“Are you religious?” the Israeli bus driver asked me.

I answered in the affirmative. It was pretty obvious given the sharp contrast of dress between myself and the rest: Shorts and tank tops….and my long skirt with three-quarter sleeve shirt, and hair-covering. I was the bus leader for 50 women who were on a Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project (JWRP) trip that’s like a “Birthright for Moms.”

The driver asked me if I could pray for his brother whose skull was brutally smashed in a terror attack a few months prior that left him comatose. Quite shaken (Israelis get to the point rather quickly), I fervently wished his brother well, asked for his full Jewish name, and promised to pray for him. I took the mic and got down to the business of turning a long bus ride into a meaningful, educational and inspirational experience.

During down time, it occurred to me to ask these women to help pray for the bus driver’s brother. We had just discussed the concept of Hashgacha Pratit, the awareness of the “hand of God” in our lives. A number of women had shared some incredible personal anecdotes of their own, acknowledging God’s presence in their stories. I figured that was a good backdrop for the bus driver’s plea. I explained to the women that we would be saying a short prayer from Psalms for the bus driver’s brother who was the victim of a vicious axe-wielding terror attack. There was a hushed silence. After the third phrase I choked up, the words swimming in front of me. I felt overwhelmed. Not just because of the unspeakable torture inflicted on this poor man, or for the depravity of a world gone mad. I was struck by the intense feeling of unity on the bus.

Here we were, Jewish women from all over the world, praying together in a language they never learned, for a fellow Jew we never met. They cried together with me. Because we were not strangers. We were connected soul to soul, sisters storming the heavens for a brother in pain, in a country we all call home. With tears, I finished the prayer and wished a speedy recovery to Tzvi Achiya ben Batya (Tzvika). Before putting down the mic I turned to the driver and said in Hebrew, “All Jews are connected with one another. It does not matter where we live.” He was very touched.

A few days later, after a gut-wrenching visit to Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Memorial Museum, our bus driver approached me again. He hesitantly asked if I could raise money from the women on the bus for his brother’s wife and four young children who were suffering terribly from their horrific ordeal.

I took the mic and explained that tzedaka is a fundamental pillar of the world and one of God’s most cherished mitzvot. One woman immediately volunteered to take up a collection over the last remaining two days of the trip. In all, she collected one thousand dollars which was then given discreetly to the driver.

On the last day of the trip, the bus driver approached me with a big smile on his face. With great emotion in his voice he told me that he went to visit Tzvika in the hospital the night before, and that he was responsive! He was out of the coma and communicating! After hearing about the prayers and contributions of the passengers on his behalf, Tzvika’s face lit up. He asked his brother to thank them for him.

The women were very emotional after hearing the wonderful news. We felt unified, part of a greater mission. We returned to our respective homes across the world, secure in the knowledge that we had discovered not only a bit more of our Jewish heritage through the Holy Land, but also reconnected to the power of Jewish women throughout the ages.

Soon after our trip, I received an excited message from our NY JWRP city leader to check out that day’s news on Arutz Sheva. The headlines blared: “Half a year after brutal axe attack, Tzvika Cohen goes home. Defying the odds, terror victim makes astonishing recovery, is released from hospital nearly six months after attack that left him comatose….”

A smiling Tzvika Cohen

The article described how doctors warned the family that Tzvika may never wake up from his coma and that if he did he would likely be paralyzed. Tzvika left the hospital able to walk and care for himself.

I sent the link to all the 50 women who prayed for him. Fifty women on a bus. Fifty prayers that soared upward, storming the heavens like only Jewish women can.