The view from my veranda

160401 Kinneret Chaya 14, A happy letter today


April 1st, 2016

Shabbat Shalom and no, I’m not going to do you an April Fool’s letter, we have enough fools in this world already!!!

I decided that today I would write about good and hopeful items. I don’t know about you but I have had enough of gloom and doom to last.

I must just begin with an excellent op-ed in the Times of Israel, written by Marcus Sheff, the new Director of Impact-Se, the research organisation on whose Board I am proud to serve. Impact’s research is on Tolerance in School Curriculi. North Americans have a tendency to be rather smug (sorry but true) about extreme Islamic education in schools, believing that “it won’t happen here”. Well it already has.

This has been a week of friends. The indomitable Stephen Ryde came to see us, fitting us in between his Israel Advocacy work. Stephen claims it was Zvi and I who set him on his brilliant path, but I know better, it was his parents Victor and Jaqui Ryde, who planted the seeds, the love of Israel, over many years, we just watered them and I am so proud of the amazing man that emerged. As one who knew Stephen as a child in Reading, Berks, I claim extra pride!!

Joining us at the Botanical Gardens (nu? Did you really think I was going elsewhere?) was Zvi’s “cousin” Joe from Toronto. Joe is doing a semester in Tel Aviv University, and his girlfriend Monika was visiting. They are already involved in Israel Advocacy, but after listening to the conversation at lunch, they are definitely “in”. I want them to join Standwithus and use their already wide knowledge. They could become avid letter writers like Stephen, and act as heralds of a better future. Three generations of Hasbara, Advocacy, those unafraid to speak out sitting together in Jerusalem. Wonderful. You can do it too – Stephen is the epitome of the power of one. He even has Jeremy Corbyns ear!!!!

On Wednesday night there was a terrific concert in Jerusalem. Zvi, and the wonderful friends of HaKol Yachassi put on a night to remember. The choir was in perfect harmony; the dancers didn’t miss a step and raconteur Jacky Levi told stories of Jerusalem that had us laughing until the tears poured down our faces. A total success – Bravo.

Yesterday we had a surprise visit from Jay and Meridel Rawlings, founders of the International Christian Embassy. The group who founded the Embassy did so with pure and altruistic purpose – they were horrified that the worlds Embassies were not in Jerusalem. I love Jay and Meridel – who live here and have four sons who served in the IDF. Sitting with them on our veranda (Mirpesset in Hebrew) admiring the view, the flowers and of course Zvi’s wonderful historic perspective of what is happening in the world. Gosh I love his incredible ability to explain, his ability to do so equally before 2 friends and an audience of 1,000.

Keren Sztrigler is the daughter and grand-daughter of dear friends. I don’t know her personally but I know her family is proud of her and I am grateful to her.  Keren won a very prestigious prize, named for a young Israeli woman name Danieli Zonnefeld, who sadly died in a traffic accident. Danieli wanted to become a doctor and her family chose to honour her memory by creating a prize for Cancer Research and Keren won it this year. Bravo and thank you Keren.

March 30th was Kinneret Chayas 14th birthday. I find it hard to imagine that it is 14 years since that awful day and the miracles that followed it. I often feel that Kinneret Chaya represents Israel, perhaps the Jewish people. I thought of writing again but then I re-read what I wrote 7 years ago and decided that it expressed everything I felt and more. So here it is –

There are moments in time which are burned deeply into my memory; times of great loss alongside times of great joy, somehow interlinked. Of all those experiences there is one which stands out, alone in its enormity – the night of March 30th 2002.
Driving back from a visit to Herzliya our friend Orly called

“Where are you?” – the question we all asked of each other when there had been a pigu’a – a terror attack.

“Where was it?” I asked “Where was the pigu’a?”

She went very quiet and her voice broke as she said “In a coffee shop in Tel Aviv and Sheila, Yaffa and Moishes daughter Kinneret was seriously injured, we don’t know if she will survive”

The moment we got home I called Yaffa at the hospital who told us the terrible news that Kinneret was burned over 80% of her body and the doctors gave her a minimal chance of survival let alone recovery. That night Zvi’s son Amiad took an amulet from a Jerusalem Rabbanit to place under Kinneret’s pillow. A Rabbi came to the hospital and as he blessed her he asked the family to change her name from Kinneret to Kinneret Chaya – Kinneret Lives; and so began an incredibly tough, miraculous journey toward the phenomenal woman, mother and wife that is Kinneret Chaya Boosany Twig today.

