Jeff Seidel

I’ve Experienced Terrorism. I Remember.

In 2004, I experienced a brush with terrorism and my closest encounter with death. I haven’t told many, but the aftermath lives with me unto today. Everyday.

As I still live with this pain, I cannot even imagine the pain that still resides with those who actually lost their loved ones, whose service and bravery in the Israel Defense Forces culminated while protecting others from terror. I cannot imagine the pain that they must face, especially this year, when they are effectively barred by corona-virus measures from visiting and seeking closure at their beloved ones’ graves.

Yom HaZikaron makes me appreciate the bravery of the IDF that saved me that day, but also causes me to reflect on the unimaginable pain of those who lost their loved ones in the service of the IDF.

But before I share my story, I would just like to thank the IDF in its entirety. I would like to thank our soldiers for manning the hills of Judea and the Golan, for patrolling our coasts, and for guarding our most hostile borders at all hours of the day and seasons of the year. I would like to thank them for their efforts to protect us from all threats, including most-recently, the corona virus. I would like to thank our young men and women for your toil and exemplary conduct that you manifest during your near three and two-and-a-half years of service, respectively.

Without your devotion, this miracle and God’s blessing of the State of Israel might otherwise just remain an unfulfilled and enduring dream.

I have personal testimony for which I hope to thank you. You may have saved my life.

It was December 2004 when I was attacked — a vulnerable time. We had just lost a dear friend to cancer and I was driving several passengers to the Mount of Olives cemetery for the funeral. Like the beginning of all too many horror stories, we took a wrong turn. We ended-up in bumper-to-bumper traffic in East Jerusalem.

All of a sudden, our car was ambushed by cinder blocks and a dozen assailants. Truth is, when you’re attacked, you remember very little. You are just so preoccupied with survival.

What I do remember — assailants kicking my car, throwing cinder blocks that they had previously prepared, smashing my windows in the process. I could have sworn they were going to pull us out of the car, and beat us to death. Nobody came to our aid.

The attack was premeditated, and we were the target. We were targeted for no reason other than the fact that we were Jewish.

We didn’t make it to the funeral that day, and frankly we were lucky to make it out alive. The other lane suddenly opened, and we drove down the wrong-way road as quickly as we could. We sought shelter in a nearby hospital parking lot. We were refused entry by some bystander, who in light of what was going on, decided to aid and abet the attackers. He blocked the passage, refusing us entry and a much-needed safe-haven.

With nowhere else to go, we drove to a nearby IDF base. The base seemed the only safe-haven in sight. And as always, when we needed the IDF most, it was there. The soldiers were the only ones to protect us at the time when we needed them most, just as they had always been. Like guardian angels. They welcomed us onto the base and asked who was responsible, unwaveringly preparing to hunt-down the terrorists.

Truth is, I was so startled and I couldn’t exactly remember who attacked. Fear also deterred me from wanting to return to the Mount of Olives to help the IDF pursue the terrorists.

I hate to say this, but I still live with the trauma unto today. I very often jump when somebody enters my office unannounced, convinced that he could be the next terrorist. I don’t go back to Mount of Olives without the escort and assurance of a bulletproof van.

My encounter was close, and two days after my attack, I remember reading the news about a woman who was firebombed, an incident that has only compounded my fears.

Yom HaZikaron is a time to seriously reflect on what could have been much worse. I was saved, B”H.

Most importantly, it’s a time to reflect on the bravery of our IDF soldiers, who stood at my protection at the time when my cry for help was greatest, but when few listened.

We should remember and appreciate our soldiers everyday. And unfortunately, we don’t. We need a day like today to remind us to never take the IDF and the security it provides for granted.

I would just like to thank the IDF and its soldiers’ families for their inconceivable sacrifices. I offer my sincerest condolences to those who have lost their loved ones in the line of action. Even with my past, I cannot imagine the bravery and pain that you and your loved ones have endured.

May the memories of our beloved soldiers and their families be a blessing. And thank you to all of our soldiers who bravely serve and make the dream of Israel a reality. Am Yisrael Chai.

About the Author
Since 1982, Jeff Seidel has introduced thousands of Jewish college students to their first Shabbat experience as well as offered free tours and classes through his Jewish Student Centers at Hebrew U in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv University, Ben-Gurion University in Beersheba, and IDC in Herzliya. He has lived in Jerusalem’s Old City for over thirty years and connected tens of thousands to the Land of Israel. He has also authored “The Jewish Traveler's Resource Guide,” which lists Shabbat placement programs around the world.
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