Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Driving Past a Terrorist

I was in Israel at the height of the intifada in 2001-2003, arriving just after the infamous Sbarros' massacre and leaving with a gas mask I'd recently been made to acquire.

While I was there, I was sometimes close, but never too close (thank God) to a few terror attacks. On one occasion, while driving on the highway to Neve Ya'akov, I was looking down into my bag for a moment when I heard a loud POP! I looked up as the car swerved slightly, thinking that we may have blown a tire; the driver looked concerned as well, but he was looking ahead at a cloud of smoke coming from below the bridge we were about to go over. We learned minutes later that a terrorist had blown himself up next to a bus just ahead of us, below the bridge. Thankfully, nobody was hurt in that attack.

But that experience doesn't compare with the e-mail I just received from a volunteer Hatzoloh member in Israel whom I was just speaking with a couple of days ago. I asked the person to post the story, and received permission to do so with certain parts redacted. It is worth reading just so one understands the life one lives when living near a terrorist population:
Went through our machsom/checkpoint at 7:20 PM on my way home. About 2 minutes my Hatzala radio starts screaming that there's a shooting attack with victims in [place1] (they meant the road above [place1]) about 7 minutes away from me. I replied into the radio that I was on my way, put on my flashing orange rotating light, and stomped on the accelerator.... Zoomed through [Arab village1] -- a small village on the main road, and at the top of the hill, and the Hatzala radio was full of activity - everyone responding who was where, who was on their way...the bulletproof ambulance was already leaving our yishuv.

I'm driving about 70 Mph now, now on the [road1] bypass road. Suddenly the radio yells out "Correction - the attack was at [road1 junction]" I was exactly 20 seconds from [road1 junction]. I spoke into the radio that I was almost there at [road1 junction], and the ambulance asked me for an initial report as soon as I get there.

Everyone starts asking where is it, where's the car that's been shot? Heart racing, I'm mentally preparing myself -- and I get a beeper from the IDF: "2 masked terrorists shot at an Israeli car near [junction1] in a drive by shooting...more details as they become available." I start slowing down, the first car at the scene...and there's no cars there. The Police are coming at me from the opposite direction also slowing down, and we start looking...

I keep driving East, and give a report that there isn't any car anywhere on the side of the road from the Macshom all the way to [road1 junction]. The bulletproof ambulance and 3 other Hatzala volunteers fly past -- flashing their headlights at me, that they've seen me... I get the next a U-turn and drive back in the direction I came. All the while everyone is trying to figure out where the car is.

MDA calls me up -- are you sure you didn't see them, and I'm positive I didn't. I stop at [road1 junction] and ask the soldiers...they report that they heard the shots, and the terrorist's car drove west. What that that I drove right past the terrorist's car while answering this call.

The terrorists must have gotten into [Palestinian town1]. An Israeli truck was shot at pretty badly, but remarkably, there were no injuries at all. Apparently, the truck has driven past me as well but didn't signal that anything was wrong. Baruch Hashem - no one was hurt. But my road is getting a heck of a lot scarier.
Thank God everyone is all right. Imagine: Passing by a terrorist who just tried to kill someone while on the way to save that someone from that terrorist. Insane. The West Bank is not a war zone - far from it. But stories like this are a reminder of the constant threat those who sacrifice to live there must face - much as those in Jerusalem, Netanya, Sderot, or Tel Aviv must be concerned as well. It's not something we can truly relate to, and they deserve all our respect for the sacrifices they make to live in our land.