'The only thing I see is the woman who died'

One step to the right was the difference between life and death for Rita Gofman, a survivor of Monday's suicide bombing.

bombing victim 224.88 (photo credit: Shelly Paz)
bombing victim 224.88
(photo credit: Shelly Paz)
One step to the right was the difference between life and death for Rita Gofman, who survived Monday's suicide bombing in Dimona's commercial center. When the blast occurred, she had just passed the woman who turned out to be the attack's sole fatality, other than the terrorists. "The only thing I see right now is the woman who died in front of my eyes, falling over and over," said Gofman, 28. "What would have happened if I'd taken one step to the right?" wondered a tearful Gofman a few hours after arriving at Soroka University Medical Center in Beersheba, which treated all 40 wounded. She had dropped her daughters off at school and was on her way to work when the blast occurred at 10:30 a.m. "I didn't realize it was a terrorist attack. I felt as if I was a teddy bear thrown into space. I saw my legs in the air and a great yellow cloud that made my eyes burn," said Gofman, who was among the 31 shock victims. Among the nine who suffered physical wounds, one was listed in critical condition, one in moderate condition, and seven were lightly wounded. "Most [wounds] resulted from small iron balls that were placed inside the explosive belt," said Dr. Michael Sherf, Soroka's director-general. "Since the terrorist attack took place in Dimona, we had enough time to get ready for the arrival of the wounded. We immediately stopped surgeries and called the trauma staff, social workers and psychiatric staff," Sherf said. Dr. Yitzhak Ben-Zion, a psychiatrist and the hospital's deputy director-general, said most of the nine shock victims were released from the hospital over the course of the day. Just before the attack, David Dahan had left a coffee shop in the Dimona shopping center, as he does every morning around that time, when there was an explosion. He saw the terrorist fall to the ground. "The fire from the explosion reached me as I was standing about two meters from the terrorist," Dahan said. "I hung on to my walker and managed to remain standing, but I saw people around me fall to the ground, calling for help. The police and the paramedics arrived at the scene pretty quickly and evacuated us." Dahan said he never thought terrorism would reach Dimona. "This is a small town, with no Arabs, only Beduin with whom we get along perfectly. We work and live together," he said. He also said he rejected the idea of a military strike on the Gaza Strip in response. "The only way to solve this dispute is by talking. I plan to continue my life as before, and I'll keep having my morning coffee there," Dahan said. Viola Schpionovitch, 26, who made aliya from Poland a year and a half ago, was with her fiancé, Ofer Basali, who operates a store in the center. She went to get something from her car. "When I got to the car, I felt a strong shock wave. I saw people being thrown into the air as a result of the explosion. The only thing I thought of was Ofer, who had stayed inside. I called his cell phone and he wasn't answering," she recalled. She later found him on the floor in the store, lightly wounded. "I'm really glad to be in Israel, but now I'll be worried constantly about my family," Schpionovitch said. Ofer's sister, Anat, spoke to her brother five minutes before the explosion. "I told him that I was on my way to visit him, but when I arrived the terrorist had already blown himself up. I found my brother lying on the ground, surrounded by people," she said. "Only in Israel can a person be okay one minute and five minutes later, he's lying on the ground like that," Basali said.