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In August 2011, the Shitrit family, Eliyahu and Aviva and their teenaged daughters, Adael and Shilat, from Netivot in southern Israel, had just waved goodbye to their grandmother in neighboring Beersheva where they had spent Shabbat. The quiet day, a change from the fear of the regular missile attacks in Netivot that left residents with between ten and fifteen seconds to reach a shelter, had been enjoyed by all. “Turn back, Abba,” said one of the girls, “I forgot something.” Eliyahu turned back into Arthur Rupin Street as the siren warning of a missile attack sounded.



When the Missile Fell

This past July, OneFamily invited a group of 400 victims of terror from southern Israel to Tiberias to enjoy a two-day respite of rest, excursions, entertainment and one-on-one meetings with a psychologist. Seated in the quiet lounge of the Bali Hotel, high above the shimmering waters of the Kinneret, the Shitrit family takes a journey back in time to that fateful night in August.

“As soon as my father stopped the car, we threw ourselves onto the ground next to a wall,” recalls Shilat, today twenty years old, twisting her long black ponytail. “My mother lay on top of me, covering almost all of my body with hers. I heard her yelling at a young boy to lie down. I heard Adael screaming hysterically, “I’m going to die!” Keeping my hands on my head, I looked up to see four or five balls of fire exploding in the sky. Missiles from the Iron Dome had intercepted the missiles shot from Gaza. The impact of the sound waves hit me and I jolted forward. It was like a movie. My mother screamed Shema Yisrael.Flames of fire three stories high raged over our car. We jumped up and began running.”

Aviva Shitrit
Aviva Shitrit

Somehow, mother and daughter darted across two main streets in a frenzied run. “I told Shilat to help me pull off the pants under my skirt because my clothing was on fire,” says Aviva. “That was when I saw two holes in my legs.” Passersby tried to call for help, but, as happens in these situations, all the lines were busy. Then, within a few moments, Aviva was put into an ambulance and two tourniquets were applied to her legs. “I didn’t realize that Shilat had been hit by two pieces of shrapnel, so I asked her to run back and check on the rest of the family,” Aviva continues. Then she adds with a tight laugh, “I also told her to look for my brand new shoe which had fallen off as we ran away. Then I realized how terribly thirsty I was.”

Shilat ran back towards the car, where she saw her father being carried to an ambulance. It was only much later that she found out what had happened. The boy her mother had yelled at to lie down had been hit by shrapnel between the eyes and killed. Another boy had lost a leg. When Adael had been screaming and trying to run away, Eliyahu had caught her. Both were injured by the falling shrapnel – Eliyahu’s left hand, back, and leg. When the medics arrived, Adael was lying with her head on her father’s lap. Luckily, the blood from Eliyahu’s hand had dripped onto her head making it look like she had suffered a head injury – she was therefore among the first to be evacuated. In fact, Adael hadn’t suffered a head injury; the shrapnel had severed the main artery in her leg and unbeknownst to the medics, she was bleeding to death.


Brought Back to Life

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Rhona Lewis made aliyah more than 20 years ago from Kenya and is now living in Beit Shemesh. A writer and journalist who contributes frequently to The Jewish Press’s Olam Yehudi magazine, she divides her time between her family and her work.