Israelis Wounded in San Diego Synagogue Shooting Left Gaza Border After Rockets

'We moved from fire to fire'

People attend a prayer and candlelight vigil at Rancho Bernardo Community Presbyterian Church on April 27, 2019 in Poway, California
AFP

Two Israelis were among the wounded in the shooting at a California synagogue that saw a woman die as she tried to defend her rabbi from a shooter who stormed into the Chabad of Poway as people were celebrating the last day of Passover.

The San Diego Union-Tribune has identified the woman killed as Lori Kaye. Witnesses told the newspaper that the 60-year-old woman had jumped in front of Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, who founded the synagogue in 1986. Goldstein was wounded but insisted on finishing his sermon before going to the hospital. 

Almog Peretz, who had moved to California a few months prior from Sderot in southern Israel near the Gaza border, said a man entered the synagogue and started shooting indiscriminately. "There was a little girl there so I picked her up and ran away. He shot at me and I took one in the leg."

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"It doesn't matter where we go, we have to look out for ourselves. In Sderot, where I used to live, didn't they also fire rockets at us? I didn't believe this would happen in a place like this," the 34-year-old Peretz told Israeli radio.

Israel, the father of 8-year-old Noya Dahan who was wounded in the attack, also moved with his family from Sderot a few years ago.

"We came from fire to fire. We left Sderot after our house was hit a few times. My mother's house was hit. I was wounded," he said, adding a few prior, also during Passover, swastikas were sprayed on his house in Poway.

When asked by Israeli radio if he saw the attack coming, Dahan said "Of course, who comes into a synagogue on Shabbat with an M-16 rifle?" He said the incident was about "two to three minutes, and thank god his gun malfunctioned… Thank god he was a stupid kid who didn't know how to clear the jam."

Dahan insisted he loves Israel, but said it's not safer than America. "This could happen anywhere."

An 18-year-old attending the service, Gil Pasternak, described the congregation rabbi's actions after his fingers were shattered by gunfire. "He put a talith around his fingers and gave a very powerful speech, saying we can't let people like this ruin our ability to unite as a people."

Paramedics begged Goldstein get on an ambulance, Pasternak said, but he insisted to keep talking and try to sooth those who were scared.