildren.

LIZ HALEVY-BERGER, COUNSELLOR

Liz Halevy-Berger
Liz works as the counselling director of a Rape Crisis centre in the city.

Throughout the conflict, Liz drove to work most days and tried her best to continue with her normal routine. "I thought to myself 'Why shouldn't I go to work?'" she says.

But she admits that at times driving could be scary. "I was always looking for a place I could take cover if the sirens went off."

Once while she was driving, a siren went off. Liz decided to race back to her apartment rather than leave her car and take cover.

She jokes that everyone in Haifa learnt which way was north, where the Hezbollah rockets were launched from. But the experience of the war was no laughing matter.

A work colleague's apartment was wrecked when a Hezbollah rocket hit the building, ploughing through three floors.

Like many Israelis, Liz says that "the war was like no other war we've experienced before - it was on our doorstep".

The mother-of-three was thankful that two of her three children were out of harm's way. Her two daughters were in Tel Aviv but her son was in Haifa.

Composite image of panellists' faces






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