Nir’s spirit continued to come to Ola and to his family for five months.
Ola’s life also was shattered by a devastating terrorist attack on the Maxim Restaurant on the Haifa seashore on October 4, 2003. Here is an excerpt of Ola’s story, and some of the lessons she learned about moving forward in her life and growing alongside her feelings of grief, pain, and helplessness.
“It was a sunny day. So my boyfriend Nir Regev and I decided to go to the sea to have some fun. It was the weekend so we had nothing to do. We had done our exams, so why not? Nir decided to go to Maxim’s. It has nice food there.” Suddenly, the suicide bomber, Hanadi Jaradat, a twenty-nine-year-old female lawyer from Jenin, managed to get past Maxim’s security guard before blowing herself up in the middle of the restaurant, killing Nir, three children, a baby girl, the security guard, and three Israeli Arab employees, and wounding sixty people, including Ola.
For Ola, a young woman and university student, who had moved to Israel from Moldova in the Former Soviet Union three years earlier, “it was really messy when you sit down to eat and after five seconds you hear nothing, see nothing, and understand nothing. It was really difficult for me because my really good friend is the first person in my life who died. Just like that. He was twenty-five-years-old. He was the funniest man in the world for me and it was really difficult.”
Ola was hospitalized for twenty days with injuries to her arm, back, and legs, and was operated on three times. “It was really mazal (luck) that I am alive.” In addition to having to deal with her own physical injuries and the related psychological consequences, Ola had to cope with the emotional trauma of Nir’s tragic and senseless death.
She quickly sought the help of a psychologist, not because she had symptoms of distress, but because she had a lot of questions and no answers. She realized that it will take time and that “it’s a story. It’s really a story that hasn’t ended yet. It’s still developing.” She also learned she can do things with her life and is proud of her accomplishments since the attack, although she does not know if it is that “I am growing up or if it was the piguah (terrorist attack).”
With the support and belief of her parents, Ola has grown and her life has changed in every respect, starting from the inside and working outwards. She has developed a healthy understanding of her self. Early on she was “focused on myself. I was really injured physically. I felt really bad. So I decided to focus on my body – the most important thing for the first two months was my body – on health, on beauty – it was really important to me. And after that I decided okay, I’m okay, I love myself, I can breathe, I can do something with this arm. I focused on what was inside.” Later she recognized that, with time, “I will think about things connected to the outside world and I will understand other things.”
Just as Almog appeared to Noy in a dream with a huge grin, telling her that he was watching over them from above and asking her to be strong, Nir’s spirit continued to come to Ola and to his family for five months. “I’m sure that he was there to check if everything is okay with me, his parents, his brother and sister. Now I think that he thinks that I will be okay and I think too that he will be okay. He’s gone from my room. He’s still in my head. He’s still in my heart. I have a big place in my heart that always will be for him.”
A year after the attack, Ola finally went to the cemetery and met Nir’s family. She went back to their house. “It’s an amazing house – a house of love and pictures and smiling people –and people are happy there. Their lives are continuing and his friends are still laughing. It really was helpful because I understood that they understand me – they love me. They want me to continue my life.”
She still visits Nir’s family in Nahariya once a year. “While everything has changed – all of his friends are married and have children and his parents became grandparents for a fourth time – it’s also all the same…. Our Nir is gone and never will come back, and everyone learned to live without him”
Every year on October 4 Ola celebrates New Year’s eve, “my birthday – my second birthday. On the one hand it is a bad day because my friend was killed. But on the other hand it is my New Year. I became a new person; I was given a second chance. After the piguah, I just opened my eyes and understood how life is beautiful. I want to marry and I want to have children and I want to have my future. I have the feeling that now it’s a beginning of something.”
And it was! In 2011, Ola married a “very nice guy” whom she met at work and a year later gave birth to a baby girl.
Ola continues to “have a very positive view on life. My goals are to move on, to be happy from very small things, to remember the good things, and to look forward and hope for a healthy and happy future for my family and me. I'm very grateful for support and love from my family, I move on and feel very happy, but I am not healed yet… I’m not sure if I ever will be.”
She still shivers from every loud sound, tries to escape crowded places, and wakes up once in a while terrified and in tears. “The most difficult day for me is Yom Hazikaron, and every time there’s a siren in Israel. I stay at home on Purim, the most joyful holiday in Israel, because I am very afraid of firecrackers. And every time I see a woman in a burqa, I try to cross the street as far away as I can.” She vividly demonstrates that personal growth and distress coexist.
Ola wishes for Noy that, with time, she too will be able to live alongside her painful memories and emotions, her anger and grief, and move forward in her life with hope and healing.
Excerpted from Living Beyond Terrorism: Israeli Stories of Hope and Healing, by Zieva Dauber Konvisser, Gefen, 2014.
Zieva Dauber Konvisser, PhD, is a Fellow of the Institute for Social Innovation at Fielding Graduate University. Her book Living Beyond Terrorism: Israeli Stories of Hope and Healing is a look at how 48 survivors of terrorism move forward from terrorism to hope and optimism and from grief to meaning and healing.