In 1995, when I was 6 years old, my grandparents were driving me to a Purim celebration in Tel Aviv, when a Palestinian terrorist set off a bomb at the Dizengoff Center. My grandmother went into shock, but we were not injured. Twenty-two people died that day.
I never thought too much about that day until a year ago, on July 12, 2005. My best friend and I went to the Netanya Mall to buy balloons for a friend's birthday party. As we were walking into the mall, there was an explosion behind me on my right side.
I was knocked unconscious and awoke several hours later in Laniado Hospital, to a different world. All I knew was terrible pain and fear. I was covered in burns and damage from the shrapnel and chemicals in the bomb. I was 16.
In a moment I had gone from someone who was always happy, smiling and laughing, to a person I did not know. Through the pain, I could not find myself. I could not connect with my family with whom I was so close. I could not stand to have anybody near me. I was lost.
After a few months and many painful treatments and procedures, I was fitted with a pressure suit. Imagine being wrapped up in clothing that squeezes you all of the time. It was very uncomfortable. And to cover it, I had to wear clothing that was enormous. I felt horrible and very angry.
The terrorist had won. He had destroyed me.
One day, I realized that the worst thing had happened -- the Muslim Palestinian terrorist had won. He had destroyed me.
I became determined and found in myself a strength I did not know I had. There had to be a way back. I forced myself back to school even though I could not sit or concentrate. One day, I even stood up in class and pleaded with everyone to please treat me as they had before, instead of as a walking terror victim.
I grew up in a secular home, but I made a commitment to attend synagogue each Shabbat. Immediately, six of my friends decided to join me. For the past six months, we walk to synagogue together every Friday night.
It makes us very happy in a way I can't describe. All of us also say Psalms every night. It has added something to all of our lives and connected us to each other and to God in a way I could not have expected. I feel better, hopeful and more powerful. There is something inside me I did not have before the attack.
Surgery in New York
In February 2006, a wonderful thing happened to me. Zalman Indig, the director of all4israel.org, asked if I would see a special plastic surgeon from New York, Dr. Lloyd Hoffman, who was on vacation in Israel with his family. I was afraid to hope. The pain from my scars was so bad that I rarely slept, could not sit and could not concentrate. The doctor examined me and said, "I cannot promise you anything. If I can help you, I will call."
Shortly after this, Zalman Indig called my home and spoke with me and my mother. He asked if I would like to come to New York for surgery. All4Israel would pay all of my expenses. I could not believe it. I felt like a miracle had happened just for me.
I am still in New York. I have had one surgery and am waiting for the second. In six months, I will return for more. The people I have met have not asked me for anything -- not for pictures, help in fundraising or even publicity. They have shown me true unconditional love. I feel very special and loved by these strangers who I now think of as family.
I want to become a physical therapist and work with burn victims.
I will serve in the IDF. Afterwards, I want to become a physical therapist and work with burn victims. I think I will be able to help them find a way to bear the painful treatments and find strength inside themselves. Before the attack, I was happy and optimistic. There must have been a spark of that somewhere inside that refused to die.
I know now that I have won. I laugh again and I find joy in my family and friends. I have a strength I did not know I had and know I can accomplish anything.
On Tuesday July 12, 2005, in Netanya, five people died: two girls my age, Rachel ben Abu and Nofar Horowitz; a Ukranian immigrant named Julia Voloshin; a 50-year-old grandmother named Anya Lifshitz; and a 21-year-old soldier named Moshe Maor Jan, who had a pregnant wife. I have known Moshe's family for many years. His wife Moriah gave birth to the baby, so I don't think the Palestinian terrorist beat Moshe, either.
I know something important. Pain is power -- when you use it to find your faith and your strength.
This article appeared in the Jewish Press