With Iraq's missile attacks on Israeli cities last night, the worst fears Baltimore Jews had harbored these last 5 1/2 months were (( realized.
"It's sickening, absolutely," said Helaine Abramson of Northwest Baltimore. "It's a most unhappy time for people like me who have lived through other wars and to see this happen on the air. . . . You can see the whole thing."
Some, like Baltimore Delegate Samuel I. "Sandy" Rosenberg, admitted to having been lulled by the initial, hopeful reports following the first U.S. air strikes.
"When I left Bryant Gumbel this morning, you thought they no longer had the capability to do anything to the Israelis," said Mr. Rosenberg, a Democrat from the 42nd District. "You had this false sense of security as an American Jew."
But others never allowed themselves to believe the menace to Israel had suddenly evaporated.
"I can't believe we just sat there and didn't think Saddam [Hussein] would retaliate," said Lucia Goodhart, an Israeli now living in Mount Washington. "He was just waiting for the appropriate moment, and this was the appropriate moment."
"It is a very sad turn of events, when Israel has maintained neutrality in this issue, acceding to the United States' wishes and prevented from taking any kind of preventive strike," said Lt. Gov. Melvin A. Steinberg. "But this kind of action against that country for no just cause other than its ethnic affiliation gives it a full right to retaliate to protect their citizens."
Rabbi Ronald Z. Schwartz of the Beth Jacob Synagogue on Park Heights Avenue said last night that Israel "has a proven track record" in war and suggested that "war won't end until Saddam Hussein is killed."
"There are those in America opposing the war whose memories are of Vietnam," he said. "But Jewish memories are of the Holocaust. If Israel decides to attack Iraq, it will be for self-preservation."
Ms. Goodhart, who returned from a two-week visit to Israel only Sunday, was listening for news from the Persian Gulf on a shortwave radio. She remained optimistic that Israel, America and the allies would prevail. Still, she was frightened.
When she returned home last night, she found a taped message on her answering machine from a friend in Israel. "He said, 'Everything is fine, we're sitting in our sealed room, ha ha ha.'"
But when she tried to call him back, she couldn't reach him. "That upsets me. I can deal with all the verbiage I hear on the radio, but when I can't hear my loved ones, that's a difficult thing because I think the worst. I don't like that feeling of helplessness.
"I sure hope tonight we'll be able to sleep."