[Matthew]: The day my life changed forever


Matthew Altman is a literary agent at Creative Artists Agency in Beverly Hills.  He left on vacation to fly to Israel and help Israelis dealing with the war. His blog entries will appear here regularly.

As I told you last night, we had a major ground attack and expected to get fired upon today. But for some reason, by ten o’clock, we hadn’t heard a thing. I really thought the war was over, as it seemed like a beautiful quiet morning.

I volunteered at Bnai Zion Medical center thinking I was going to do something helpful with the patients…but they were short staffed in the kitchen, so I went to help prepare food. The hospital usually serves patients in the dining room, but since that room is mostly glass and faces Lebanon it is considered a direct target. When I arrived in the kitchen, I was introduced to the kitchen staff, who could not have been more welcoming. Everyone here is so kind to strangers especially ones that come when everyone else flees.

After meeting the crew of 15 chefs, the crazy Russian chef took a special liking to me. If you’ve seen the movie Armageddon, he was exactly like that crazy Russian cosmonaut, except he didn’t speak a lick of English. He was the clown of the group and he spoke to me the whole time, knowing I didn’t know what the hell he was saying… This would be the moment where my life changed…
I should have listened to my parents when they told me to study at Hebrew school;  it would have been very handy in this situation.

Being in the kitchen, all I could hear was the clinging of pots and pans. So when the crazy Russian looked at me and motioned for me to run behind him… I did. I figured he wanted to race or to get food from upstairs? I ran after him up three flights of stairs as quick as I could. The next thing I knew, we were on the roof, overlooking the entire coastline. Sirens were going off and while everyone in the building was running to the opposite side, we ran up a stairwell.

I had no idea what we were doing. We were alone on the roof. He looked at me and said one word that is the same in English and Russian: “katusha.” What I saw next will change my life forever!!!

FOURTEEN rockets were flying in the air. To say it was scary was an understatement. He had wanted to show them to me and that’s why we were running. I was paralyzed. My heart was in my throat and I nearly shit myself.

It was unreal; I watched rockets come at me, not being able to even move. I have such a newfound respect for any soldier in any army now.

What they do and what I saw, no one should experience ever. I stared to shake as they all landed and was unable to stop shaking for the next two hours. Try serving soup while shaking; most of it lands on the ground.

It’s two hours later now and I’m still in shock!  We are dealing with monsters with Hezbollah. If they are not fully wiped out, they will grow and their other partners (Syria, Iran) will make America their next target. Everyone that loves life, even Mel Gibson, should pray that Israel is successful in this war! If not, we will experience something no one can possibly imagine.

America could not and would not function under this type of stress. We freak out in LA when there’s traffic or we can’t get a reservation somewhere… I can’t imagine how the American public would react to missiles coming at us.  I never want to see that again.

It was frankly the scariest moment of my life. I’m not sure how many people were hurt or what damage was done by the rockets. You can tell by the sounds if one hits the water or land and, from the sound of the boom at least 5 definitely hit land.

I don’t know what to say right now as I can’t really talk or think about anything else at all. All I see and hear are those fourteen missiles in the air, fifteen second that seemed like forever.

These Islamic militant monsters must be stopped!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

There were another two bomb raids later in the afternoon but I spent the rest of the day in a safe room as I had enough for one day. Today over 200 missiles were fired into Israel.


—Matthew Altman, Contributing Writer

[ISRAEL August 1]: I began my day today working at the Koenig-Soldiers center, which is where the Navy puts together boxes for every soldier. There are many companies in Israel that regularly donate boxes of food, clothing and bathing supplies. Besides companies, families also send boxes to show their support.

On this particular day I happened to be helping when we received a virtual mountain of men’s dress socks with little cartoon characters on them. I joked with the soldiers that if we ran out of bullets, we could always scare them away with the horrible looking socks.  One soldier and I went out to take a break and he told me about his uncle who was driving home from work last week and was killed by a direct hit on his car.

It is so maddening to me as well as him, that nothing was said on TV. He told me he would email me pictures in the hopes that I could have them sent out.  After spending the morning helping there, I was so fortunate to get the opportunity to go where no one is allowed to go….

Once again I have to thank my host, one of the smartest and kindest men I have ever met, Dani Neuman.  After meeting and talking with soldiers who have not seen their families in weeks, I went down to the hospital to see wounded soldiers and families. As we were arriving we heard that Dani’s son’s best friend, who is on the front line was shot and being evacuated to the hospital. We are told he will survive and we will be seeing him later…I can’t get the image of a nineteen year old boy forced to go to war for freedom when I and everyone I know, take freedom for granted.

I also wanted to make a special note: Temple Sinai in Los Angeles took a special trip for three days to see the damage and show support, and they raised a huge amount of money for the city. It’s wonderful; people like them should be recognized with the hope that others too will donate and come too. This town has lost its entire economy for three weeks now. Just think how mad you get when your computer shuts down for five minutes and doesn’t work…

Although we WILL win the war, terror has affected this place in so many more ways than rockets…

Lastly as the past two days have been rather quiet, we expect to get slammed with over 150 rockets tomorrow as the cease fire is over. I am not sure if I am going to work near the water tomorrow yet, as that’s where most of the rockets hit. More rockets were launched into Israel last Saturday than any other day in the country’s history (I think over 170 and frankly they expect more).

I will be doing what ever I can tomorrow, to help whether going to hit sites and helping victims or staying in bomb shelters with children keeping them calm. I have no idea at the moment but will update you tomorrow.

I am on the way to a city council meeting tonight as the mayor will discuss what to expect tomorrow. I know many ask me how they can help…you can log onto www.haifaemergencycampaign.com as this goes DIRECTLY to Haifa and the bombings. Again feel free to forward to anyone and let me know if someone wants to be added to the email list directly.

—Matthew Altman, Contributing Writer