Israeli family injured in California attack sought refuge in US from Hamas rockets

Almog Peretz and his eight-year-old niece, who were wounded in a California synagogue shooting on Saturday, left Israel after surviving Hamas rocket attacks on their home in Sderot.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Two of the people injured by a gunman who burst into a Chabad synagogue on Saturday in California had left the Israeli city of Sderot after surviving rocket hits from Gaza on their home.

During the attack, Almog Peretz, 34, heroically saved several children by rushing them out of the sanctuary when 19-year-old John Earnest ran in and began shooting. He credited his experience under persistent rocket attacks in his Israeli hometown for his quick reaction.

“This is sad, but I am originally from Sderot so we know a bit about running from the Kassam rockets,” Peretz told Israel’s Channel 12 as he lay in the Palomar Medical Center Poway, recovering from a bullet wound to his leg.

“There were many small kids next to me,” he recounted. “I took a little girl who was our neighbor and three nieces of mine and ran. I opened the back gate and we ran with all the children to a building in the back. I hid them in that building.”

Witnesses said that the neighbor he scooped up, five-year-old Julie, would probably have died if Peretz hadn’t acted, as Earnest shot at them while they were running, hitting him instead. Many other bullets missed him, he told his interviewers.

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His niece, eight-year-old Noya Dahan, was wounded by shrapnel in the face and one leg. Although the surgeon at the Poway medical center said that all the wounded were “doing well with their injuries,” she was transferred to a children’s hospital for overnight observation.

Noya’s father Israel told Israel Radio that he had moved his family to California a number of years ago after their Sderot home absorbed several rocket shots from Gaza over the years, injuring him once.

“We came from fire to fire,” he said, adding, “It can happen anywhere. [But] we are strong.”

This incident, though far more serious, was not the first time his family experienced anti-Semitism in the U.S., he explained, recounting an incident in which his California home had been spray-painted with swastikas.

Earnest started his rampage by killing 60-year-old Lori Gilbert Kaye, who reportedly jumped in front of a rabbi, taking the bullets meant for him. She was described by former minister of Diaspora Affairs Naftali Bennett as a “hero of Israel.”

The third injured victim, synagogue rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, was injured in both hands, with doctors saying that he will probably lose his right index finger as a result of the attack.

After fleeing the scene in his car, Earnest surrendered to police, who are investigating the case as a hate crime.