'I Decided to Survive'

Jerusalem candidate talks about the terror attack that changed his life, and warns that a ‘Third Intifada’ is beginning.

Maayana Miskin ,

Kalmanovich with Naftali Bennet
Kalmanovich with Naftali Bennet

Dov Kalmanovich celebrates two birthdays each year: the day he was born, and the day he survived the terrorist attack that nearly killed him. He spoke to Arutz Sheva about the attack, and how it became a turning point in his life that led him to where he is today.

Kalmanovich was born and raised in Jerusalem. After he married, he and his wife moved to the neighborhood of Gilo in Jerusalem, but later left after failing to find a suitable school for their oldest child.

The young family settled in the town of Beit El, north of Jerusalem. Kalmanovich continued to work in the city, and made the commute past Ramallah each day.

One evening, during the routine drive home, his life was changed forever. An Arab youth around age 14 lobbed a firebomb at his car, setting it alight, and Kalmanovich became the first Israeli victim of the First Intifada.

He reacted quickly, escaping the vehicle and running to roll on the ground to put out the flames. However, the firebomb had been filled with a glue-like substance in order to ensure that the flames would stick to victims’ skin, and it took several long moments to extinguish the blaze.

A passing IDF reservist took Kalmanovich into his car and raced him to Hadassah Har Hatzofim hospital in Jerusalem. Several months later, when he went back to visit, staff told him that upon his arrival he had looked “like a chunk of coal.”

He had been burnt on over 75% of his body, and had inhaled smoke, damaging his lungs. He was transferred to Hadassah Ein Karem hospital, which had a special wing for patients with trouble breathing, in critical condition.

Doctors were forced to anesthetize Kalmanovich due to the severe pain of his injuries.

“They had to bandage me from the bottom of my feet to my head,” he recalled. “After a while in the hospital I was transferred to the burn ward, and every time they changed my bandages, my screams of pain could be heard from one side of Jerusalem to the other.”

‘I Decided to Survive’
The long hospital stay changed his life, he said. “You’re sitting there in the hospital, sometimes in isolation, sometimes under anesthesia, and you ask yourself if you should sink into the morphine haze and let yourself be cut off from society, or try to survive and fight.

“Obviously, I decided to survive,” he said.

“They told me that everyone was watching and waiting for me to get better. I was a public victim, not an individual victim, and that led to my decision – to choose life, and not just to live, but to live in order to serve the public that had prayed for my recovery,” he explained.

He blamed politics for his injury, he said, and specifically, the politics of then-Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin. “I blamed him for the outbreak of the First Intifada in which I was injured… More than 1,000 terrorists had been released, and their return to Judea and Samaria enflamed the area,” he said.

Israel Facing a Third ‘Intifada’
Kalmanovich warned that the recent wave of terrorism in Judea and Samaria reminds him of the days of the first “Intifada” terror wave.

“It’s very similar to how the First Intifada broke out. It didn’t begin in an organized way, and there was no official announcement… There were more and more rock and firebomb attacks, which turned into bombings,” he said.

“The recent terrorist attacks happened sporadically, and that’s the sign of an Intifada starting,” he continued. “We need to remember that an ‘Intifada’ doesn’t come from above, it starts ‘on the ground,’ with the teen who threw a firebomb at me.”

“The child who threw that firebomb didn’t think he would win the war against the Jews, but he wanted to prove that he could kill just one Jew. That child wasn’t a member of a terrorist organization and wasn’t trained in weapons use by the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade. They taught him how to make firebombs on their radio,” he said.

Kalmanovich explained his “revenge” for the attempt on his life, “They tried to murder one Jew, and I brought three more Jews to the world who were born in Beit El. That’s my Jewish revenge, and it will be remembered for generations.”

Bayit Yehudi’s Goal – Unity
After decades of serving as a public representative while continuing his work as an accountant, Kalmanovich was made the leading candidate for the Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) faction in Jerusalem. His primary hope for the city, he said, is unity.

"Jerusalem is the most volatile city, with the most serious conflicts… Everything here becomes the subject of controversy. And that’s where Bayit Yehudi comes in,” he said.

The party wants to bring unity, he explained.

“For Yom Hazikaron [Memorial Day] events I managed to get Hassidic performer Dovi Kalish and [secular performer] Sarit Hadad, who is the opposite of the hareidi world, all on the same stage. We will serve as a bridge between various populations within the Jerusalem city council, we’ll connect the religious and secular and hareidi-religious and traditional under one roof, for the sake of Jerusalem.”