As I hear more and more reports on the terror attack in Orlando I can’t help but think that there is something terribly wrong in America.
No, I don’t mean the crippling political correctness that is killing the western world. At least at the moment, that’s not what I am referring to.
I’m not talking about gun laws either.
There is something wrong with the people, the regular people.
I grew up on the idea that America is the land of the free and the home of the brave. Today I wonder where these qualities have gone.
Now just to be clear, I am not judging the victims of this attack. Each person did the best they knew how in a horrible situation. My question is, how can it be that people have so given their faith to the government, to the “authorities” that they have forgotten to have faith in themselves? How can it be that in a place packed with hundreds of people not one tried to stop the terrorist? 8 people working together could certainly have stopped the massacre.
(Does no one in America remember Flight 93 on 9/11?)
Reports describe the Orlando victims down on the floor, cowering in corners, praying not to be killed. They were waiting for the authorities to save them.
For 49 people it took too long.
Imran Yousuf, a 24-year-old Hindu and former Marine helped dozens escape. Good for him. In an interview he expressed sorrow that he had not managed to help more. That says a lot about the quality of his character.
“But”, you might ask me, “Imran Yousuf had Marine training. None of the other people had any kind of training. They didn’t have guns to fight the terrorist… ”
This is true. It is also not the point. It’s not about training and it’s not about guns. It’s about refusing to lie down and die. Literally. It’s about refusing to allow others to be killed next to you.
It’s about spirit. It’s about determination.
Haim Smadar is an example of this. He is just one of countless Israeli heroes who refused to let others die on his watch. He had no special training. He had no weapons. He was just an average, middle aged man earning a minimum wage and trying to get by in life. He was one of those gray people you could pass by and never notice…
It has nothing to do with training or weapons.
Haim Smadar is proof. This is his story.
‘With my own body I would stop him’
By Etgar Lefkovitz
The Jerusalem Post 4.12.2002
(April 12) – Haim Smadar gave his life to stop a suicide bomber from entering a crowded
supermarket. His widow, Shoshana, talks to Etgar Lefkovits about who he was and what he leaves behind.
He was not supposed to be at the Jerusalem supermarket.
But when on the morning of March 29 Haim Smadar got a call from the boss of the security company which employed him asking him to work half a day’s shift as a guard at Supersol, the 55-year-old father of five agreed. The school where he usually worked as a guard was closed for the Passover holiday so the supermarket job was welcome. He chose the Kiryat Hayovel position over the other options he was offered in Ramot and Abu Gosh because it was in the neighborhood in which he had grown up. It was also to be the site of his death.
Two hours after Smadar started his shift the usual peace and quiet of Kiryat Hayovel was shattered when an 18-year-old Palestinian girl, wearing a belt of explosives strapped around her waist, approached the market entrance.
Smadar was immediately suspicious of her. He grabbed her by the arms, and said: “You are not coming in here. You and I will blow up here.”
These were his last words, according to witness accounts confirmed in police testimony, and recalled by Smadar’s wife of 25 years, Shoshana, in an interview she gave The Jerusalem Post Magazine during the shiva at their small apartment in the northern Jerusalem neighborhood of Neveh Ya’acov.
“God gave him the strength to do it. He was sent to the place with a mission,” Shoshana says of her husband’s sacrifice.
Seconds after he confronted the terrorist, and apparently tried to wrestle with her and push her away from the store, the suicide bomber set off her bomb killing Smadar, and a 17-year-old shopper, Rachel Levy, a high school pupil who loved photography.
Smadar’s wife thinks that her Arabic-speaking husband’s suspicions may have been raised by the exchange of words that he picked up between the terrorist and several Arab women selling mint and vegetables in the commercial square seconds before she entered the supermarket.
Her husband apparently heard the bomber warning the women to flee.
“He understood what she was telling them, and this set off alarm bells,” Shoshana Smadar says. [It was reported that the suicide bomber told them to leave the premises]
Immediately after the bombing, police said that by struggling with the bomber at the entrance to the store Smadar had undoubtedly averted an even greater disaster from occurring as he prevented her from going deeper into the supermarket, where the impact of the shrapnel-packed explosives inevitably would have been much more lethal.
