A family member of two Israelis, who were wounded at the Chabad Synagogue in Poway, California, on Saturday, has revealed that his relatives had moved to San Diego from the rocket-hit town of Sderot bordering the Gaza Strip.
“We came from fire to fire”, Israel Dahan, the father of Noya Dahan, an eight-year-old girl who was hit by shrapnel in the face and leg in the Saturday shooting, told Israel Radio.
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Noya was at the synagogue together with her uncle Almog Peretz, who was also shot in the leg and told Israel’s Channel 12 that he had managed to protect children from the gunman thanks to his instincts developed over years of hiding from rockets fired from the Gaza Strip.
“This is sad, but I am originally from Sderot so we know a bit about running from the Kassam rockets. A person with a big rifle, like an M16, entered the synagogue and started shooting everywhere. At first we though the ceiling had collapsed, but then I turned around and saw he was aiming his weapon at me”, he said.
Peretz continued by saying that he took the kids, including his three nieces, and ran to the back door, after which he was able to hide the children in a building in the back.
“As I picked up the girl, the terrorist aimed his weapon at me. I was injured in the leg. I came back because one of my nieces was stuck in the bathroom. I had to go back and bring her. Fortunately she stayed there and the terrorist had already left”.
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Another shooting witness Shimon Abitbol said that he had taken one of his grandsons outside the synagogue hall during the service, and was returning when he heard the shots fired.
“Without thinking twice I lay down on my grandson and protected him. After I counted seven or eight gunshots and there was a lull – I assume the weapon jammed – I took the grandson and rushed outside through a side door; we gathered all the children there”, he said.
The man then described the moment he saw that Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein took shots to his hands, as well as his desperate attempts to treat Lori Gilbert-Kaye, who was killed in the shooting.
“I didn’t find a pulse. Her husband who is a medical doctor came to me and said, ‘Listen, this is my wife’. He then fainted. It was a very, very difficult moment”, Abitbol said.
A young Israeli man, who goes by Gil, was cited by Channel 12 as saying that he managed to hide from Earnest under a table:
“I saw the terrorist running fast toward the synagogue with a rifle. I immediately began running toward an open room. The terrorist shot a woman sitting in the front in the stomach – that was the first gunshot. He shot her twice more and I heard her scream. Then he noticed me and started shouting at me: ‘You’d better run, son of a b*tch’. He started running toward me, I jumped into the room and hid under the table. He didn’t find me and ran in another direction”, he said.
San Diego police have detained 19-year-old John Earnest in connection with a shooting at the Chabad Synagogue in Poway that killed Lori Gilbert-Kaye and injured rabbi, Yisroel Goldstein, eight-year-old Noya Dahan, and her uncle Almog Peretz. All three are in stable condition.
The user purportedly wrote that he was motivated by the Christchurch mosque shooting in March, and started preparations for his attack shortly before the New Zealand massacre that saw 50 people killed.
The letter also refers to the 2018 shooting in Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue, which at the time was the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in the history of the United States.