Thursday, November 20, 2014

Har Nof Massacre I - Where was I When the Lights Went Out?

Most of you know that Tuesday was a dark day in the Jewish world. There was a horrific terror attack in Har Nof at Kehilat Bnei Torah. Four Korbanos Oleh (הי"ד) and another four Korbanos Shlomim (may they have a refuah shleima b’karov). And you can bet there will be many Korbanos Todah.
Kehilat Bnei Torah is located at Agassi 5 in Har Nof. I live at Agassi 8. The doorway of my apartment building is directly opposite the doorway of the shul.
Talk about this one hitting “close to home”.
Where was I?
My routine is to leave the house to daven a little before 7:00 am. Most mornings I go straight to shul. That would typically be Kehilat Bnei Torah for the second minyan – 7:00. I am usually a bit ahead of 7:00. That would put me inside the building before all the action. However, once or twice a week, aside from Fridays, I go to the mikva first. I still leave the house about 7:00 but I go to one of the shuls that have a mikva and wind up davening around 7:30. There’s no rule for this, it could be any weekday morning – and so it was on Black Tuesday.
And so, now it is about 7:00 on Tuesday morning and I have reached the doorway of our building with the intention to go to Imrei Shefer on foot. But there in the lobby I meet Meir, a 12 year live-wire kind of kid from the ground floor. He is screaming that there is a piguah (attack) right here on the street. As I peer out the doorway I see the front end of the carnage. There, outside the shul, under the pashkevillim is sitting R’ Shmuel Yerucham ben Baila, in his tallis and tefillin. The top half of his shirt was saturated in blood. Dr. Heshing and a few others were attending to him. Dr. Heshing did not notice that he himself was wounded until two hours later. The emergency services and SWAT team were just beginning to arrive.
Although according to all accounts there were gunshots going off at the time, somehow I was oblivious to them. I merely made a mental assessment of the situation and determined that young Meir was not exaggerating.  I knew that I had nothing of substance to contribute to the situation and I certainly did not want to be on the donor list. While hopeful that I was looking at the sole casualty, I could wait for later  to find out what really happened. There was no point for me to stick around.
So I made a quick adjustment and decided that instead of going to Imrei Shefer on foot, it would be better to go to Vizhnitz by car. I hopped into the car, picked up an eager neighbor, and off I went.  
After I reached the shul, parked and finally entered the foyer to the mikva, it dawned on me that my wife was not updated on my plans and it would be a good idea to call her and let her know that I am outside of the battle zone. It took me a number of minutes to find somebody with a cell phone (I don’t bring mine to shul in the morning) so by the time I called it was more than 10 minutes since I left. They must have been the hardest 10 minutes she ever went through but, when my call finally came, it was a geulah.  She did not tell me in that short conversation that she and half the kids were watching out the kitchen window to see the tail end of the event. The part where the two Arab reptiles tried to bolt from the shul and were gunned down on the front steps.
Back at Vizhnitz, I carried on with a normal routine of “mikva-ing” and then preparing to daven. Casualty reports were flying around which consisted of numbers (often conflicting) but not yet any names. Needless to say, I was gravely concerned about my peers back at Kehillat Bnei Torah, but on a personal note there was no need to worry about my immediate family. None of the younger kids need to leave the house before 8:00, two older boys are away in Yeshiva and my 16 year old is never in a hurry to get out of bed. All cool.
Birchas hashachar, korbanos, Boruch She’amar…wait a minute… Just a second…oh, my goodness…
Yaakov, my oldest son, still lives at home. He is in school two days a week and works in Ramat Gan two days a week – Mondays and Tuesdays. On work days he needs to be up and out bright and early and prefers the convenient early minyan at Kehilat Bnei Torah. Was he there?
I frantically searched out another cell phone and called home. Good news. He hadn't left the house.

Yaakov had set his alarm clock to dutifully attend the early minyan but he wasn’t fully devoted. He decided to snooze it out till the second minyan. As he was getting dressed he heard the gunshots loud and clear. His bedroom window (just above the kitchen window) directly overlooks the shul. One look was all he needed to catch on that the 7:00 minyan wasn’t a good idea either. He scooted downstairs and alerted my wife that a piguah is in progress and asked her if she knew where I am. Hence the frantic ten minutes until I called the first time.
Our phone didn’t stop ringing until way after the bullets did. Thank G-d, we were fortunate enough to reassure those who called that we are OK. Not every family could say the same.

I might have been there and my Yaakov had planned to be there. This was "close to home". Very close!

I do have some good news to report. In my previous post from three months back I noted that three of my children are involved in shidduchim. Well, one of the three (the female one) is engaged and scheduled to get married within a month, IY”H. The bad news is that ,with an anguished heart, we have had to scratch a few names off of our invitation list. Another two names we thankfully don’t need to scratch off, but still we won’t be expecting them.
We pray that, b’ezras Hashem, our daughter’s upcoming wedding will proceed as scheduled and be a joyous event. Yet, we will have to grieve for several empty seats. 

ומחה ה' דמעה מעל כל פנים.

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