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 one."


"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 number two."


"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 the explosions.


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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