The winter rain was welcome, but on Saturday night when it cleared Jerusalem
teens hurried downtown for a night on the town. For most, that meant nothing
more than pizza and ice cream with friends. Adi Hudja’s two cousins called her
to join them. She was 14, shy and petite.
That afternoon, Mali, Adi’s
mom, had been troubled by a feeling of unease. She was a police officer in
Jerusalem and knew about the warnings. She couldn’t fall asleep for her Shabbat
nap. Then, for no apparent reason, the air conditioner went on, “Like a strange
sign from Above,” Mali would say later.
She didn’t really want Adi to go
to town, but how could she deny her a wholesome evening with her favorite
cousins and ice cream? Ben-Yehuda Street, named for Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, the
reviver of the Hebrew language, has a long history of terror
It’s not a military or strategic site. It’s lined with souvenir
shops selling shofarot, crystal jewelry and T-shirts. Cafes, shwarma stands and
ice cream parlors cater to tourists and youngsters. Breslov Hassidim in white
knit beanies hop and dance, while Chabad Hassidim offer a chance to say a prayer
or two. Someone is always hawking good-luck red threads from Rachel’s
Street musicians and a few brave beggars complete the
In 1948, 1970, 1975, 1976, 1979, 1981, 1984 and 1997 terrorists
struck Ben-Yehuda Street because it is the happy heart of Jerusalem.
December 1, 2001, Adi and her cousins headed for Ben-Yehuda Street. Adi was
waiting for them when a young Arab man blew himself up. Two minutes later, a
second man pulled a cord and exploded, propelling nuts, bolts and nails through
the air. Twenty minutes later, a third bomb, a booby-trapped car, went off
nearby on Rabbi Kook Street. By then, the city was full of ambulances and rescue
crews, as well as the devoted volunteers who remove the dead.
teenagers lay on the street, murdered.
Adi had been standing very close
to one of the terrorists when the bomb blast knocked her down. Dozens of bolts
and nuts embedded themselves in her body, particularly in her legs. She lost
At home, Mali heard the sirens. She flipped on the TV, and
screamed. The phone rang at the Hudja home. The cousins were weeping. “We can’t
find Adi,” they told her.
More than a hundred wounded people were rushed
to hospitals. Someone had seen Adi being evacuated. At first, she thought Adi
was at Hadassah University Medical Center on Mount Scopus, but then she learned
that her daughter was in Hadassah Ein Kerem.
“I was told she was in very
bad condition. I understood that she was dying,” said Mali, unable to
hold back her tears all these years later. She couldn’t recognize Adi. The
pretty, dark-haired girl who had left the house was full of tubes, her body
“Adi’s case was the most serious of those who survived,” recalls
Prof. Rami Mosheiff, the orthopedic trauma expert who saw her that night. “Her
temperature was so low anesthesia and surgery would have been too dangerous. She
needed to be stabilized.”
No matter how many blood products were infused
she was still bleeding out. Professor Avi Rivkind suspected that the nuts and
bolts had been soaked in rat poison to increase the bleeding. Rivkind got
permission to use an expensive-as-platinum experimental medicine, NovoSeven, a
clotting agent used for hemophiliacs, as yet unproven for trauma cases. Since
the drug was still in trial stages, Adi’s mother also had to give the
“I was willing to try anything to save my daughter,” said Mali, “I
never stopped praying.”
Two doses of NovoSeven and the bleeding slowed.
The orthopedists moved in to strengthen her skeleton, a necessary procedure to
protect the vital organs.
IN EUROPE, at a medical conference,
Prof. Meir Liebergall, the head of Hadassah’s orthopedics department,
heard his cellphone ring. It was Mosheiff. He and Mosheiff aren’t just
colleagues.They grew up together in Jerusalem, went to Scouts together, played
Mosheiff described the bombing injuries,
particularly Adi’s case. The staff had decided that her chances of survival,
which were slim at best, would improve if her right leg was
Mali Hudja had tearfully agreed to the amputation. “Above all,
I wanted my daughter to live,” she said.
Liebergall immediately quit the
conference, went to the airport and took the first plane
Liebergall, whom everyone calls Iri, is modest and reserved. He
doesn’t like to talk about his personal Israeli story, how he decided to become
a doctor after recovering from his war wounds in the IDF, how his parents
survived the Shoah. But how else can you explain his urgency to come home and
weigh in on Adi’s case.
“By the time we got to the intensive care unit
the next day, Prof. Liebergall was there,” said Mosheiff. “This is when you need
everything you have ever learned as a physician, and your experience,
In one of the toughest calls of his professional life, Liebergall
overruled his staff.
They would fight for Adi’s leg.
day, Adi survived. Two and a half weeks later, she woke up. Her mother spent
every day in the hospital, not only to see her daughter, but also to give birth
to Adi’s brother.
Adi was wheeled into the delivery room.
call him Osher [joy], suggested Adi.
The joy of being
Years of therapy and dozens of surgical procedures lay ahead.
She’s still a patient.
Adi’s X-rays and the lessons learned from treating
her have become well-known in the global orthopedic community, according to
Mosheiff, who last year was elected to head AOTrauma Europe, the large
consortium of European trauma experts.
Last week, at the Centennial
Celebration of Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Adi Hudja
walked across the stage of Binyenei Ha’uma, the Jerusalem International
Two thousand people in the audience rose in a
spontaneous burst of applause, lauding her bravery and the skillful medicine
that saved her life and limb. Mali Hudja, 10-year old Osher and two other
siblings were also there, and so were professors Mosheiff and
A beautiful, confident young woman, Adi is about to start
university studies. She was wearing an elegant long dress. But what brought
tears to my eyes as she strode across the stage were her shoes: Adi Hudja was
wearing high heels.
The author is a Jerusalem writer who focuses on the
wondrous stories of modern Israel. She serves as the Israel director of public
relations for Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America. The views
in her columns are her own.