Earlier today, I was alerted to a terror attack in Jerusalem in which a 19 year old Palestinian rammed a tractor repeatedly into a bus until it was knocked over. He had apparently already run over or attacked a 30 year old man who later died at the scene. A policeman was there, shot in the air and then screamed for the Palestinian to stop. Instead, the terrorist began swinging the tractor towards the policeman to attack him. The policeman was able to fire his gun again and kill the terrorist.
Elie and I were in my office today and quickly recognized the location. It's a five minute train ride away, just down the street from where I pass almost daily. Expecting there to be traffic delays, we left the office early, caught a train and passed the scene of the attack. There were hundreds of people still there, police and emergency vehicles parked everywhere. Traffic in one direction had been stopped completely; it was jammed solid going in the other direction. The train slowed as it passed and everyone looked at the scene.
We waited for a few minutes for Amira to meet us; she had caught a later train and we decided we'd go home together. I suggested an alternate route, fearing that the area was still overly congested because of the terror attack.
Elie was driving. He looked to the left and said that he thought it was clear, so we went the normal way home.
We drove down past the national police headquarters, made a left and then at the traffic light, as we always do, we made a right. We went down the block, driving in the left lane. We continued straight - Hebrew University and Hadassah Hospital on our left; a predominantly Arab neighborhood on our right.
We passed the last bus stop in Jerusalem - a short distance from the Naomi Shemer tunnel that was built a few years ago. At the bus stop, I saw a few people standing. I always look to see if there is someone that I know. I didn't know anyone, but I did see a young soldier. I didn't recognize him, though I thought he was probably on his way home - to the same city where I live.
I thought to suggest to Elie to pull over to the right lane and offer the soldier a ride. This is against regulation; he could be in serious trouble if the military police saw him take a ride. Since we were in the left lane and traffic was moving quickly, it was probably too short a distance to get over fast enough.
I don't know what else went through my mind. I can picture the young soldier standing there; I know that he didn't have a weapon with him. I know that I never voiced my idea to pull over, and I know that he was shot in the stomach a few short minutes later.
He is in the hospital in critical condition and my heart aches. Life rarely gives us an opportunity to do something over again, to rethink, to stop and correct a mistake.
Like many, I am someone who believe that everything that happens is part of God's plan, part of destiny, a reason that sometimes we can't understand but have to accept. I am struggling with that now; wishing I had stopped. I accept that I wasn't responsible. I accept that even if I had stopped to offer the soldier a ride, he might well have declined. I am glad I didn't suggest it because, since Elie was driving in the left lane, it likely would have been unsafe to cross past the right lane to get to the bus stop in such a short distance.
I accept all of that and still my heart cries out - Why didn't I stop?
If only I had stopped....
UPDATE: A day later, I am still feeling so sad about this attack, so personally involved. I can still see him standing there, waiting for a ride. But...but I have learned that the young soldier was from Rishon L'Zion on his way back to base. And so, since he doesn't live in Maale Adumim, he wouldn't have accepted the ride even if we had stopped to offer it. The only remaining possibility, depending on the timing, is that we could have been caught right there when the Palestinian terrorist opened fire, or, as a long shot, the terrorist would have decided to attack somewhere else, someone else.
I accept it wasn't my fault. I accept that I couldn't have stopped it. It still hurts.