Survivor of Brussels Airport Bombing Plants a Tree for Peace.
(photo credit: KKL-JNF)
Nine months after being seriously injured in the terror attack on Brussels Zaventen International Airport on March 22, 2016, Walter Benjamin, who is Jewish, fulfilled his vow to plant a tree in Israel in honor of the man who helped save his life, Hassan Elouafi, a Muslim Belgium citizen whose parents are from Morocco.
“Growing up in Belgium I always knew about KKL-JNF,” said Benjamin. “I know that planting a tree is good for the region; you do something for someone. When I was recuperating in the hospital I said that when I went to Israel I would plant a tree for Hassan and his family because when you plant a tree this is like life coming back again.”
KKL-JNF Forester Eran Zabadi facilitated the planting at the Tzora Forest planting center and presented Benjamin and Elouafi, who was also present at the ceremony, with a certificate. A documentary videographer accompanied the men on the trip to document their visit and also planted a tree.
The two men do not like to remember that fateful day when Benjamin was on his way to Israel to visit his daughter for Purim and his leg was seriously injured in the explosion at Brussels Zaventen International Airport. Elouafi, an airport worker, was right behind him and rushed to help, saving his life.
Desperate for news on Benjamin’s condition after he had been taken to hospital, Elouafi tracked him down and began visiting him at the hospital daily, sometimes together with his wife. During the course of their conversations, the topic of Israel and the Palestinians came up and Elouafi confided that one of his dreams was to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, the third holiest site for Islam.
Benjamin then promised him that as soon as he was able to walk he would invite Elouafi to come to Israel with him. A true friendship developed between the two men. Elouafi noted that Benjamin’s sense of humor and ready smile made it easy for the two to connect.
Read more about the tree planting for peace and see photos