Op-Ed: Aftermath of a Bus Ride

Pain, lacerations, shrapnel, bandages, wheelchair, hearing test, four stunned children and one shaken husband, reporters, Knesset Members, hellish images and tearful recounting ? all merged into a whirlpool of confusion on the rest of that long day. But it is what happened the next day that made me decide to write this article.
Published: Wednesday, March 03, 2004 7:13 PM


Sunday morning, February 22, 2004, I arrived at work just in time to hear about the bus explosion in Jerusalem. Nervously, I waited for the newscaster to say where the bombing had occurred. When he said Keren Hayesod Street, I immediately dialed the Rotem law office, located on that street, where our son Akiva works. I was shaking with the irrational hysteria that grips us here when there is a terrorist bombing ? until we speak to all our loved ones.

"He's a half hour late and hasn't called in," answered his secretary anxiously. Akiva's wife, Dr. Noa Sylvetsky, already at work in Hadassah Hospital, was also worried. Akiva had taken the bus from Efrat to work.

After what seemed an eternity - but was only half an hour - Akiva called to say that he had indeed witnessed the explosion, had rushed to help the wounded and calmed a pregnant woman in the front seat of the bus, and aided another woman who collapsed outside of the bus.

Had he gone into the back of the bus he would have seen his sister.

I called my daughter Zehava on her cell phone once I knew that her brother was fine. She did not answer, so I left a reassuring message. I had no way of knowing that she had brought her car in for repairs that morning from Gush Etzion and had continued on to town by bus.

A half-hour later my cell phone rang.

"Hi, Mom," said Zehava's voice.

"Hi," I replied, "Not to worry. Akiva is all right. I left a message on your cell phone."

"My phone is in Never-Never Land," was her response, "but I'm okay. I'm in the emergency room at Hadassah. They pulled me out of the bus window ? that is, where there had been a window."

Pain, lacerations, shrapnel, bandages, wheelchair, hearing test, four stunned children and one shaken husband, reporters, Knesset Members, hellish images and tearful recounting ? all merged into a whirlpool of confusion on the rest of that long day.

But it is what happened the next day that made me decide to write this article.

Because the next day something occurred about which I had no inkling, something about which I think everyone should know.

The next day, the reporters and VIP's vanished and the "man-on-the-street Israeli" stepped in. We had never heard of the amazing phenomenon we witnessed, but it signified to us that our people will still be flourishing here after all those who applaud suicide bombers will have gone the way of Haman and his sons.

First came the representative of the Children of Terror Victims, who brought toys for the children, who were soon distracted into arguing about which stuffed animal to give their mother.

Next came a young man who said that he had been in a bad accident himself. He read a poem he had written especially in Zehava's honor and left a key-chain with a prayer for her.

A group of students from the ulpana in Even Shmuel brought a guitar and remained for a half-hour singing all the Israeli songs Zehava loves best.

A Vietnam War veteran and friend told her that she has many good deeds ahead of her and gave Zehava a basket of treats containing a book of Tehilim (Psalms).

The Israel Electric Company sent a delegation with a kitbag full of toiletries, towels and everything needed for a hospital stay.

Two women brought cake and a gigantic cookie with a smiling face for the children. They promised to keep in touch.

Chabad-Lubavitch youth brought their blessing and another Tehilim.

Another sweet young woman brought toys for the children.

Dassie Rabinowitz' (a young cancer victim whose courage moved the entire country) father brought a ceramic mug inscribed with Zehava's name and full of treats.

A chareidi family whose daughter played the electric organ appeared. The daughter played, the father sang, the little boys danced to rousing Purim songs and much needed laughter.

Then, Zehava asked them for the song "There is none to compare to you G-d" ("Ein aroch lecha Hashem Elokenu") and tears filled the eyes of all those who had gathered to listen. Tears of gratitude to the Almighty for sparing our daughter, tears of grief for the wounded and for those who lost their lives, tears of love for our wonderful and caring nation, tears of pride because Am Yisrael Chai ? the People of Israel Live On.