June 19, 2016


Sarona, Tel Aviv
There are seconds between a beautiful moment, one of casual conversation, of laughs and connections with people you care for. And a second later, it falls apart. A gunman on a spree. Or a knife in the back of a simple bystander who is in the wrong place at the wrong second.

And the next second is filled with screams, death, then a lifetime of emptiness for those we miss from those who truly loved.

From Tel Aviv to Orlando, our world is becoming filled with the sounds of gunfire, screams, mourning. War has been taken from the battlefront to the café and club where there are no soldiers, just people trying to live life.

Here is a true story from the Sarona Marketplace shooting in Tel Aviv on June 8, 2016 at 9:30 pm. Four innocent people were killed and six were wounded by two terrorists wielding Carl Gustav submachine guns and wearing shiny suits.

Wednesday night. A warm summer’s evening in Tel Aviv. Time to go out with friends and unwind from a busy day at work. Perhaps stroll along the boardwalk by the Mediterranean Sea or have a drink at an outdoor café.

Moshe* chose to go out to a movie with his wife on this night. As a police officer, he worked long, hard hours and now it was time to just relax. As they left the theater to walk home, Moshe felt as if something had changed. People were walking quickly, some were running, looking nervously behind. He heard sirens and ambulances and knew something bad had happened. Switching on his phone, he saw the news flash: Terror attack at Sarona.

He had to go and help but his gun was at home. Together, he and his wife ran to their apartment and were about to go in when Moshe spotted a man wandering along the street just ahead of him. The man looked lost and he nearly stumbled. Always ready to help Moshe caught up with him. The man was dressed in a shiny black suit and was dazed.

“Can I help you, my friend? ”Moshe asked.

The man looked at him. He was speechless.

“Would you like to come upstairs for a glass of cold water?” The man nodded and followed them inside. His in laws were sitting on the couch watching the news.

“I know. I heard,” Moshe said, offering the stranger a seat next to them on the couch. He ran to his room and grabbed his gun.

“Sara*, give this gentleman a glass of cold water. Let him sit for a while. I have to get there fast." 

He ran to the Sarona, elbowing his way through the crowds. Sirens wailed. The police were already there but Moshe could always lend a helping hand. Ambulances were parked outside and paramedics were evacuating the wounded. Moshe flashed his police badge and ran into Max Brenner’s, the restaurant where the attack occurred.

A crowd stood in a circle. A wounded man lay on the ground. It was the terrorist who was stopped, shot by a security guard. And he was wearing a shiny black suit. It was the same clothing as the man who he saw on the road. He had heard there was a gunman at large...and now he knew this killer was in his own living room, sitting with his family.

Moshe felt cold sweat drip down his neck. He groaned and began to run, pushing and shouting at people to get out of the way. He grabbed a few policeman and together they ran.

Images flashed through his mind. He’d seen it all in his many years of police service and now it his family were in danger, sitting with a murderer who Moshe had invited inside.

He tore his way back home, flew up the stairs and his heart pounding, he opened the front door. Panting. Breathless. Sweaty. The policemen entered and pointed their guns, fingers on the trigger.

Sara and her parents looked up in shock. The stranger in the black suit stared away vacantly, his glass of water still full. And Moshe moved towards him quietly, surely and pulled him to the floor, pinning the gun in his back.

*not the true names

These are the seconds between a night out at the movies and killers on a rampage. It is all calm until mayhem breaks out. And then the calm returns as people try to fill life with 'normalcy.'

Max Brenner’s was filled with people on Thursday night and then again on Friday. It will always be packed with people who refuse to give in to fear. The evening after the attack, as people sat sipping coffee, a small memorial of flowers lay tucked into a corner.

People are not callous. Quite the opposite. We will never forget and never stop mourning. But we will never stop living and laughing and, as Moshe did, helping.

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