Miracle on Ben Yehudah Street
By Moshe Burt
Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel, 11 December, 2001.
When the Arab Suicide bombers set themselves off in twin explosions
on Saturday night, 1 December, 2001 at the pedestrian outdoor mall (midrachov)
on Ben-Yehuda Street,
they killed themselves and 14 others and injured some 180 plus people.
But for a few minutes time difference, the number of deaths and injuries
attack might have been far worse, in fact catastrophic in dimension.
Each Motzi Shabbat, members of the Ramat Beit Shemesh Carlebach
Minnion assemble on the Midrachov on Ben Yehudah Street for Havdalah to say
farewell to Shabbat followed by dancing and singing.
On this Motzi Shabbat, the "Havdalah Band" played and the
Carlebach people sang and danced directly in front of the Rimon Restaurant.
The group was joined by hundreds of people out for an evening
of strolling, enjoyment and the Ben Yehudah nightlife on the Midrachov.
I spoke to Bobby and Sharon Rosenberg, founders of the Ramat Beit
Shemesh Carlebach Minnion, and their son Nachman who organized the weekly
post-Shabbat festivities. The
Rosenbergs had spent the Shabbat in Jerusalem with their newly-wed son Nachman,
who sings and plays guitar with the band, and his wife Sharona.
Also, I have quoted from an email which Nachman Rosenberg wrote a
week later in which he describes the scene at the time of the bombing.
Nachman gave the following account of events on Saturday night, 1
December. "For almost a year
now, we have doing Havdalah on Ben-Yehudah, practically every Saturday night. It
has gained a lot of popularity and is almost an integral part of the Ben-Yehuda
Saturday nightlife. One can find virtually every type of Jew; Ultra-Orthodox
Hassidim, Modern Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Ashkenazim, Sephardim, Men,
Women and children all joined in song, dance, love for the Land of Israel and
for each other. Virtual reality."
"Havdalah started at about 9:00 p.m. and as usual the center
plaza of Ben-Yehudah Street was gradually transformed into a pseudo Simchat
Torah/Yom Ha'atzmaut celebration. We
make a great effort to cooperate with all the surrounding storeowners and we
receive much support from them. We
receive Havdalah candles from the souvenir shop, chairs from Fro-yo or Blue's
Brothers, spice from the Smoke Shop, wine and electricity from Cafe' Rimon and
finally extra security from Mishmar Hag'vul, everyone contributes."
"At about 10:30, Rivka Rimon, the owner of Cafe' Rimon,
noticed that her customers were disturbed by our loud music and decided to
complain to the police. The police
told her to check to see if we were using a sound system and that if we were,
then they would come to shut us down. Rivka
was then notified by her manager that we happen to have a wonderful relationship
with their establishment and that we even were permitted to be using their
electricity for our sound system. So,
for the first time ever, Rivka Rimon herself came all the way up to me while I
was singing and asked me to please lower the volume.
I apologized and immediately complied with her requests, but nonetheless
thought that this was a bit out of the ordinary."
"Our people don't dance wildly for three hours straight.
We try to accommodate the pace of the music with mood and strength of the
crowd. At about 11:00 p.m., the
crowd started getting a "second wind" and things started to liven up
once again. In the middle of
a song, while I'm singing into the mike, a young teenage girl walks right behind
me and quietly says into my ear " I live upstairs and the music is too
loud, you can continue singing, but please don't use the speakers".
I told her that it's fine and that I'll be happy to stop and that we are
going to finish up. Miracle number
"So at about 11:30 p.m., we stopped and started packing up all
the equipment. As usual, we spent the next twenty five minutes walking back and
forth across the Ben-Yehuda plaza carrying speakers, wires, drums etc. down the
block (Luntz st.) to the corner of Shamai St. where a van was going to drive
performers Mr David-Caro and his son back to Beit Shemesh."
Once all of the instruments were moved, Nachman and his wife sat down with another young couple in
the Ma'afeh Tzarfati Cafe' which is directly accross the midrachov from the
Cafe' Rimon. While visiting with
the other couple, Nachman said that he was concerned about David-Caro waiting
for the van alone.
Nachman stated that "we felt bad that Mr David-Caro was
waiting by himself and I wanted to see how he is doing and if his cab is on the
way. I left the Cafe' and crossed the street back towards Ben-Yehudah and asked
Mr. David-Caro when his ride is showing up. He told me that he was waiting for
the driver to call him."
Nachman continued, "Right as I turned away from him to return
to my wife in the Cafe', I heard and felt absolutely the loudest blasts I have
ever heard in my life. Within
milliseconds that felt like hours, I realized that this must be a terrorist
bombing and that everyone's worst nightmare had just become a reality. I later
discovered that one suicide bomber had blown himself up some thirty-five meters
from exact spot where our Havdalah crowd was dancing only half an hour ago. I
also discovered that as I was checking on Mr. David-Caro, I
had been miraculously saved from the blast itself, since most of the blast and
shrapnel had gone in the opposite direction wounding innocent people all around
on the other side of the street. Miracle
"I instantly ran to my wife in the Cafe', where I found her
and our friends ducking under a table surrounded by screaming and shrieking
patrons. I quickly grabbed my wife and told our friends to follow me out through
the back of the Cafe. We avoid
running in the main streets, since there may be other bombs waiting to be
detonated. We jumped over the back wall and cut through alleyways until we
finally reached a remote garden in the middle of Hillel Street. We overcame the
natural urge to run either home, or anywhere else, since we were still afraid of
additional bombs. Our fears came true when the sound of the third explosion
echoed through the center of town. People were stricken with fear, not knowing
where to run anymore and not knowing what to expect. We continued to wait there until panicking police officers
told us to leave the area since there may be yet another terrorist on the loose.
With no choice, we quickly crossed the street and cut through a cemetery
till we reached the Hilton hotel where we waited till 2:30 in the morning when
we felt it was safe to take a taxi home."
When speaking to the Rosenbergs early on Sunday morning, I was told
that their son was sleeping off the effects and that their daughter-in-law was
currently mentally anguished from having been at point zero only minutes before
Bobby Rosenberg told me that on Sunday afternoon, the family,
including their young children, journeyed back to Jerusalem to visit their son
and daughter-in-law and to see to their condition. They all went back to the Ben-Yehuda midrachov, to the spot
where the bombings took place. They
felt that it was important to return to the scene, both for their collective
mental state and to show no fear or weakness in wake of the attack perpetrated
by such depraved, sub-human beings. They
sought, in their own way, to show the murderous Arafat and his crew and the
world that Jews do not cower before murderers.
On subsequent Saturday evenings, although I'm told that traffic on
the Midrachov has been sparse, the Rosenbergs tell me that the Carlebach group
has continued it's Havdalah ritual and hundreds have continued to join in.
Bobby Rosenberg told me that this past Motzi Shabbat, the teenager, who
had two weeks earlier asked Nachman Rosenberg to turn the speakers off, ran up
to the "Havdalah Band" and embraced them in an emotional reunion.
The Rosenbergs, the Carlebach Havdalah people and their followers are
stating to the world that "Eretz Yisroel is Our Land, Jerusalem is our
heart and we will NOT live in fear."
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