David Wallach and his family were in Israel as part of a family vacation when the conflict began.
Wallach, his wife and his daughter were in a hotel in Tel Aviv when they woke up to the sound of sirens and explosions on the morning of Saturday, Oct. 7. At first, they didn’t know what was going on until they went out for breakfast and a siren forced Wallach and his wife to the nearest bomb shelter.
When they got back to the hotel, they realized it was not safe to go outside. The family immediately changed their plans to return to Canada. They originally planned to leave Israel on Oct. 27.
“It’s horrific, terrible and barbaric that people are causing damage for no reason,” Wallach told Global News.
“One rocket destroyed two buildings two blocks from our hotel. It injured four people, one of them very severely. So we realized we had to leave Tel Aviv.”
Wallach and his family immediately went north to a small hamlet where his childhood friend lives. They began volunteering to help Israelis affected by the conflict while also thinking about an evacuation plan.
“In Israel, everybody comes together. Everybody helps each other … So we raised money from friends in Canada and the U.S. and we went to buy products that people needed, whether it was soldiers or families that evacuated with the clothes on their back,” he said.
Wallach and his family returned to Canada on Saturday, Oct. 14, a day after driving back to Tel Aviv to pick up one of his daughter’s friends.
“We landed at 6 p.m. on Saturday, and it was 23 hours of travel. We flew from Haifa, Israel in a privately chartered commercial plane on Thursday to Cyprus … We flew Saturday from Lanarca, Cyprus to Athens to Rome, and then with WestJet from Rome directly to Calgary,” Wallach said.
“It started as a family vacation but it ended up being an evacuation.”
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Wallach said this is the sixth conflict he’s witnessed in the region. He previously lived in Israel for 39 years before moving to Canada.
He said he has condemned Hamas’ actions since the conflict started more than a week ago and empathizes with those living in Gaza.
On Friday, Israel gave the population of the northern half of the Gaza Strip – about one million people – until Saturday morning to move south.
Families in cars, trucks and donkey carts packed with possessions crowded a main road heading away from Gaza City Saturday as Israeli airstrikes continued to hammer the 40-kilometre-long territory, the Associated Press reported. Supplies of food, fuel and drinking water have been running low because of a complete Israeli siege.
The Israeli military said in a Saturday statement it was preparing a coordinated offensive in Gaza using air, ground and naval forces, The Associated Press reported.
As of Sunday, details remain unclear about a looming potential Israeli ground offensive into Gaza.
“You never get used to (the conflict). You always be scared and you will always live in fear. You never get used to it,” Wallach said.
–With files from Naomi Barghiel, Global News.
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