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Death Trap

August 4, 2010 | by Yehuda Yifrach

The situation seemed hopeless. We were sitting ducks inside a tin, rolling coffin.

If a miracle hadn’t happened that Friday afternoon as we were driving to our Shabbat destination, this article would never have been written. Instead you would have read the standard description of a horrible terror attack. “Six Family Members of Amona Killed.” The political reactions would have been immediate; the eulogies short and heart rending.

But a guiding hand from Heaven made things happen differently, so that I am here and able to relate what happened that day.

We were on our way to spend Shabbat in the pre-military training program in Neve Zuf. We had just passed the intersection near the old British police station when out of the blue I started thinking about a number of terror attacks that had occurred and wiped out entire families. I thought of the Zur Family, the Secheveschovs, the Hutiels -- and then wondered why in the world I was bringing up these depressing incidents now.

I pressed on the gas pedal again and again, but the motor had died.

About two kilometers west of the intersection, I had to slow the car because of a sharp swerve in the road. Suddenly I heard gun shots at close range. I yelled at my wife and kids, “Get down! We’re being shot at!” At the same time I stepped on the gas to gather speed and get out of danger’s range. To my horror the motor didn’t react. I lowered the gear and pressed on the gas pedal again and again, but realized, in shock, that the motor had died. The first bullet must have hit the mechanics inside the hood. (I later found out that the bullet passed through the radiator and oil pump, emptying the oil tank within seconds.)

The situation seemed hopeless. We were sitting ducks inside a tin, rolling coffin.

The terrorist continued firing at us methodically, another bullet every two, three seconds. Our vehicle had turned into a death trap in which my wife and our four panic-stricken children sat captives. We were likely to get hit any minute.

It was a lose-lose situation: If I get out of the car and start firing my small revolver at my unseen assailants, I’ll expose the family even more. And there is no way to flee the scene with a dead motor.

I figured that the firing was coming from the southern mountain to my right, so I turned the steering wheel and guided the car into the opposite lane, as close as possible to a rock outcrop at the side of the road, to get out of the Palestinians’ vision.

When the car stopped I quickly got out, grabbed the kids and literally threw them, one after the other, into the bushes around the edge of the mountain. The little one started to cry, “Ima!” and ran into the middle of the road hysterical. I ran after her, scooped her up and pushed her into the arms of her sister. Only then did I have a chance to release the trigger of my gun and look around for the terrorists.

There was a lull in the shooting and I imagined that they must have cut back to check on the number of victims they’d killed. So I advanced in their direction to prevent them from reaching my family when they started up again. As I crouched my way back across the road I was thinking, “How exactly am I going to conduct a shoot out with an unknown number of assailants and my small 26 Glouck revolver which has only ten bullets in it?"

I couldn’t see any sign of the attackers, so I returned to the car and decided to stop the first car that passed by to get my family out of there. The first two cars that I tried to flag down were Palestinians. They almost ran me over as they simply picked up speed and fled the scene instead of stopping for us. Right after them, a Rabatz (security officer) from one of the settlements drove up, evaluated the situation and helped me evacuate my wife and kids. Then a patrol of border police arrived, closed the road and began to sweep the area. At that point, for us the incident was finished.

I simply cannot understand how they didn’t hit us.

But I couldn’t get over the experience. We had clearly been spared by an outright miracle. When I survey the lay of the land and the distances involved, I simply cannot understand how they didn’t hit us. They stood above the road, several meters from our slow rolling automobile, methodically shooting fatal bullets, one after another into our vehicle. Yet they missed every time (except for that first bullet which damaged the car).

For me, this was an unnerving experience. I’ve had my baptism by fire in the Army, but this was something completely different. That Shabbat eve we faced the Angel of Death and looked into the very whites of his eyes.

Even now as I’m sitting at the computer writing these lines, they could have been conducting our funerals. They could be eulogizing us, and relating how Ayelet was finishing a course in coaching and had begun her new book; how Maayan was an outstanding student and wrote the weekly family newspaper, how Ateret had finally learned to ride a two wheeler without the help of auxiliary supports, how Raanana loved to sing, and how Malachi, the baby, started to walk only this week.

When I think about that fateful Friday, how humdrum and conventional what could have been the last day of our lives. Like other people who have had near death experiences, I realize how short and precious life is and how important it should be to live it to its fullest, without wasting time and energy on day dreams, false desires and nonsense.

But beyond my personal story, I’m thinking there is the bigger one. Usually we’re all taken up with our personal lives, what I call the Small Story. We’re completely involved with our careers, our family, and the constant urgent demands on us. News and politics pass over our heads, and don’t really bother us or interest us that much. But in the background the Big Story is always there, the story of the Jewish nation, which after 2,000 years of exile finally returned and established an independent government of its own. And, as in all generations, there are no lack of those who are trying to destroy us.

There are moments in one’s life when the Big Story pushes its way into the Small Story. These are moments of clarity, when matters become crystallized, and the essence of our collective fate takes over.

The Big Story comes on the screen and reminds us of the difficult truth that we try so hard to ignore: we live in a bad neighborhood, surrounded by real and dangerous enemies, and if we don’t stand up and protect ourselves, we cannot survive.

Translated from Hebrew by Leah Abramowitz


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