Indeed, during subsequent examination of the large bomb, security officials noted that the make up of the explosives was not very different from that of the bomb used by the Hamas suicide attacker in the Passover massacre at Netanya’s Park Hotel which killed 27 people.
Following the bombing at Haifa’s Matza Restaurant a few days later – when 16 people lost their lives – Haifa Mayor Amram Mitzna said that had the eatery been protected by a guard – “like the guard in Kiryat Hayovel” – the scope of the attack there too would have been greatly lessened.
Smadar’s bravery and self-sacrifice are perhaps the main consolation helping his family cope with their loss, his wife says.
“That is our comfort. To know that 20 other families are not going through what we are right now,” says Shoshana Smadar.
Now she is concerned about the daily struggle of looking after her family, particularly how to finance the high cost of treatment and hearing aids for their two deaf children.
The morning of the attack started out like any other for the family. Tunisian-born Haim Smadar, who immigrated to Israel with his family as a toddler, had worked for the past three years as the security guard for a Ma’alot Dafna school. He was home for the Passover holiday with his wife and some of the children, who range in age from 32 to 15.
In the morning, Smadar, who frequently lent a helping hand and was known as a Mr. Fix-It, went up to the roof of his building to mend a water leak for his neighbor.
“He always found time to help others,” says Shoshana, a sentiment echoed by the principal of the school where he usually worked.
At 9:30, Smadar got the call from his boss asking him to work for a few hours.
As he ate a quick breakfast of hard-boiled eggs on matza, Smadar asked his wife to iron his security guard’s uniform, with a sense of urgency and pressure that she thought of only later.
Before he left at 10:30, Smadar promised his wife he would be back in the afternoon, and reminded her not to forget to buy cigarettes at the kiosk when she went shopping.
“I’ll be back at three and we’ll eat then because what with this Passover matza breakfast, I certainly will be hungry by then,” he told her. He asked her to prepare his favorite stuffed meats.
At 2 p.m., Shoshana’s daughter told her mother that there had just been a terror attack in Kiryat Hayovel.
“Where in Kiryat Hayovel?” she asked her heart thumping.
“At the supermarket,” her daughter answered.
Deep down, Shoshana knew something terrible had happened.
“I just heard the word Kiryat Hayovel and I began to be nervous. Why, why did they take him from me?” she thought to herself, not daring to tell her children of her own suspicions.
Shoshana quickly called her husband’s employer.
“Is it Haim? Is it Haim?” she asked after hearing a guard had been killed and another seriously wounded.
“I don’t know,” was all he could honestly reply.
In the next few hours, while it was still unclear whether Smadar was dead or whether he was the guard who had survived, Shoshana says she thought she would die.
“The tension was killing me. I begged them, ‘Just tell me who it is,” she said in tears.
While Shoshana waiting to hear her husband’s fate, news spread of the supermarket guard’s act of self sacrifice. Haim’s sister, Ilana Avitan, was talking of to her neighbor of the heroic deed committed by the security man, unaware that it was her brother.
“I said how heroic, how brave this guard was,” Avitan recalls.
Fifteen minutes later, her husband came in to tell her the guard she had been talking about was Haim.
Nati Smadar, 15, had a special relationship with his father as his youngest child. “A few days ago something strange happened,” he says. “Every time we made kiddush I would ask to do the blessing and my father always told me I could do the blessing after he dies. Seder night was the first time he let me read the blessings, as if he knew. He knew he was going to die.”
Consoling themselves with the dozens of phone calls they received last week from well-wishers and grateful people he had saved, Smadar’s wife and sister considered how the attack easily could have ended with scores of fatalities. “What would have happened if there had been a different guard stationed at the supermarket who had not have been as alert as he was?” Smadar wondered, as she asked one of the five children to show a visitor the certificate of merit that her husband had received from Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert last year for excellence and diligence in his job.
Thinking back to a time when she talked with her husband about the suicide bombing as they watched the pictures of a particularly horrific attack on TV, she recalls his words.
“I remember watching the pictures of the victims and their families and how I was crying and crying, and I asked him: ‘How much longer would this go on?’ she recounts.
“And he said to me: ‘Shoshana if a suicide bomber ever comes close to my school, he will not get past me. With my own body I would stop him.”