October 20, 2019

One Year Ago, Everything Changed Forever

Courtesy of Hillel Fuld

I’ve never told this story, at least not in a public manner. Honestly, not sure I’ll make it through this post, but if you are reading this, I decided to hit “Publish.”

It was a Sunday morning like any Sunday morning. I was at Hometalk doing my thing. I had a few tabs open on my browser like I always do. One of them was Israeli news.

I opened that tab just to check what’s happening in the country and there it was. “Another day, another freaking terrorist attack.” Those were my thoughts.

Only this attack was different. No, not because my brother was the victim. I had no idea about that and was only going to find out later. This one was different because it was recorded. On video. By surveillance cameras.

That means that on that website there was a big Play button. The video. What does one do? They click “Play.” And so I did.

What the heck was I was watching? A Palestinian kid stab a grown man, a fairly large man, and then the man turns around and chases the terrorist down after he was already stabbed? Wait, what? He just jumped over a wall? He shot him. Who was this guy and what was running through his veins because it sure wasn’t the same stuff I had in my veins. “What a hero”, I thought to myself!

So I did what I always do and I asked in the Fuld WhatsApp group, and I quote, “Is everyone ok?

Yes. Smiley and all.

Now here is where things get blurry. Doni, my older brother, the one who is one older than Ari in the lineup, Doni called me. As I remember it, he said two words to me. “It’s Ari.”

I had no idea what he was saying. What was he talking about? What was Ari?

I quickly grabbed my stuff and raced to the hospital. Like I don’t know how I made it there in one piece. On the way, I called Doni for an update. He said “Don’t rush.”

It was over.

That moment was the end and the beginning of the hell that was the year that followed.

The hospital. That room. Miriam. Natan. My parents. Everyone. A scene burned on my brain forever. Whether I like it or not.

The moment Natan walked in from school. Frozen. Tears. Shock. Hugs. No one rehearsed such a scenario. What do you even say? What do you do? How do you minimize the trauma? You can’t. You can try. But you can’t. His Bar Mitzvah was around the corner.

“It can’t be.” My mom kept repeating those words. She was right. It couldn’t be. Ari? The bull! The lion, as he’d later be named? Taken down by a teenager with a knife? Later it all became clear. That sprint? That jump over the wall? The terrorist was after his next victim. Ari saw that. No blood in his veins? That’s not an excuse. So he sprinted. And saved her. She became part of the family as a result.

The thoughts rushing in my head from that moment till now. Never stopped for a second. The questions, do we want to see the body and say goodbye? What were they all talking about? This seriously cannot be reality. Just no.

When people say “it feels like yesterday” about an event in the distant past, I didn’t think they meant it literally. This feels like I just watched that video. This second. I better rush to the hospital.

A year? No way.

But I had to get organized at that point. What about my kids? This was all over national news. How would they find out? From their friends in school? My God.

Left the hospital to rush to them. We split up and I went to tell Aviel. Big mistake. He’s a very sensitive one. Very.

The moment I told him? I’ll never ever forget that second. Ever.

I got to his school. They had isolated him. So he didn’t find out. He had no idea why. They said they wanted to give him some feedback. When he saw me, his confusion increased.

I asked his rabbi to leave us alone. I told him “Uncle Ari. Something bad happened. An attack. He saved someone’s life. But he’s gone.”

He didn’t cry. He didn’t have tears flowing down his face. He had a tear. One. Sat there. Still. One tear. They were close. They clowned around a lot. He was his big mighty black belt uncle. One tear.

For the next few weeks and months, I tried to get back to myself. Failed miserably. My family is insanely resilient. That’s a word I didn’t comprehend before. I didn’t understand what that meant. Nor did I understand the word trauma.

But they lived. They mourned. They cried. They suffered. They still are. Endlessly. But from where I was sitting, I was the only one who couldn’t put on my socks in the morning. I’m probably wrong. I know I am actually. We all react differently but all I know is, I was very concerned for my future. My well being wasn’t guaranteed anymore. My stability wasn’t obvious anymore, not emotional, physical, or financial. Nothing was for sure any more.

I was the only brother who didn’t speak at the funeral. Me, the brother who makes a living from talking. But I couldn’t. Talk. I couldn’t.

I try not to think about that. Maybe I should have. How could I not? I tell myself I had nothing to add to what everyone else said. It’s true. It was the middle of the night. Should I have spoken just to speak? What would I have said? How would I have controlled the uncontrollable crying) the words wouldn’t have come out anyway. I tell myself that. Repeatedly.

Luckily, my father, the rock of this family, the one who told us countless times over the past year that this is the card we were dealt and we need to live, luckily he spoke on my behalf and brought the world to tears.

Over the next 12 months, I learned about heroism. I thought I knew Miriam. I didn’t. She taught me who she was. Like who she really was. A hero. A superhero. Just like her husband.

I thought I knew Tamar. I didn’t. I got to know her. A rock. Like her Abba. She got engaged and married to Michaya, a man Ari loved.

Naomi. “How was she strong?” A question I asked myself thousands of times. Thousands.

Yakir. A 6” 6’ giant whose insides make his physical body seem microscopic. And Natan, such maturity. Strength. The little guy is anything but little.

My brothers? Broken but strong. Every one of them.

As for me, there were books. There were words. There were stories. There were messages. Everything contributed a little bit to helping me get out of bed.

Ari created a tsunami in this world the ripples of which I believe we’ll feel for decades. He left this world the way only he would want to leave this world. He wrote the script of his death and that script was his life. The life of a hero.

He left behind a legacy of a hero, an extended family of heroes, a group of close friends who are all heroes, and me, his very sad little brother.

One whole year.