This wasn’t a day we ever dreamed of… even in our worst nightmares. Last Wednesday morning, our 18-year-old daughter Naomi walked to her regular Jerusalem bus stop to commute to her national service job in Beit Shemesh. As she approached the stop, a Palestinian terrorist detonated a bomb packed with nails and other shrapnel. One of the pieces flew at Naomi, hitting her, but not seriously. She felt ringing in her ears but wasn’t hurt. Naomi texted our family WhatsApp group that there’d been a bombing and she was fine.
There hadn’t been a bombing in years. I was sure she was mistaken. None of the news sites had the story, but her next text said she was in an ambulance on the way to the hospital. My wife Aliza and I met Naomi at the hospital, saw the wound wasn’t serious, and waited while she was interviewed by doctors, Shabak, the police, social workers and psychologists. After six hours, Naomi was released and we drove home, thankful that Naomi was ok.
One of my teachers, Dr. Gil Troy, sent me an email suggesting our family go out and celebrate immediately. We thought that was a great idea, and other than one daughter who was in transit to New York, we all agreed to meet in Jerusalem for a celebratory dinner. At dinner, each member of our family spoke about what they were grateful for that day. Naomi’s words of being grateful for a supportive family really hit home for all of us. The whole family quickly realized that just being ourselves was a big help to Naomi. We committed to commemorate Erev Rosh Chodesh Kislev each year together as a day to offer thanks to Hashem. Very conscious that all too many of our friends commemorate annual yahrzeits of their terror victims, we’re grateful to be able to celebrate each year.
Throughout the day, I received dozens of media requests. I wasn’t going to agree to any of them, but Aliza thought it was important that I humanize the attack for people. I had seen victim’s families provide the nation with encouragement at frightening times and wanted to try to help our country. As the day progressed, I gave interviews to countless media outlets in Israel, and as the world woke up, to outlets as far away as Brazil and Miami. As the day went on, my random thoughts coalesced and I recognized my feelings. I’d like to share them here.
I felt sad because of what had happened and angry at those who caused it. Most of all, I felt terrified. Not the terror of what could happen in the future, but of what I almost lost. Terror sweeps over me and overwhelms me. I cry and can’t breathe. It’s indescribable. I began recognizing the situation could’ve been much worse. A nail flying an inch or two higher or lower and I’d have been sitting shiva instead of offering thanks at a celebratory dinner. I’m grateful I’m celebrating instead of mourning.
My family was astounded by the kindness of the Jewish people. The nurses, doctors, family, friends and strangers all called, reached out and supported us during this horrible time. Many people see headlines about terror attacks in Israel and assume Israel isn’t a safe place. Israel is a safe country. Yes, the headlines are scary, but while one child was killed in the attack and 22 people were injured, nine million Israelis were perfectly safe. They were safe yesterday and today, and they’ll be safe tomorrow. Don’t be taken in by sensationalism, Israel is a wonderful and safe place.
I’m grateful for the support of the Israeli and American governments. Knesset members, local government officials, the White House, congresspeople, the current American ambassador, two former American ambassadors and many of their staff all reached out. I’m grateful to my birth country of America and my home country of Israel.
I was also cognizant of the fact that there are people who planned this attack. They scouted the bus stop for days. They saw my daughter waiting there every day and aimed to kill her. These people are celebrating. The attack took expertise, training and planning. It was expensive, it took funds and support. It took a world willing to look away from Palestinian, Iranian and Qatari funding of terror. A world willing to see a small amount of terror as acceptable. The world must change, and shut the terrorists and their supporters down.
Don’t be fooled. This attack had nothing to do with occupation, a state or apartheid. Arab terror and attacks occurred before 1948 and before 1967 and continue today. These attacks are caused by antisemites who hate the Jewish people and want Jewish people dead.
Our daughter Naomi will be fine. Our family will be fine. Our people will be fine. The Jewish state will be fine. The Jewish people will grow and flourish. God will protect us and keep us safe. Our enemies will be defeated, and we will be the ones to defeat them.
After all our worries and fear, we are left with gratitude to God for allowing us to keep our Naomi and gratitude to all those who reached out to us in our time of trial. We tried responding to everyone and we’re sorry if we didn’t return every message. Your words of encouragement and comfort meant the world to me and to our family. We’ve never felt so loved and supported.
Rabbi Uri Pilichowski is a senior educator at numerous educational institutions. He is the author of three books and teaches Torah, Zionism and Israel studies around the world.
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