It’s hard to believe that 20 years have passed since I survived one of the worst bus bombings in Jerusalem’s history.
On June 11, 2003, I was meeting a friend for dinner after work, traveling on bus #14, when an 18-year-old terrorist strapped with explosives detonated them. The explosion left 100 of us injured and took the lives of 17 innocent people, including everyone seated and standing around me.
I had moved to Israel only a year-and-a-half before and, ironically, had been volunteering with organizations assisting victims of terrorism.
I count myself among the fortunate ones. I can still vividly recall the sound of crushing metal and the blast tearing through the bus. Though I was burned and bleeding, I was alive, and someone heard my cries and helped me escape, pulling me through the torn frame to safety.
Immediately, I was rushed to Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital, which is part of the Hadassah Medical Organization hospital system. The doctors at Hadassah assessed my injuries: shoulder and shrapnel wounds, burns, cuts on my legs and face. That night, I was the last of the seriously injured to go into surgery to repair my broken clavicle.
I received incredible care and support from the hospital staff and, particularly, from the staff of the Israel office of Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America (HWZOA), which founded and owns the hospital system. They took care of me that day, providing comfort during those first painful moments and throughout my hospital stay. They have been with me every step of the way since.
There are no words to adequately express my gratitude to the medical team and all the Hadassah staff, who played a crucial role in my recovery. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support of individuals like trauma surgeon Avi Rivkind, who went on to found Hadassah Ein Kerem’s Shock Trauma Unit, Barbara Sofer and “BG” (Barbara Goldstein) of HWZOA’s Israel office and last, but certainly not least, former HWZOA National President Marlene Post, all of whom continue to make time for me and treat me like family.
In the years that followed, I became a lifetime member of HWZOA. Currently residing in the United States, I recently flew to Israel to mark the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attack. I asked to sponsor a luncheon to honor the doctors, nurses and Hadassah staff members who cared for me two decades ago.
We invited other survivors of terrorist attacks who had been nursed back to health by Hadassah’s exceptional medical team to join us (I knew three and hadn’t seen one of them in almost 20 years). Those able to come to this meaningful luncheon included:
- Moshe Frej, a volunteer medic in 2002 when he was shot in the back while caring for ambushed soldiers in Hebron.
- Gabby Elbaz Greener, an occupational therapy student in 1995 when her bus was blown up in 1995 (she is now a Hadassah cardiologist).
- Aluma Mekaitan Guertzenstein, a high school senior in 2002 when she lost the use of an arm due to shrapnel damage after a terrorist detonated a bomb on her school bus.
- Adi Huja Peretz, just 14 in 2001 when, while waiting for her cousins to buy ice cream from a street vendor, she was hit with shrapnel from a terrorist attack that killed 10 people.
- Dvir Musai, not quite 13 when, on a cherry-picking trip at a farm in 2002, he stepped on a landmine intended for the farm’s owner.
- Natan Sandaka, just 21 in 2002 and serving as border guard when he was severely injured by a bomb prematurely activated by a terrorist aiming for a nearby neonatal facility.
- Gila Halili Weiss, injured by a bomb detonated in Jerusalem’s popular and crowded Machane Yehudah market while buying pastries for Shabbat in 2002.
Spending time with these incredibly brave individuals during the luncheon was truly special. I want to extend my heartfelt thanks to the Israel office of HWZOA for coordinating this beautiful event to mark the anniversary of my surviving one of the most difficult days of my life.
My journey after the attack led me to return to the States for ongoing medical attention and, eventually, to create a non-profit organization, Strength to Strength, to assist other victims of terrorism globally with long-term peer-to-peer support. Our organization collaborates with existing organizations in 15 different countries, ensuring that any civilian victim of a terrorist attack can connect and find relief in knowing they are not alone.
This sense of not feeling alone—a valuable lesson learned from the ongoing support I received from the people of Israel and, specifically, from the Hadassah Medical Organization—continues to guide me. I am forever grateful that Hadassah’s doctors saved my life. They were there for me 20 years ago and remain a pillar of support.
While I take pride in the work my colleagues and I have succeeded in establishing a safe and supportive environment for victims of terrorism, I hope for the day when terrorism is eradicated and we no longer have to do this work. Until then, I consider it a blessing to be able to do what I do and connect with so many victims from different countries and backgrounds, all of whom have become an integral part of my extended family.