Far From Home – Too Close to Home

by Jonathan Feldstein

Last Wednesday, my family’s WhatsApp group was buzzing. Daughter #1, away in college, heard news of a terrorist attack near our home. Knowing it’s where we go grocery shoping, she wrote:

Did something just happen at the grocery store? Everyone OK?”

Daughter #3 wrote, “What! Something happened at the store?”

Daughter #1, “I just heard that there was… nobody’s there, right?”

Daughter #4, “No

Daughter #2, “Where did you hear that?”

Daughter #1, “on the internet””

Daughter #4 – posted the article from the internet.

Indeed. Something bad had happened.

Of course Dad #1 was away, far away from home. In fact, several thousand miles away. Between TV interviews and a presentation to Christian business and civic leaders trying to explain the situation, my family was feeling fear, and I was feeling guilt at not being home.

Shortly afterwards, we all learned that it was our neighbor Yaelle who was not only a witness to the incident, but played a heroic role. Later that day, she shared her thoughts.

Today was a day I will never forget. Wednesday is always (shopping) day. I left at my usual time and did my usual shopping. With all that’s going on, I took one of my kids with me to look around the parking lot while I packed the car. As I pulled out of the parking lot, my daughter asked if I was scared to go to the grocery store. I said, “No”. A minute later my life was changed forever.

A woman was walking in front of my car. She was carrying many bags. Suddenly, from the corner of my eye I saw a man with a brown coat running to her. He raised his hand and stabbed her in the back. I immediately honked my horn and screamed to my daughter what was happening. We both started screaming hysterically. As soon as I started honking, the terrorist ran.

 I got out of the car and started screaming for help. I ran to the woman who was on the ground. I told her, “It’s ok. You are going to be ok.” She stood up but I saw she was weak. I held her and all of a sudden I saw soldiers running with their guns and the shooting started. I brought her to my car and told her to sit. There was blood all over my hand. My daughter ran to the bakery and was hysterical. She was surrounded by amazing women who wanted to help. Thank God, my neighbor, who is a doctor, was in the area. He heard me scream and ran to see what was going on. I needed to go and see if my daughter was ok and I asked my neighbor to stay with the woman while I go to my daughter.

 I was still hysterical at this point. Crying. Shaking. Amazing women helped me and my daughter, Someone called my husband who got a ride and was by our side in no time. I was questioned by the secret service, police, and the army. I felt like I was in a movie. How could this ever happen to me? My daughter was in trauma and she was taken to the hospital. I was still being held for questioning. They told me that the woman was ok and that she was being taken to the hospital.

 After going home and seeing my family briefly, I went to the hospital to check on my daughter. They were keeping her overnight for observation and counseling.

 I was also able to meet the husband, son and other family members of the woman who was stabbed, Nirit. They told me she was recovering from the surgery and doing well. They asked me to tell them the story and were so thankful that I was there.

 A few hours later I received a call from Nirit. She said she was doing well and kept thanking me. What could I say? You’re welcome doesn’t cut it. I just kept telling her that I was glad she was ok.

 All I know is that God puts us exactly where we are supposed to be. This is where I was supposed to be, with my daughter. It played out exactly the way it was supposed to. Even though I was scared, traumatized and freaked out, my faith is as strong as ever. I still love my country and would never change it. I’m so grateful for all my family and friends that were there and offered to help.

 Thank you, God, for all the greatness around me.”

Traveling away from home is hard for anyone who strives to be an active parent. Traveling away from our home in Israel is even more difficult. Israel is a place that’s not home by chance of birth or a career move, but rather it is a birthright. Being away from Israel during times of distress is, ironically, even more distressing.

My saving grace is that everywhere I went and among all the people with whom I met, comfort, support and prayers were abundant. This included from several formal events as well as more random or “chance” meeting with Peter at the United lounge in Chicago, and receiving a call from Pastor Wade who invited me to share an update by phone with his entire church during last Sunday’s worship. Our website, www.savinglivesinisrael.org was particularly active with people sending financial support to provide resources to save lives throughout Israel, and with people sending prayers for Israel’s life savers who put their lives in harm’s way to help others.

Sharing “mundane” things such as Daughter #4 being scared to go to the mall with a friend for her birthday, Son #2 having his basketball game canceled because the other team couldn’t make it because of Arab rock throwing on the road, and Son #1 attending a preparatory army program for high school boys in his grade, added a real perspective to the limited and often superficial media reports.

In packing to come home, reports of another attack involving another friend and neighbor not only witnessing, but becoming a stabbing victim. Thank God, she’ll be OK. Her husband praised the immediate EMS response as part of that.

Yet, amid the violence, the terrorism, and the fear, we are resolved and resilient. Life goes on. And, as Yaelle noted, we put our trust in God and are thankful for all the greatness and blessings around us.

Reprinted with permission of the author.  Jonathan Feldstein was born and educated in the U.S. and immigrated to Israel in 2004. He is married and the father of six. Throughout his life and career, he has been blessed by the calling to fellowship with Christian supporters of Israel and shares experiences of living as an Orthodox Jew in Israel. He writes a regular column for Charisma magazine’s Standing With Israel. You can contact Jonathan at firstpersonisrael@gmail.com.