Kinneret was a slightly aloof, exceptionally beautiful young woman who was searching out her place in the world. When she came back from her travels to the Far East she did a bit of modeling and studied alternative medicine, financing the studies working as a waitress, or “barmanit” in a Tel Aviv café called “My Coffee Shop”. The coffee shop did not have a guard, as so many places in Tel Aviv at that time, and no-one suspected the young man who walked in and asked for a cup of coffee. Kinneret walked behind the bar/counter to prepare the coffee when he blew himself up. Nearly 40 people were injured that night and Kinneret was one. As he detonated the explosive belt on his body, the inferno caught the alcoholic drinks behind the bar which burst into an inferno and her frail young body went up in flames. The firemen put out the flames and the paramedics began to clear the injured. Itzik Cohav, a volunteer paramedic, sensed something was missing, he returned to check the site and suddenly, under the overturned bar he saw a small hand. Itzik moved the bar with supernatural strength and found a tiny burned body underneath. To his amazement, Kinneret spoke to him. Itzik carried her to the ambulance and travelled to Ichilov Hospital with her, never leaving her side. It was Itzik who called Kinnerets family.

Days, weeks and months Kinneret Chaya remained in an induced coma, 88 days to be precise. I kept a full diary of all visits and events. The Boosany family rallied round and aunts and uncles, cousins and siblings kept the family going at the hospital, bringing food and love. Zvi and I were honoured to join the family but I can never forget the first time Kinneret Chayas mother Yaffa took me aside and asked me if I wanted to go in to the sterile room and see Kinneret Chaya – who was beginning to come out of the coma. I was terrified but desperate to see this amazing child/woman. As I walked down the corridor in the Sheba Burns Unit I could see a tiny body on a sea of green air cushions atop an improbably high bed. Barely recognizable as a human being, she suddenly turned toward me and smiled a smile that defeats description, I was hooked. I was in love with Kinneret Chaya.

From that day on my diary of a terror survivor was not about the family, nor about my feelings, it became essential that the world know about this amazing woman who has defeated death and even through her pain was able to smile. I recorded her first mouthful of food – gosh I can still see the absolute joy on her face as her Mum peeled a grape and fed her half, chewed carefully as if it were the elixir of life – which it was. One day I came in to the ward and found Kinneret Chaya on her feet “10 steps, I walked 10 steps” she said as she hung on to the arm of her sister Anat. The entire family played its part in Kinneret Chayas recovery. Yaffa, who devotedly slept beside Kinneret Chaya, Moshe who gave love and support, Anat whose determination drove KC on, and Nitzan whose quiet practical help kept everyone sane – and Kinneret Chayas former boyfriend Tal (now Shlom Zalman who ives as a Haredi man) who slept beside her and made her feel as a loved woman. You all helped too, every one of you who sent her a letter, gave her a gift, expressed love to her, but there is one man who helped her put her thoughts into perspective.

Pastor Mike Evans came to visit Kinneret Chaya with us at her parents home, on her first weekend visit from rehab. Zvi, Martin, Yaffa, Moshe and Yaffas sister sister looked on as Mike Evans and his friend Mike Atkins gently asked permission from this traditionally Jewish household to pray for Kinneret Chayas recovery. Very moved the family gave permission and the two Mikes prayed. At the end Mike Evans looked into Kinneret Chayas eyes and said

Kinneret Chaya, there are two ways to look at everything. To move forward you must turn your scars into stars and bitter into better.”

We all gasped and a look of understanding washed over Kinneret Chayas face.

Kinneret Chaya has turned her scars into stars. After many painful operations, much at the hand of surgeons who gave their skill and their hearts to this amazing young woman, Kinneret Chaya is a beautiful woman. Her scars are irrelevant. Kinneret Chaya met the love of her life Amir, seeing him across the synagogue they both attended. Their marriage was joyous and now, as a religious Jewish woman, miracles happened, Kinneret Chaya Boosany Twig is the doting mother of Odaya (thanks to G-d) a beautiful little girl.

I just spoke Kinneret Chayas mother, Yaffa to wish her Mazal Tov on Kinneret Chayas rebirthday. Yaffa said that Kinneret Chaya celebrates on the Hebrew anniversary the 17th of Nissan. KC is out with her husband Amir doing her Pesach shopping. Yaffa proudly told me that Kinneret Chaya is the most amazing mother, with little Odaya on her hip most of the day. She has a warm and welcoming home, a good husband, a beautiful child and life is good.

Whoever claimed that miracles don’t happen should look to Kinneret Chaya Boosany Twig who made her own miracles with the support of her incredible family and all of us who love her. I consider myself one of the luckiest people in the world because I watched the emergence of a glorious flower called Kinneret Chaya Boosany Twig.

The greatest miracle is that Kinneret Chaya now has four of the most beautiful children imaginable, is a deeply religious woman and cannot stop smiling because life is so amazing.

Shabbat shalom dear friends. My prayer as I light the candles tonight will be that I always have good news to report – with a modicum of reality but nonetheless, we cannot find hope without hearing the good news too.

After a positive letter there is only one song that fits the bill.Heveinu Shalom Aleichem – We Bring You Peace –

May I be selfish and give a song for my amazing son Gideon? It was the song that he fell asleep to and the song he always asked for. I miss him every day – I miss him and his family and Daniel and his family every day, every hour, every minute. I have Rachel and her family here! Tumbalaika.

With love to you all from Jerusalem.