The last thing the Rapps expected on Tuesday, their first day of Aliyah (immigration to Israel), was a terrorist attack. Harold and Marci Rapp had finally gone to sleep Tuesday afternoon, the fresh Nefesh B’Nefesh olim (new immigrants) resting after their exhausting 11-hour flight to Israel.
An hour into their much-needed slumber their phone rang. The Rapps' son Gershy, who lives in Israel but whom they hadn’t seen yet, called with chilling news. With her husband sound asleep, Marci herself struggled to stay awake as she listened to her son: "I've been injured in a terrorist attack." She later learned that he was hurt only lightly.
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In an exclusive interview with Israel National Radio’s Yishai Fleisher, Marci shared her enthusiasm and indomitable spirit, unabated by Tuesday’s events, and told listeners that she was happier than ever to be living with the Jewish people in their land.
Marci’s son Gershy was on the number 13 bus, on his way to his parents’ Jerusalem apartment, when an Arab construction worker rammed his tractor into the Egged bus.
“First, I felt a bump, like a large crash,” recounted Gershy. "I thought it was an accident, that the driver lost control of his tractor. But then the tractor pulled away, drove off for some time, came back, and swung his shovel into the side of the bus, right where I was sitting.”
The tractor terrorist, the second in less than three weeks, was trying to turn the bus over, like the previous attacker did. This attacker was also a Jerusalem Municipality construction worker, as had been the first, and this one also had a criminal record, as had the first.
As Gershy saw the tractor’s shovel veering toward the place he was sitting, he jumped into the aisle, hurting his knee. The renegade Arab worker maneuvered the shovel into the bus once more, but that was to be his final act: Civilians and military personnel gunned down the terrorist before he could kill anyone.
Marci Rapp didn’t remember hearing the details of the story: “He really woke me out of a deep sleep, and he told me that he was in a pigua (terrorist attack) and that he was OK.” That was all she could understand in the fog of her exhaustion. “I couldn’t comprehend the rest, because of my tiredness.” Marci fell back asleep, too exhausted to continue worrying.
The Rapps are no strangers to terrorist attacks: Their daughter-in-law Sarit witnessed the Café Hillel bombing, as one of the last people to leave the restaurant before the deadly explosion occurred. Sarit had several friends injured in the attack. While the intifada raged and anxious parents overseas scrambled to rush their children out of Israel, Marci and Harold encouraged their children to stay.
Asked if the latest attack, occurring hours after their aliyah flight and injuring their son, has discouraged them, Marci replied with a resounding no: “We were among those parents that did not bring our sons home when they were here during the Second Intifada. We always felt a commitment that we hoped our children would make aliyah, and through them, perhaps that would get us there, and that’s exactly what happened.”
Reuniting the family was a longtime dream of the Rapps, and their first day as new olim marked the realization of that dream. “Aside from the bad things happening, for me it was just a blessing that we were here to support Gershy, and this was part of my dream that our family should be together, for good times and bad times.”
The aliyah of Harold and Marci Rapp marked the completion of a larger project, one that involved two families. “My husband's brother made aliyah around 25 years ago, and they have five boys, my children’s cousins, who’ve grown up here, and grew up not knowing each other… It was my dream to unite the two families; together we have a minyan [prayer quorum of 10 men]."
“That’s a product of - and this is what gets me very emotional -” she said as her voice faltered in mid-sentence, “that their father, Yaakov, was a sole survivor in the Holocaust, and he never made it to Israel. But one son made aliyah, and by producing this - by one son making aliyah and us joining him - we’ve got a minyan, and that was a big deal to me.”
Commenting on the Rapp’s “miraculous” day—their aliyah, followed by their son surviving a terrorist attack—Fleisher asked Marci why they had not reunited in another country, such as her native Canada. She answered that after coming back to Toronto from a “Ten Spies”-style reconnaissance of Israel in preparation for Aliyah, “all I could think of was 'white bread'. Toronto is… there is just no substance there, and there is no kedusha [holiness] there.... Toronto, New York, any place outside of Israel doesn’t have the kedusha that’s here. ”
“It’s just a different feeling”, Marci continued. “People [who] move here, [who] love it here, it doesn’t matter how hard they struggle, and how hard things get, they would never leave.
“There is just something that makes you feel that you belong here.”