I am just a middle man in this whole tragedy and blessing. I recently found myself in the middle of, and close to, a recent terrorist attack and then serving as a liaison to facilitate a gift from a distant land.
I am always in an uneasy situation when someone gives me cash while I travel and asks me to give it to the needy in the land of Israel. What makes me feel uneasy about this scenario is that I feel that I will not serve their tzedakah properly. That I may forget or their cash may get mixed into my money and misused by mistake.
Recently, when I was in central China, a devoted Chinese Christian gave me an envelope with cash and asked me to deliver it to victims of terror in Israel. I had planned to give this money to an organization here called, OneFamily. OneFamily is the family of Israel’s victims of terror attacks - those who have been bereaved, those who have been maimed, and those suffering from post-trauma as a result of terrorist attacks since 2001.
I had not had time to deliver the gift since my return and her money sat on my desk waiting for me to fulfill its intentions. Then terror struck close to home.
I hosted a small group from the United States in the Bram Center where we discussed matters of faith and theology. As they left we agreed to meet at the Jaffa Gate at 1:00 pm for a tour of the Mount Zion area. As I sat in my office, preparing to leave, I heard the news reports that there was a stabbing at the Jaffa Gate around the time we were scheduled to meet. I immediately thought of our guests and was concerned for their safety.
It turns out they were right there at the time of the attack. They were in the middle of it. One young man from the group, Jason (20), ran toward the attack to assist—some local Israelis who were nearby joined him. One of the Israelis who ran with him to assist, Ofer Ben Ari [z"l], was accidentally shot by a security office. Jason fell to the ground next to Ofer, put pressure on the wound, and soon began CPR until the paramedics arrived. Ofer gave his last words there on the ground by the Jaffa Gate and later passed away. Obviously, Jason and the rest of the group will be forever impressed with this event as they were able to experience the pain that Israel faces every day.
The next day I took Jason to the funeral on the outskirts of Jerusalem. As his body was placed into the ground, Ofer’s mother screamed, “ain’li milim,” “There are no words!” Her grief and pain in those words are still ringing in my head. His father came in and out of consciousness and was able to stand only as a result of other family members holding him to his feet. Such a tragedy.
At the appropriate time, I went to a family member and expressed my sorrow and told them that there was a young man here who had some words that Ofer had given him to share with his family prior to fading away.
There Jason delivered Ofer’s last words to his children, wife, and friends. I stood off to the side and watched this handsome young man confidently speak of the last moments of Ofer’s life. He shared how, “Ofer was a hero, he ran to help.” Those words and others gave the grieving family some level of relief.
Jason, at that moment, became part of the family—a part of Israel.
Upon return to my office, I saw the envelope there with the money assigned to victims of terror from the devoted disciple in China . I arranged a time for Jason to get the money. I told him the story of how the money had come to me and asked him to deliver it to the family as he saw them throughout the week during the time of grieving.
I sent a note to the lady in China to tell her about how her money was used. She replied and said, “There are no words to express my grief of this tragedy. Yes, I will continue to pray for them, we are One Family in Him. The people of Israel will always be inside my heart.”
The coincidence of her word choice is uncanny—I can only attribute her choice of these words to God’s providing hand.
She then shared the following:
- "Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints."
- "The LORD upholds the widow and the fatherless,"
- "A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, is God in his holy habitation. "
- "The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge."
Ofer Ben Ari [z"l] leaves behind a wife, two young girls, many friends and family, and the community of Israel. May his name serve as a blessing.