terror victim funeral298.
(photo credit: Tova Lazaroff)
While driving with friends to karate practice in a van south of Ramallah, Oren Kozitz, his 10-year-old son Sol, and Barak Spada were followed by another car. Just as it passed them a gunman emerged from the car's broken back window. With precision the terrorist's Kalashnikov erupted. Kozitz believes he was a professional, perhaps from the Palestinian police.
Eleven bullets hit the front of the van. One bullet pierced the windshield, tearing through Sol's head.
Kozitz stopped the van. "All of us were in a special unit in the army," he says. "We wanted to fight, but we used our energy to save Sol."
Barak was the trio's first miracle. He happened to be a paramedic with Magen David Adom. "Save my son's life," Oren pleaded.
Barak began CPR, just as Oren noticed the car with the gun-wielding murderer coming back to finish them off.
"Shoot him! Shoot him!" someone screamed.
"We have to save Sol!" cried Oren. He didn't touch his rifle. Oren Kozitz was sure that God would take His own revenge. Instead of shooting, Oren slammed on the gas and escaped the terrorists. Barak helped keep Sol alive as they sought cell phone reception.
They reached Attarot and their second miracle was that the only ambulance there was available. From Attarot they drove to Ofra, while another paramedic tended Sol's critical wound. The boy's head was covered with blood.
From Ofra, they transferred to another ambulance for the ride south to Jerusalem. It wasn't long before the paramedic gave up on Sol. Barak turned to put a consoling arm around Oren, who was reciting psalms with a fury. He shoved Barak aside. In that moment, Oren was certain that Sol was alive.
Just then the paramedic re-examined his patient, announcing that Sol was indeed alive, and might be saved.
The third miracle came from above. An emergency medivac helicopter, already airborne, was five minutes from their position. It flew them to Hadassah-University Hospital, where doctors weren't sure if Sol would again walk, write, read or speak.
All this happened on August 7.
SEVERAL WEEKS ago, Sol had his second operation, replacing a bone that was removed to ease pressure on his brain. Sol, in blue teddy bear pajamas, sat on his hospital bed. The boy's head was wrapped in a giant bandage. His father said Sol's condition had improved. Now he can run, practice karate and play chess. But he still cannot speak.
What it will take, how many surgeries and how much rehabilitation, remains to be seen.
For terror survivors, the attack is just the beginning. Scaling the Sisyphean peak of recovery is arduous and painful. It is a climb that often lasts a lifetime.
Shprintza Herskovits was at the hospital visiting Sol after his operation. She volunteers with Kids for Kids, a grassroots organization helping children and their families who are victims of terrorism. "Families are still wounded," she explained. "Victims are having their sixth and seventh operation. People abroad assume the Palestinian violence is over because it gets less publicity.
"Well, it's not really over. And, anyway, people's lives have already been destroyed."
"Unfortunately, the needs have not diminished," says Yeshara Gold, director of Kids for Kids, "as others join the list of victims: 1,092 dead and thousands wounded and maimed.
"The child who four years ago lost his legs to terrorism woke up without those legs this morning - today - now. We have no right to forget or leave these children behind."
Ora Cohen remembers in which bus seat she was sitting on Tuesday night, August 19, 2003. It was the right-hand side next to the back door on Egged bus #2, servicing the Western Wall. At a stop she looked back to see a man who appeared haredi jam his fingers into the closing doors. With shocking determination he struggled to force his way inside. Ora refrained from reminding him about derech eretz, - civility - deciding instead to turn away.
That choice likely saved her life. The bogus haredi exploded. The bus was destroyed, as were 23 of its passengers. Within blast range was Ora's husband, whose blood-glazed face appeared featureless after being raked with shrapnel.
Next were Mirov, Daniel, Orly, Shira and Elchanan - Ora's children, between seven years and one month old. All survived. That was something their parents didn't know during the harrowing hours the family was separated between Shaare Tzedek Hospital in Jerusalem and Hadassah-University Hospital in Ein Kerem.
Most media reports stopped there. But terrorist victims' stories rarely end so quickly. There's still Shira's missing eye, Mirov's lost hearing, Mr. Cohen's delivery job gone because of chronic depression, and Sol's inability to speak.
The pain of recovery is often compounded by the logistical hell of balancing multiple hospitalizations among wounded family members. Scarce government and private resources mean each person has to wait his turn to be treated. Ora just had an eardrum operation repairing damage from 28 months ago. That excruciating surgery demanded the ear be completely removed and reattached. Her daughter is next. Ora doesn't know how she will cope with the same treatment.
Israel's pain is told in shrapnel-scarred faces. Living among us, they compel us not to forget.
David Bedein (pictured) is bureau chief and Josh Baines is a staff writer at the Israel Resource News Agency.
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