Twenty-one years ago today, I was in Israel on a work trip and decided to meet a friend for lunch in Jerusalem. I had grown up with non-kosher Sbarro’s at home and going to Israel and eating the kosher versions of my favorite non-kosher foods from my youth was always fun. My friend and I must have met at the restaurant around 1:50. The terrorist bombed the restaurant at 2pm. We walked up to the counter, perused what was fresh, and for whatever reason decided the food that day there didn’t seem terribly appealing. Thank God, the food that day didn’t seem terribly appealing.
So instead of our original plan of having a Sbarro’s lunch, we left the restaurant and headed down Jaffa road, towards the Old City to find another place to eat. We didn’t get very far, but that decision saved our lives. For as we were walking down the road, we heard a loud “boom!”
When you hear a “boom” in Jerusalem, you immediately know what it is. What we didn’t know was if there was a second bomb. We began to run, because when you hear a bomb, you want to run to safety. But we didn’t know where safety was. No one did. It was mayhem. It was terrifying. We didn’t know what had happened or how close we were to being victims of a Jew-hating terror attack. Pay phone lines were jammed due to so many people using them. But I was finally able to reach my husband. We were still in our first year of marriage at the time. (Almost exactly one month later, the tables were turned. It was 9/11 and my husband was in midtown Manhattan trying to reach me to let me know he was still alive.)
I rarely talked about or thought about surviving this terror attack until very recently. I hadn’t remembered that 9/11 was a month later until very recently. I hadn’t remembered that my grandfather died the day after, while I was still in Israel. He had been sick and in the hospital. Had he been unconscious the day before, the day of the attack, and worked something out in heaven, so my life would be saved?
I don’t know why God spared my life that day. I don’t know why our people have to be so hated, that our having a tiny sliver of land in the world to call home is too much for too many people. That trying to meet a friend for a slice of pizza is an act of bravery. My life was nearly lost for the crime of being a Jew in her land, yet I have met people, people who see themselves as being on the just side of issues, tell me that as a Jew I’m not part of a historically marginalized people.
Our people have been marginalized since the day Pharaoh enslaved us, yet we have always persevered. But there have been too many heart-wrenching casualties along the way. On August 9th, I thank God that I wasn’t of them.