SAN DIEGO — Saturday morning in Tel Aviv was gorgeous.
“We are looking at the beach, the beach is beautiful. People are still running, riding bikes, first thing in the morning, seven in the morning as we’re having breakfast,” Alan Shafran said to FOX 5 on Monday.
Alan and Natalie Shafran of Carlsbad were two days into their nine-day vacation in Israel, staying at a beachfront hotel when they got a call from a family member who lives there alerting them to what was to come and advising them to get to the airport — fast.
“We start hearing the missiles, the bombs. We start hearing what we think was the iron dome,” Alan said to FOX 5. “As we’re packing, we’re hearing the loud speakers, as Israel’s set up with security, telling everybody this is serious, get off the beaches immediately, take your kids, everyone get inside.”
They believe that was the first barrage of missiles shot by Hamas terrorists out of Gaza, which is about 40 miles away from Tel Aviv.
Natalie described how she was feeling: “I was panicked, you could feel the rockets you could feel the hotel shaking.”
Israelis are used to the sirens and alert system, the protection of the famous iron dome. They take a beat and then move on with their lives, but this, they say, was dramatically different.
“This is serious. This is a different deal. This is not a couple of missiles that are being launched at us. We are being attacked.”
“We were throwing everything together at that point and I knew it was time to go.” Natalie says as she begins to tear up. “It was sad at that point because we have family there and there was part of us that wanted to stay. It was hard to leave but we knew we needed to.”
They think they got the last two seats on a plane bound for Athens leaving in a couple of hours, just as the airport shut down. By this time, the attack was in full swing. In the chaos, they had barely made it to the airport when they realized just how lucky they were.
“It was starting to escalate,” Alan said. “We knew it was getting serious. We saw other mothers with their children getting on the flight, other Israeli mothers, and we were just putting two and two together. We talked to a couple, they’re being sent for safety. The husbands are about to go fight and they’re being sent for safety with the children.”
In those early hours, their two nephews, one with young children, had already been called up, drafted to fight and they were learning of the atrocities on the ground, kidnappings and innocent lives lost.