I’m back in Israel, it’s only been a week, and we’ve already had two near misses with terrorist attacks, and one sublime experience with emergency health care in Jerusalem.
First, the less important, the near misses.
The first happened on Shabbat, fifteen minutes after my 20-year-old daughter passed through the Jaffa Gate and into the Old City to attend the bar mitzvah of the child of a friend. An Arab was following a group of tourists. Israeli police officers noticed something suspicious, and called to the Arab to approach them. He did, but pulled a knife as he did so. The officers fired, the man with the knife went down, but got up again, knife still drawn. This time when the officers fired at him, the terrorist stayed down. He was dead.
The second happened Sunday morning, just behind the Central Jerusalem Bus Station (the Takhana). An Arab terrorist stabbed a 21 year-old Israeli soldier. Two hours earlier, my husband dropped off our son, an IDF soldier, at the front of the Takhana, so he could return to his base.
And now the heart-warming story, the one that melts the fears and reveals why we feel so at home, so right, in Israel, even during this period of increased terrorism.
The morning after we arrived in Israel a phone alarm went off in what seemed like the middle of the night – it was pitch black. My husband, “J,” stumbled down the unfamiliar stairs of the apartment we rented, and turned off the alarm. Just after he returned to bed, another alarm rang. This time, after he turned off the alarm, J went to go up the stairs but missed by a few feet and, instead, tumbled down the wrong staircase.
J landed in a tangle at the bottom of the sharp, stone steps. In a pool of blood. There was a lot of blood. Luckily, it was still pitch dark so it didn’t register how much blood there was. Either that, or we were both in shock. By the time the sun came up, however, it was clear the wound would require stitches to remain closed.
J first went to the local clinic, where he was immediately told he had to go to the hospital – they weren’t prepared for such a serious injury. And so J took a taxi to Sha’arei Tzedek hospital, a fifteen minute drive away.
The wound was a gaping, bloody one just below J’s knee. It had to be attended to, J was told, by an orthopedic surgeon. But because it was a clean cut from a sharp stone edge and not, for example, a machete, and because he was conscious and lucid, J remained for hours at the back of the ever-growing Emergency Room line. This was good for two reasons. One, it meant he had to remain in a seated (or prone) position for hours, which helped the healing process. And two, it allowed him a glimpse into an aspect of Jerusalem that he otherwise would never see, and one that is rarely shared publicly.
First observation: the Red Crescent ambulances arrive in exactly the same fashion as do the Magen David ambulances, and the medics and patients from the first set of ambulances are treated exactly the same as are the ones from the second set.
Second observation: Arabic and Hebrew are heard (as is Russian, French and several other undistinguishable but wholly separate languages) as part of the general din of pain and succor, wailing and comfort.
A young sad-looking Arab boy sat with his mother and father; they were attended to by Arabic speaking health professionals. The same with English speakers in the room.