“They asked if it moved me when VIP’s came to visit me. And I was moved but to me it was even more special when people I had never met before showed up.”
Almost a month after the horrific attack that nearly stole Niv Nehemiah’s life, preparing to be released from the hospital, Niv wanted to express his feelings about the kindness of strangers – the people who he had never met before who came to see him in the hospital, to encourage him, to tell him and show his family that they are not alone.
Have you ever gone to the hospital to visit someone you don’t know? Does that sound like a weird thing to do?
It’s something Israelis sometimes do.
Being in the hospital, being sick or wounded and needing to heal is a private sort of thing. Even the friendliest of people would normally prefer to be seen at their best, not while they are weak and suffering. You’d only want family or close friends by your side…
But in Israel strangers are just family you haven’t met yet.
In Jewish tradition, visiting the sick is a mitzvah, a good deed. I’m not sure how many of the those who visit people they have never met before do it out of the conscious desire to do a good deed. That thought comes up but, at least in my experience, it is secondary. The driving motivator is a feeling of being called to go, like it is something you should do. You hear about a story that touches you, a person that you feel special empathy for and something inside makes you feel like you should go to them.
The same is true for attending funerals of people you have never met before or visiting a bereaved family during the shivah, the mourning period. The reason for going is less a conscious thought and more a feeling that it is just where you are supposed to be.
The Yavneh supermarket terror attack on August 2nd, was particularly horrifying.
This is not the first attack to have been captured on camera but the footage made it very easy to see the cool demeanor of the terrorist as he, almost casually, chose Niv as his victim. It is sickening to witness the swift transformation of the terrorist – from average man, like so many others walking those same aisles, in an instant, morphed in to a weapon of death thirsting for Jewish blood.
The grocery store is such an average, routing place, who would think it could become the last stop before your final resting place?
But the thing that was particularly horrifying was Niv, facing death, alone. Suddenly this regular man was forced to become a warrior, in a battle he must not lose – and no one came to help him.
Why? I don’t know. Except for attacks that happen in locations where the victim is utterly alone, there is always someone who intervenes, someone who tries to come to the rescue. Here was Niv, in a public place, and no one came. In the video of the attack you can see two women running away. Were there no men in the store? (Were the only men there Arabs willing to let the attack play out?) I don’t know what happened but, like many other people in the country, I was left with the feeling that Niv should not have been alone.
Possibly that feeling is what drove strangers to visit Niv in the hospital. To show him that he is not alone. To encourage his family. If he had been hospitalized closer to where I live, I would have gone too.
And here is Niv, a man who fought death with his bare hands, who is drawing hope from the people he hadn’t met before who came to visit him in the hospital. He could have spoken about the horror of the attack, his concern about his family or how long it would take him to heal. He is obviously aware of all these things but what he wanted to express was his gratitude to God and the doctors that saved his life and speak about the kindness of strangers.
It is people like Niv that give me hope.