Wednesday, May 24, 2017


The terror attack in Manchester reminded me of a different attack. There too young people left their homes to have a good time and ended the night in the hospital, or worse. There too we saw parents frantically searching for their children, not knowing if they were dead or alive.

The attack in Manchester was one for the people of Britain, the attack in the Dolfinarium was one of many for the people of Israel. We’ve seen this happen again and again but for the children of Israel the world does not stop. Tears and prayers don’t help much but it is more than what the children of Israel receive. For some reason their lives, our lives, matter less.

While the media is focused on Manchester I want to tell you a story from Tel Aviv. From Manchester to Tel Aviv and back again we see that terror is terror.

On June 1, 2001 a Hamas terrorist walked into a Tel Aviv dance club and blew himself up murdering 21 young Israelis and injuring 132.

Jenya Dorfman was 15 years old.

The story below is not her story. 

Jenya’s story is that of a happy, dancing girl. A regular teenager.
This is the story of a pure gesture on night of horrors, the story of humanity and kindness on the deepest and most basic level.

From Manchester to Tel Aviv and back again we may not be able to prevent horror from entering our lives but we can choose to be like Faina and Frank.

The events of a single night created an unbreakable connection between Faina and Frank. Two people, from worlds apart, they would normally never have met but that night was no normal night. Their story is not that of a romance but it is a story of love. Theirs is a story of humanity and kindness on the deepest and most basic level.

It was a Friday night. Frank Eggmann, assistant to the Ambassador of Switzerland posted in Israel was in his room. Suddenly he heard the sound of an enormous explosion. A suicide bomber had blown himself up in the midst of a crowd of teenagers waiting to enter their favorite disco, the Dolfinarium.

Frank ran down the street to the Dolfinarium to see if he could help. He was witness to untold horrors. Youth blown to bits. Frank searched for someone he could help. Frank approached a boy who was lying on the ground but as he drew near he realized that the boy was dead; there was nothing Frank could do for him. A girl lying on the ground caught his eye. She was severely wounded, bleeding from a head injury. Frank knew he lacked the medical skills needed to assist Jenya so he did the only thing he could think of doing. He sat on the ground next to her and held her hand.
Meanwhile, Faina, Jenya’s mother, was at a birthday party. Jenya usually went with her to such events but Faina understood when her daughter said she’d rather go out with her friends that night. At the party Faina ate and talked with her friends. Faina never dreamt that at that very moment her beloved only child was on the ground, holding the hand of the assistant to the Ambassador of Switzerland as she lay dying.

Frank sat with Jenya while she bled. All he could do was be with her. Frank and Jenya were surrounded by ugliness and pain, screaming and blood, life pouring out on cement. The two of them, an island of prayer in a sea of madness.

That night one terrorist directed his life’s blood to killing children, to causing pain to as many people as possible. The terrorist sacrificed his humanity on the alter of hatred. Frank, in contrast, placed all of his humanity in the hand of a fifteen year old girl.

Faina did not have a good time at the party and she didn’t know why. She felt an enormous weight on her heart and she desperately wanted to go home. Someone told Faina that there had been an attack at the disco. At first she wasn’t worried but when Jenya did not answer her cell phone Faina started to become nervous. Friends drove Faina home; she prayed the whole way.

Faina hoped to find Jenya safely at home but the house was empty. A neighbor said that three wild-eyed and shaking teenagers had come looking for Faina, to say that Jenya was hurt and taken to the hospital. The hospital emergency phone lines were swamped so Faina did the only thing she could – she got a friend to take her to the hospital in search of her wounded child. It was probably hope that took Faina to Wolfson hospital where they treat the “mild” to “moderate” cases. Faina fought through a hellish scene of frantic families, friends, ambulances, police cars, sirens and shouting only to be given the terrifying news – Jenya was at Ichilov hospital, where the “serious” cases are taken. When Faina finally found her daughter, Jenya had already slipped into a coma. For 18 long days Jenya retained her fragile hold on life but while Faina was at her side all day, each day Jenya was already gone. Faina never got to talk to her beloved child again. Simply to hold Jenya’s hand and feel her squeezing her back would have meant the world to Faina.

The day after the attack Frank had scanned the papers for Jenya’s picture. He was pleased that he didn’t see her face amongst those of the dead children. Frank searched for her in the hospitals but didn’t find her. Something drove him on and on in his search. Frank went from hospital room to hospital room, visiting with the wounded and their families. Over one hundred teenagers were wounded in the attack and Frank saw most of them. Amongst so many faces and stories it was Jenya that was seared into his mind. Frank wanted very much to find her, to find her family.

Faina had heard that Frank had been at the scene of the attack and that he had done everything in his power to comfort a dying girl. Faina wanted desperately for it to have been Jenya. A mother had spent fifteen years raising her child, taking care of her, enjoying her personality, watching her dance and laugh and when her baby needed her she wasn’t there to protect her. With all her soul Faina yearned for there to have been someone there to make things a little less horrible for her precious child.

The day after the attack, a picture was published of Jenya with Frank next to her, holding her hand as she lay bleeding. Faina heard about the picture and wanted to see it so that she could find out if it was Jenya Frank had been with or not. There was great reluctance to send the picture, the organization that had it was afraid to further traumatize a bereaved mother by showing her such a difficult picture. It was five months before Faina saw the picture, before she discovered that it was Jenya’s hand that Frank held that night.


Frank had cut-out and kept the photo of him with Jenya. He wanted to find her mother and tell her about her daughter’s last moments.

When they finally met face to face, Frank told Faina everything he could remember about that night. Faina was grateful to hear the details, for her it was like extending Jenya’s life by a few extra moments.

It comforts Faina to know that Frank was with Jenya. A beautiful, dancing, pixie child like Jenya should never have had such violence and hatred directed at her. Thanks to Frank Jenya’s last experience was that of kindness and compassion, not horror. Etched into his heart and mind, Frank cannot forget Jenya and through her, Faina. The slaughter of innocents brought them together, kindness created a bond between them.

Two people from different cultures, with different languages and backgrounds, living on different continents, are connected by an unbreakable bond. No amount of time or distance will change this for it has nothing to do with the amount of contact or communication between them. Theirs is the bond of kindness, of a hand holding a hand in a night of terror. The purity of this gesture on a night of horrors tells the story of humanity and kindness on the deepest and most basic level. This gesture did not stop at Jenya, it was passed on, through her to Faina who became its beneficiary. The strength of this seemingly small gesture is that which is given by what some would call God and what I call Love. A child can be murdered but even a small act of Love lives on.





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