October 14, 2015

Resilience in Ra'anana

Terror hit Ra’anana yesterday. At nine in the morning, a man was stabbed while waiting for a bus on Ahuza, the city’s main street. Within minutes, ambulance sirens were wailing, cell phones ringing, our concerned kids calling to check if we were ok. 

Helicopters hovered just above the palms. We did not yet have the full story but as the day unfolded with another stabbing incident at a Ra’anana café less than two hours later, life became surreal. Scary.

We soon found out that the first incident happened right outside our friend Marina’s clothing store. As soon as it occurred, a regular middle-aged guy, ran out from his office with an umbrella and bashed the assailant down against the curb. Really hard. He did not think twice. He simply reacted with intuition, force and he saved lives.

At the café, the next assailant (a worker from the nearby Beit Levenstein Hospital) stabbed four people sipping coffee and ran. A cab driver saw him fleeing and instinctively veered into him to stop him. The guy somehow got up and kept running. A man on a motorcycle then ditched his bike, took off his helmet, jumped a fence and bashed the terrorist with his helmet. The cab driver caught up to him and together they captured him. Two more heroes who acted calmly, quickly and saved the day.

Meanwhile, in my son’s grade 11 chemistry class, a student who is trained with Magen David Adom (emergency first aid response team) received a text message that there was a stabbing in the café about one hundred yards from the school. He calmly got up, left the class, grabbed his first aid kit that he kept in his locker, asked a friend to hoist him over the school fence (the schools were all on lock down yesterday) and was the first to arrive on the scene, saving a life. Another hero, this one a 16-year-old kid.

The roads of Ra’anana were clogged with drivers, parents picking their kids up from school.  There was talk that another terrorist was running around Ra’anana, right near my friend’s bookstore. She had locked her store door. People came pounding on the door wanting to be let in. One was a woman from Petach Tikvah who had been on Ahuza during the first stabbing and was now completely fearful. One was a young high school girl. 

The third was a young boy who said he was riding his electric bike when a guy threw himself at him with a knife. He sped away from the terrorist and now sat calmly. My friend was so amazed at how composed he was, she asked him if he was sure it was a terrorist. Yes, he said, the guy had a knife and shouted ‘allahu akbar.’

No sooner had the attacks occurred, I received an email about a free krav maga (street defense developed by the IDF) class that would take place in a few hours.  I went with my 14-year-old daughter and hundreds of others. The room was filled with young and old, English, French, Spanish, Italian and Hebrew speakers. 

It's almost impossible to own a gun here, pepper spray was quickly sold out today and we all wanted to know what to do. Word got around fast. The city did not organize anything so the locals took it into their own hands.

Rachel, a spirited, confident, gorgeous young woman took control of the class. Originally from Toronto, she is the daughter of my friend who owns the store where the first attack happened.  Rachel has a black belt in Karate and was recently a krav maga instructor in the IDF.  She knows her stuff. 

She first said we should not stay home afraid. We should go out with total awareness, knowing how to defend ourselves. Within one hour, she taught us basic self-defence tactics in multiple languages, giving us tips on how to fend off an attacker, giving precious time to run away.

One little girl who looked no older than six put up her hand. “What if he is bigger than me?”

“Pretend you are playing soccer,” Rachel answered, giving a strong kick to an imaginary guy in a place that would make him see stars.

People in this country continue to amaze me. They take control. They adapt. They continue to live.

Amir now walks the dog with a huge bicycle chain around his neck. My kids report back as soon as they arrive safely at school. My son took a knife with him this morning. In most countries, weapons are checked in at the door. Not here. And not now.

This is one resilient place filled with the most remarkable people.

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