Swastikas and then Poway shooting for Israeli family who came to the US seeking safety

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – For one family caught up in the California synagogue shooting, a move from Israel to the United States in search of a safer life has been a journey “from fire to fire”.

Israel Dahan and three of his five children were at Sabbath services at Congregation Chabad in Poway, near San Diego, on Saturday when a gunman opened fire, killing a woman and wounding three others in what local authorities deemed a hate crime.

Dahan, speaking on Israel Radio on Sunday, said his family was no stranger to violence, having lived in Israel in Sderot, a town on the Gaza border that has been a frequent target of Palestinian rocket attacks.

“We came from fire to fire,” he said. “We left Sderot because of the shelling. My house was hit several times. My mother’s house, my mother-in-law’s house were hit several times. I was also wounded several times … we wanted to move far away.”

Dahan’s eight-year-old daughter, Noya, was wounded in the synagogue shooting, on the last day of Passover, as was his brother-in-law.

“I began to shout that people should flee,” Dahan said about the initial moments of the attack. “Thank God his gun jammed.”

Authorities identified the alleged gunman as a 19-year-old San Diego resident and said his weapon apparently malfunctioned after the first rounds he fired.

Dahan said his family had been living in Poway for the past three years – and that it was not the first time they had been the victim of a hate crime.

In 2015, the Dahans were residing in Mira Mesa, about 10 miles (16 km) from Poway, when swastikas were daubed on their house and vehicle during the Passover holiday.

A local news report at the time said the family moved to the United States in 2014 seeking a safer environment for their children.

“But that’s life,” Dahan said, recalling the swastika incident and how he had briefly locked eyes with the synagogue assailant.

Asked whether he regretted their move from Israel, he said: “No. We love America … It can happen anywhere – in any mall, and in any hospital and in any family gathering and in any place. We are strong. We were born to be strong.”

(Writing by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Dale Hudson)