‘We held the phone as if frozen’

Jerusalem Post - - COMMENT & FEATURES - • By ANONY­MOUS

The fol­low­ing is an ex­cerpt from the diary of a ZAKA vol­un­teer who was at the scene of Sun­day’s ter­ror­ist at­tack in Jerusalem

The bot­tom line is that we are ZAKA vol­un­teers. We have the ca­pac­ity to deal with dif­fi­cult scenes. We are ac­cus­tomed to the dif­fi­cult ex­pe­ri­ence of han­dling the dead and the mur­dered. We deeply ab­sorb the grief and the pain. We take in the tragedy in which we find our­selves. We feel the crazy hor­ror around us. We live the “hesed” or virtue of han­dling fa­tal­i­ties.

In the past three years, we found our­selves at count­less ter­ror­ist at­tacks. The ground is burn­ing. Blood is spilled. Stab­bings and car ram­ming in­ci­dents in ev­ery cor­ner of Jerusalem. An­other vic­tim stabbed, an­other woman mur­dered, an­other body, an­other pool of blood. We un­der­stand that this is our rou­tine, it’s our life, re­al­ity ex­plodes in our face once again, ev­ery at­tack brings bad news and tragedy.

We will al­ways be there to “save those who can be saved and honor those who can­not be.”

I have never writ­ten a post in which I un­load my feel­ings, shar­ing on so­cial me­dia, with all that im­plies, what ZAKA vol­un­teers go through while han­dling the bod­ies of the mur­dered at at­tack af­ter at­tack. And all this along­side the scenes of rou­tine traf­fic ac­ci­dents, mur­ders, sui­cides, fires and a large num­ber of other ap­pear­ances of the an­gel of death that re­quire our as­sis­tance.

The at­tack at Ar­mon Hanatziv took from me what no other cruel at­tack has been able to – not the four mur­dered in the Har Nof at­tack, not the shoot­ing at Da­m­as­cus Gate where an Is­raeli Border Po­lice of­fi­cer was killed, and not the dozens of other ter­ror­ist in­ci­dents which have be­come rou­tine, in­ci­dents where we are beaten with­out end with the wounded and the dead.

I was at a work meet­ing when I heard the re­port over the ZAKA ra­dio. The dis­patch­ing of vol­un­teers to the scene. In those ini­tial mo­ments I made the cal­cu­la­tion that I was not the clos­est to the scene, and that it was surely just an­other “rou­tine” stab­bing or car ram­ming, with two or three ca­su­al­ties and the ter­ror­ist neu­tral­ized. For what­ever rea­son, I did not re­act im­me­di­ately.

Half a sig­nif­i­cant minute passes. An­other re­port came over the ra­dio: “Mass ca­su­alty in­ci­dent! Mass ca­su­alty in­ci­dent! Mass ca­su­alty in­ci­dent in the Ar­mon Hanatziv area!”

I grabbed my equip­ment, put on my ZAKA jacket and raced to­ward a dif­fi­cult and bloody scene for the umpteenth time.

I ar­rived on the scene as the last of the wounded was be­ing evac­u­ated by am­bu­lance, with a bro­ken leg and cry­ing hys­ter­i­cally. There were no wounded re­main­ing on the ground.

The chaos sub­sided, emer­gency forces started to leave the scene and we were left with the si­lence of death. On the green grass, with the golden rays of sun on a win­ter’s day, four bod­ies lay scat­tered around the wheels of the truck, their holy blood seep­ing into the ground.

Four young peo­ple whose lives were cut short. Four more bro­ken fam­i­lies. Four mur­dered, holy and pure. Four worlds that were once full of life.

I scanned the scene and as­sessed what had to be done, the holy work of hesed shel emet (true kind­ness), thread­ing be­tween med­i­cal equip­ment and the vic­tims’ per­sonal be­long­ings. We di­vided into teams and started to work.

I was work­ing along­side a close friend. To­gether we had at­tended count­less grim scenes, but noth­ing pre­pared us for what hap­pened next. As we as­sisted the foren­sics of­fi­cer and army rep­re­sen­ta­tive in iden­ti­fy­ing the body of a young of­fi­cer, we heard the vic­tim’s phone ring. On the screen are words: Dad is call­ing... Dad is call­ing... Dad is call­ing... Dad is call­ing ....

We held the phone as if frozen. We four have a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence in han­dling dis­as­ters, but we fail to func­tion.

Dear pure and holy one, heaven-bound, your fa­ther is look­ing for you, call­ing end­lessly. He still does not know that your Fa­ther in heaven has ac­cepted you with a lov­ing em­brace.

May your mem­ory be blessed.

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