I was thrust into the international limelight when the New York Times and other major media outlets published a photo of me ― bloodied and battered ― crouching beneath a club-wielding Israeli policeman. The caption identified me as a Palestinian victim of the new intifada. In fact, however, I am a 20-year-old Jewish student from Chicago, studying at a yeshiva in Jerusalem.
Here's how it all happened:
It was the eve of Rosh Hashana, and I hailed a taxi with two of my friends to go visit the Western Wall. Along the way, the driver took a shortcut through one of the Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem. We turned a corner and suddenly there were about 40 Palestinians surrounding the car. Before we knew it, huge rocks had smashed all the windows of the taxi.
Some of the Palestinians pulled open the door and dragged me from the vehicle. About 10 attackers jumped on top of me, punching and kicking me. I crouched to the ground, and tried to cover my face to protect myself as much as possible. All I could see were a flurry of sneakers kicking me in the face.
Then I felt a strong pair of hands grabbing me, and I uncovered my face because I thought someone was trying to help me. But it was just another Palestinian; he held the back of my head and punched me square in the face. I fell flat on the ground and the Palestinians jumped on top of me again. One of them stabbed me in the back of my leg, ripping through muscles and tendons. Two other Palestinians held my head so I couldn’t move, while two more bashed rocks onto my head... again and again and again.
By this time the beating had gone on for about eight minutes. I had already lost three pints of blood and was losing consciousness. I said "Shema Yisrael" ― the declaration of faith that a Jew says before he dies. I tried not to black out, because I was sure if I did it would be the end.
Because it was the eve of Rosh Hashana, the image of a shofar flashed through my mind, and I recalled a Biblical story I'd learned in school. The prophet Gideon and his 300 men were badly outnumbered against the Midianite army of 130,000. So Gideon's troops banged pots and blew shofars, hoping that the noise would scare the enemy. With God's help, the ploy worked, and Gideon won the battle.
So I yelled at the top of my lungs. The Palestinians were startled momentarily, and I was able to get up and run. Unfortunately, I am heavily nearsighted and my contact lenses had fallen out. So there I was ― barely able to see a thing, with blood pouring down my face and my leg badly wounded ― being chased up a hill by 40 Palestinians throwing rocks at me.
It was a miracle, but I somehow outran them and reached a gas station where Israeli soldiers were posted.
I collapsed on the ground, and that's when a group of freelance photographers started snapping pictures. An Israeli policeman was protecting me, yelling at the Palestinians to back off from finishing the lynching. But the photo ― sent throughout the world by the Associated Press ― identified me as a Palestinian. The obvious implication was that the Israeli policeman had just beaten me. In truth, it was the total opposite. I was a Jewish victim of Palestinian attackers.
It's bad enough to be beaten bloody, get stitches up and down my head, and have my leg so severely stabbed that therapy is required to regain use of it. But to be used as a pawn in the media war, as part of the Palestinian propaganda to gain international sympathy, well, that hurts even more.
When a photo gets published, there are many links in the chain, and in this case, I don't know where the fault for the garbled caption lies. But it is deeply disturbing that the New York Times, Associated Press, and everyone else in-between assumed that if it's a victim, it must be a Palestinian.
There is a great struggle here in Israel and this event highlights the power of the media to influence public opinion. If truth is to prevail, we can't just "read" the newspaper. Be discerning and become part of the process. Otherwise, you're just a passive object of someone else's agenda.
Who are the innocent victims and who are the aggressors? The truth is often the opposite of how it appears.
with thanks to Shraga Simmons