What began as a family trip for David Wallach to his birth country of Israel, turned into a nightmare of violence, rocket attacks, and a leap of faith to get home to Calgary.
On Oct. 8, Hamas—listed by the Canadian government as a terrorist entity—began a series of deadly attacks targeting civilians in Israel near Gaza.
“You can never get used to it. I’m 64 years old and this is my fifth war in Israel,” said Wallach.
He said that life post-attacks has gone on slowly and carefully.
After the attacks, his family was able to evacuate from Tel Aviv to a small hamlet in the hopes of avoiding rocket attacks launched from Gaza. Although, he said, that hadn’t stopped rockets from falling nearby.
“I don’t think it’s a big target on the map, even though we had an explosion here not so far from us; about a kilometre away. I think they just didn’t calculate correctly what they wanted to hit, there’s nothing strategic to target. But overall we’re we feel kind of safe here,” Wallach told LWC.
The feeling in Israel, he said, was that something akin to the atrocities of the Holocaust had occurred to Israelis. The savagery and beheadings of civilians were reminiscent of what ISIS had perpetrated against the Arab peoples.
“These horrific atrocities have only happened before on one occasion, and that’s in WW2 with the Nazis. What they’ve done this Saturday, the only equivalence is what ISIS did to the Arabs, but they did it to the Jews just because they are Jews.”
When Wallach spoke to LWC, he and his family were preparing to evacuate to Cyprus on a small private aircraft because of the cancellations by major carriers to and from Israel.
“We are being evacuated by, I don’t even know who the person is. Someone donated a small plane to carry [us], and the plane goes back and forth, three or four flights a day. People have to leave from there. We were on our own to get home by ourselves, and that’s OK. I don’t blame anyone,” Wallach said.
He subsequently made it to Cyprus on Oct. 12.
Still, he said, the response from the Canadian government had been slow coming and largely non-responsive to the crisis.
“The Canadian Embassy basically a few days ago, the government, they told us it’s your problem to deal with how to get out from here,” he said.
The Canadian Government announced on Oct, 11 that they would begin to provide Canadian Armed Forces flights for citizens from Tel Aviv to Athens.
“Canadian officials are also working on additional options for those who cannot reach the airport in Tel Aviv, Israel,” wrote the government in a prepared news release.
“Consular services continue to be available to Canadians in Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Officials in Ottawa are also in regular contact with affected Canadians, providing them with information and advice as the situation develops. Further, officials at Canadian missions in nearby countries are actively supporting the response to the crisis.”
Helping those going through hell
In the direct aftermath of the attacks, Wallach said that he received an outpouring of care and support from Calgarians, not just from the Jewish community.
“We got dozens and dozens of emails, texts supporting us, and prayers for safety. But you know, as a business owner and a person with a radio show, it’s not just Jews, it’s non-Jews too that connected with my wife and I.”
In turn, he said that he wanted to do something to support the humanitarian efforts taking place along the Gaza border, for the people who were attacked by Hamas.
“The poor people that live in the southern area around the Gaza Strip and family members, they went through hell. A lot of them fled to the north with only the clothes on their backs,” he said.
Reaching out to his business and personal network, he was able to raise more than $10,000 in a matter of minutes which was then used to purchase supplies like food, coffee, and baby supplies.
Wallach and his daughter filled an SUV with those supplies and delivered it to volunteers working to collect aid—Israeli football ultras, which have been controversial in Israeli society for their hard-right politics, but nevertheless among the first few groups that mobilized in the early hours after the attacks to provide aid.
“Every team has the crazy fans. They’re diehard fans, and those guys are the guys who volunteered to do that,” he said.
“Those guys stormed the car, took everything out within 15 minutes from the second I parked. They took everything out, put it in boxes, put names of families… five minutes later, everyone took a box and put it on the [volunteer] truck, and the truck just left and delivered.”
Wallach said that even though he departed Israel, he would be continuing to help raise money for organizations that are helping to rehabilitate civilians and soldiers who were injured in the attacks.
Wallach said that anyone from Calgary looking to help support the victims of the terror attacks could contact him through his business Barclay Street Real Estate, and he would help direct them to organizations providing humanitarian aid.
He said that reminding Calgarians about the dangers of anti-Semitism and Hamas would also be something he would be undertaking when his family returns to the city.
“So 2.2 million Gaza Strip people are suffering from the war. So what is the big achievement? Why? What is the one thing [Hamas has] achieved other than killing people because they’re Jews?”