Terror: 'How I Saved my Family'

It happened last Friday: terrorists ambushed a Jewish family in a car. One of the bullets knocked out the engine and the firing continued.

Tags: Terror
Yehudah Yifrach, Amona , | updated: 8:03 PM

Aftermath of Rabbi Chai's murder, 24.12.2009
Aftermath of Rabbi Chai's murder, 24.12.2009
Israel news photo: Flash 90

Were it not for the miracle that befell us, this column would never have been written. Statistically speaking, the space it takes up on the web page is probably congruent to the space that would have been taken up to a routine factual description of the shooting attack, including the predictable political reactions and some two-sentence eulogies.

The content of the report can also be imagined. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton denounced the grisly terror attack in which six members of a family from Amona were murdered, and called on the sides to cease violence and return to the negotiating table.

The Israeli team in the proximity talks froze all contacts for 48 hours in protest of the attack. President Shimon Peres said we must talk peace as if there were no terror and fight terror as if there were no peace. And so on and so forth.

But the Hand of the Almighty guided matters in a different direction, and so I can sit here and write the following lines.

This is what happened: we were on our way for a Shabbat at the pre-military academy in Neveh Tzuf. After taking the turn at the “British Police Junction” I began thinking, for no apparent reason, about some of the well-known shooting attacks that took place on the roads, and about families that were wiped out by terrorists. I remembered the Tzur family (ambushed by terrorists who murdered two of them, a mother and her son, near Beit El, in 1996), the Hatuel family (ambushed by terrorists who murdered five, a mother and four daughters, near Gush Katif, in 2004), the Schijveschuurder family (five of whom were killed in the Jerusalem Sbarro restaurant suicide bombing in 2001), not without asking myself why these negative thoughts were appearing just now...

About two kilometers west of the junction we reached a curve where one must slow down. Suddenly I heard shots from very close range. I shouted to my wife: 'they are shooting at us, get down!' and I slammed down the gas pedal in order to get out of the kill zone. But then I saw that the engine's power had died and that it simply was not responding. I shifted to lower gear and pumped the gas pedal but the engine was dead. The first bullet had cut the radiator pipe, penetrated through the manifold into the engine, exited with a bang through the oil sump and hit the asphalt below. In one second, the oil spilled out of the engine and it died.

A terrible feeling of helplessness. We are inside a tin box that is slowly rolling along. The terrorists continue to fire at us in a controlled fashion, one bullet every two or three seconds. With me in the car, which has turned into a death trap, are my wife and four agitated children who could get hit at any second. A true lose-lose situation: I can't stop the car and charge the terrorists with my gun because then the full car remains exposed like a duck in a shooting range. I can't escape because the motor is gone.    

I figured that the shooting was coming from the mountain's extension south of the road and so I turned hard to the opposite lane in order to reach the slope and get out of the Palestinians' range. When the car stopped I got out quickly, took out the kids and threw them into the bushes on the mountainside. The little one started shouting “mommy” and ran to the center of the road with me following her, lifting her up and simply throwing her to her sister. Only then did I cock the handgun and start looking for the terrorists. I surmised that they would be drawing near in order to confirm the kills and so I began advancing in their direction so as to prevent them from reaching the family. I was trying to plan how to conduct an effective battle with ten bullets in a small Glock 26.

When I failed to identify the terrorists I decided to stop the first car that passed, get the family into it and get them out of the fire zone as fast as possible. Two Palestinian cars that I tried to stop simply stepped on the gas and got away, nearly running me over. They were immediately followed, by chance, by an IDF security coordinator from one of the communities, who helped me get the family out of danger. Then a Border Police patrol came, blocked the road and began combing the area. As far as we were concerned, the event had ended.

It was a true open miracle. I look at the topography and the distances and I simply cannot fathom how they missed. They were standing on the road in front of a seven-seat vehicle that rolled along slowly, fired bullets in single shot mode, in a controlled fashion, one after the other – but missed all of them, except for the first bullet that hit the engine.

Personally, this is not an easy experience. Although I had already come under fire during my military service, this is the kind of thing one just can't get used to. Rabbi Nachman from Breslov once described the next world thus: “Just as I am in this room now, and then I leave this room and go to the next room and close the door after me.” Some of this frightening banality becomes tangible when you look the angel of death in the whites of his eyes.

These moments in which I am sitting in front of the keyboard could easily have been a time of funerals and heart-rending eulogies, G-d forbid. Over Ayelet, who is completing a coaching course and has begun writing her new book; the gifted Maayan who writes the family newspaper every week; Atara who finally learned to ride a bicycle without training wheels; Renana who loves to sing and little Malachi, who started walking on his own this week.

When I look back at Friday I also think to myself how banal the final day of life can be. Which reminds me how short and precious life is, and how important it is to live them to the fullest and in the most meaningful way, to be present and not to waste energies on grand passions and illusions and vanity.

But beyond the personal story there is 'the big story.' We usually live the personal story. We are busy with work and career, family, life's pressing demands. News and politics fly over our heads, they do not really bother us or interest us. But in the background there is always the big story – the story of the Jewish nation that returned to its land and established national independence after 2,000 years of diaspora, and the enemies still want to destroy it, as they do in every generation. There are moments in life when the big story invades the small story. These are moments of concentrated, distilled time, of a collective content that takes over the screen and demands attention. We cannot really escape from it because it is part of our life, our experience, our narrative.

And the big story reminds us of the painful truth that we strive so hard to deny: the Palestinians' culture of jihad, blood and death sucks its strength from our feebleness. The statistics clearly show that whenever 'peace' talks began, the curve of Jewish death and bereavement rose steeply. Identification, understanding and empathy – perceived as manifestations of enlightenment in Western culture – are seen by Muslim culture as proof of weakness and flaccidity, and invite another violent outburst. And thus did Oslo beget the Intifada, and so did the retreat from Lebanon and the Disengagement lead to the Second Lebanon War and and to the flareup in Gaza, and so, tragically, is the government of Israel now preparing the next explosion.

This is not easy to say, but my family and I were almost murdered because Binyamin Netanyahu is sending teams to the 'proximity talks.' The writing has been on the wall for a long time, in large red letters, but we would rather bury our heads in the sand of sweet illusions. We want to immerse ourselves in a fantasy of a new Middle East in which the wolves and the lambs play backgammon together and dip pitas in a common plate of hummous. But reality bites and brings us back down to its hard ground, to the coldness of details and the precision of facts. And the truth is simple: we live in a bad neighborhood, surrounded by real enemies. And if we do not wake up and make our stand we will not be able to survive here.   

Translated by Gil Ronen