From the relative comfort of my American home, I am still thinking of a night in April of 2003, some eleven weeks after I made aliyah to Tel Aviv. I cannot say that the events of this night had any lifelong effect on my attitudes or opinions about anti-Semitism; in point of fact, my beliefs only solidified afterwards.
Having been drawn to the blues scene of my childhood home outside Washington, D.C. from a very early age, I was very particular about the kind of music I preferred to hear live. Before I made it official, I had visited a bar in Tel Aviv which promised “Blues on the Beach” located on the Tayelet. I was skeptical about their claim, but their music turned out to be solid and inspired. The mix of “Anglos” who frequented the place became my immediate and fast friends after I had made my aliyah official. There are blues societies throughout the world, and I was thankful I would not have to live without, even in a place so far removed from the South Side of Chicago.
What happened on the night of April 30th that year shall permanently be part of who I am today. I have suffered “survivor’s guilt” ever since the night two British subjects tried to enter the bar and blow it and its inhabitants up. I was supposed to be in my usual place at the bar as “Canadian Dave” poured my first of two Bombay and tonic drinks. A very funny man, Yanai Weiss, was entertaining the barhoppers and the very sweet waitress, Dominique, was serving drinks. A third man, Ran, was enjoying the vibes.
I was home, however, speaking with a friend in Switzerland and by the time we were finished, it was too late to go out, so I went to bed. I was called at 1:30 AM by my friend Tal who was trying to find out if I was ok? And that is when I heard the helicopters for the first time. To this day, I cannot hear choppers without thinking of this night. Israel’s police use them during manhunts. They were attempting to find the second of the two bombers who had escaped when his bomb had thankfully not functioned properly. Avi Tabib, the bar’s security guard, jumped on the single bomber and they struggled on the ground as the bomber detonated his bomb. Miraculously, Avi survived. Thankfully, the bomber did not fare as well. I had visited school friends injured in car accidents before, but I was not prepared for the sight of Avi in his hospital bed.
In many ways, we Jews do not need constant reminders of our infallibility via attacks on us personally in order to know who and what we are. We are all survivors, every last one of us. We are one of history’s most resilient groups of human beings in earth’s short history. We have weathered murder on a massive scale, banishment from our homes, vicious attacks on our property and lives and other assorted mayhem for thousands of years. Entering a shul or temple and turning it into a shooting gallery will not remove us from our collective destiny any more than a bombing of a school, bar or mall would. Anyone who doubts we can survive in the future is sorely misinformed. Although I did not have to make aliyah in order to grasp this facet of our existence, one look at a charred picnic table or a friend studded with shrapnel injuries courtesy of a suicide bomber was sufficient.
Yanai, Dominique and Ran, z’’l.