Andalau (Elad) Wassie, 26, was severely injured in a suicide bombing in the shuk (open air market) in Netanya on May 19, 2002. After 10 days in a coma in the Intensive Care Unit, he awoke to find that he was paralyzed from the hips down. Andalau uses a wheelchair and lives in a rented apartment in Netanya.
When I arrived in Israel via Sudan, I was a small boy, but I remember that it was very strange to see white people all around me. But I soon got used to it, I learned the language and I adjusted pretty well. In school I had Ethiopian as well as white friends. You can say that despite the difference in color, I felt I belonged, I felt I had returned home, just like the village elders had promised in their stories.
When I came home from boarding school on holidays, I would work in the Netanya shuk so I would have a few shekels in my pocket. My parents didn’t have money to give me. Over time, my boss’s family became my family and till today they treat me like one of theirs.
In the army, I also felt a part of things. My fellow soldiers accepted me like everyone else and till today I’m in touch with friends from the army. I took advantage of every vacation to work in the shuk and when I finished the army, it was only natural that I would go back to my job. I wasn’t cut out for studying. I liked carrying sacks and crates and arranging vegetables in the stand.
On the day of the bombing, we were very busy, so I went to eat lunch late. As usual, I went to my boss’s sister’s restaurant. When I finished eating, she offered me a glass of tea, but I was in a hurry to get back to work. If I had drunk that tea, what happened to me wouldn’t have happened. A few minutes after I arrived back at work, the bomb exploded.
After 10 days, I woke up in the hospital. I didn’t feel my legs. The doctors explained that I would never be able to walk again. Everyone tried to encourage me, but I didn’t want to hear anyone, I didn’t want to talk to anyone. For two months I didn’t speak, not even to my mother. As an Ethiopian, I knew that for my parents there is no greater pain than having their son not talk to them. But I simply could not. At night and even during the day, I dreamt I was walking, but when I awoke, I would find myself in the same position.
After two months, I woke up one morning and said to myself: “I’m alive. I got my life as a gift. It’s true that God took my legs but he left me my hands and most importantly, my head works. With what I have left, I will do something.” I don’t know what caused this but since then, I put every ounce of my energy into moving forward. I’m learning to walk with the help of a special implement and I began studying in order to finish my matriculation exams. I play basketball and work out. I believe that one day I will be able to do everything. Everything is dependent on my will.
Despite what happened to me, I still feel like I belong here. This is my country, my home, I have nowhere to run to. And more than that, here, in my land, when what happened to me happens to someone, you discover that you are not forgotten, that the country and the people take care of you, that there are many people around you who believe in you and help you. For me, that is first and foremost my family who stood by me even when I wasn’t speaking to them. I also have many friends, like the SELAH volunteers, who don’t leave my side. This gives me the strength to go on. God gives and God takes away.
VADA'S STORY / Micha Feldamann
Vada (Varda) Hyela’s daughter, Orit, was killed in a bus bombing on June 18, 2002. Orit studied and worked in a program for newly religious girls in Jerusalem. That morning, she took a bus from her home in Gilo to her job in the center of town. Just before the Pat Junction, a suicide bomber exploded himself in the middle of the bus, causing the death of many young people who were on their way to school and to work. This is Vada's story.
Twenty years ago, we began walking to Sudan on the way to Jerusalem. My grandparents always told us that Ethiopia was not our country, that our country was Jerusalem. Because everyone started to go, we believed the time had come. We didn’t know how we would go, we didn’t know how we would arrive, we just believed that the time had come. Even the elders said: “We do not know how we will get there. The distance to Jerusalem is bigger than the distance between the earth and the sky.” We sold what we could and left. We were happy because we were about to arrive in Jerusalem. But we also cried because we left people behind.
The journey was very difficult. We were thirsty, hungry, tired. Little ones died. But the older people said, “Don’t cry for them. God knows…God will guide us.” Some people wanted to go back but we heard that those who returned were put in jail. We were also very afraid, and many times people wept from fear. Even though I was sick, I carried Orit on my back. After a month, we arrived in Sudan.
We were in a refugee camp in Sudan for nine months. Many died there. We lived in a big tent on the sand. I put plants on the sand so that my children wouldn’t sleep on the ground. I made sure they stayed healthy. I slept on the sand myself, it didn’t bother me. My husband didn’t help me with the children. He had taken another wife when I got sick.
When we arrived in Israel, we were welcomed nicely and taken care of. We were sent to an absorption center in Mevasseret Tzion. Everyone in my house was sick. My grandson was very sick. I tried to help him but my hands shook. Three months after we arrived, my grandson died. After that, they separated us and sent my daughter to another place. I worried about her because she was also sick.
When I arrived in Israel, I wasn’t happy inside because my husband and I didn’t get along. I had pains all over my body. But I was happy for my children, especially for Orit. All my children were nice, healthy, diligent. But none of them was like Orit. When she was four or five, she taught me how to use the telephone. In exchange, she would ask for a sweet. She would make me laugh. Everyone praised her. People always said, “How cute she is.” I would take second-hand clothes for my kids but for Orit, I bought everything new. Guests, and we always had guests, would be amazed at her intelligence. She would go everywhere with me, her hand in mine. Everyone spoiled her. I always walked to school with her and would walk to meet her on her way home. When it came to my children, nothing was difficult. It wasn’t hard for me to cook for them, it wasn’t hard for me to clean. I liked taking care of them.
I feel that Israel is my home and that feeling hasn’t changed after what happened to Orit. People ask how they can help me. It would have been better if I had nothing and my daughter was alive. The terrorist didn’t come to kill my daughter, he wanted to kill Jews. It just happened to be my daughter. It hurts me that she died without having children.
How can I be angry at the State? Like everyone, I prayed to come to Jerusalem. Many families suffer when their children are murdered. My daughter’s death is not connected to the State of Israel, it’s connected only to God. God gives and God takes away. I don’t know when I will go, only He knows.
The Trauma of Terrorism
Sharing Knowledge and Shared Care
An International Handbook
Yael Danieli, Danny Brom, Joe Sills- Editors