Its been exactly fourteen years today and despite all that time gone by, I find it extremely important to remember. To remember all victims of terror attacks. First you read about them in the Israeli news but, later on, people become forgotten, as there are more and more Arab terror attacks taking place in Israel. Who then is actually asking the question: “Wait a minute. What happened to victim so – and – so and how are they recovering ? How does their lives look today and what has changed after turning into a victim ?
Almost every Israeli knows a terror victim and ten years ago, in Jerusalem we defined places downtown according to the bus exploding there and not by the name of the street.
Here is a personal story I keep on publishing every August, as no one else remembers Channah Nachenberg anymore.
Every Shabbat anew, people come to join the Machlis – Family for very different reasons.
Rabbi Mordechai Machlis, his wife Henny and his 14 kids are the greatest Shabbat experience you could ever have. They accept everybody and have been doing so for more than 20 years. Mordechai and Henny are originally from Brooklyn and both are children of rabbis. Almost 30 years ago, they made Aliyah and have been living in the Maalot Dafna neighbourhood in Jerusalem since. You could call Rabbi Machlis national religious or Chardalnik (Haredi Le’umi). His children, however, are mostly married to Haredim and the two oldest sons are students at the MIR Yeshiva.
The Machlises are famous for their Shabbat food. In other words, for the amount of food. Anyone can come without calling and take as much as he likes. And this is one of the main reasons why people come. Food. Me and my friends see the Machlis home more as a social meeting. Throughout the week, each of us is busy, so on Shabbat we meet at the Machlises.
In May 2001, I showed up at the Machlis home and met an old acquaintance of mine: David Nachenberg. Some time ago, he had got married and he introduced me to his wife Channah. They also had a two – year – old daughter, Sarah. A happy family with a home in Modi’in. They made jokes about their income but most Israelis have an overdraft. Channah told me that she wants to find a job in order to make things going smoother.
On 9th August 2001, I was on a bus when I heard the news. A suicide bomber had blown himself up at the Sbarro Pizzeria. Corner King George – Jaffa Road. It was at about 2pm when a guy with a guitar entered the Sbarro and exploded himself. Inside the bomb were also nails and screws to injure or kill more people. The streets and the Sbarro were crowded and the suicide bomber had waited for the traffic light turning green. Thus, people were crossing the junction and he could kill even more.
Many people were killed inside the Sbarro. A whole family was wiped out. The Shijveshurder family who had emigrated from Holland. Five family members almost died on the spot.
A few months later, I read the “Jerusalem Post” and suddenly saw a picture of Channah and David Nachenberg. I only got to know then that Channah had been badly injured in the blast. She had gone with her daughter Sarah and a relative to eat pizza. The relative was only slightly injured. Daughter Sarah showed no sign of injury at all.
After the blast, her relative got up and saw that Channah had been falling over the table. She was taken to the Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital and the doctors found out that she had a nail in her heart. However, they succeeded in operating her but Channah never woke up again. Until today, she is still unconscious and the doctors don’t know why. Laying in the Re’ut rehabilitation center with open eyes but not responding to anything. Her husband David visits her as much as he can. Sarah keeps on drawing pictures for her mother although she grew up. They play music to her.
The Nachenberg Family in happier days
However, they also had further horrible experiences when Christian visitors popped in. They started praying to J. and claimed that if the family converted to Christianity, Channah would wake up. How horrible and ignorant can people be ? Since the incident occurred, David allows only Jewish visitors in.
After the blast, no more traffic ran through downtown Jerusalem. Only ambulances. The bus driver opened the doors and we got off the bus. It was in the Ge’ulah haredi neighbourhood and we walked avoiding the nearby scene. I had just walked a few meters when a teenager girl walking not too far away received a phone call. She spoke a few words and then started screaming and crying. She was national religious and just sat down in the middle of the sidewalk and cried. A haredi Mea Shearim woman came up to her and everybody else around just knew why the teenager was crying. Something terrible had happened to a friend or relative. The haredi woman hugged her and said a few encouraging words to the girl. It was one of the most incredible scenes I have ever witnessed.
All the time we hear about people from Mea Shearim. They hate everybody else and keep themselves separate. And here was, a woman from Mea Shearim, embracing a teenager from the outside world. Unfortunately, the secular press wasn’t around to take a picture.
I don’t know what exactly happened to the teenager and don’t know where she is today. Unfortunately, Channah Nachenberg, the last victim of the Sbarro bombing, seems to be almost forgotten.