First Responder on Scene at Jerusalem Synagogue Attack Recounts the Horror
Magen David Adom paramedic Akiva Pollack was the first emergency responder on the scene of the Jerusalem synagogue attack on Nov. 18 that resulted in the murder of five Israelis. On Tuesday night he spoke about rushing to the sanctuary on the day of the attack and being unprepared for what he found.
“I came from my house to this scene. I had no equipment with me. I was with my slippers. That’s how I got to this scene,” Pollack said, speaking at the American Friends of Magen David Adom New York Annual Benefit Dinner at the Lighthouse at Chelsea Piers.
Pollack lives in the neighborhood where the incident happened and said he arrived at Har Nof’s Bnei Torah synagogue about 30 seconds after the terror attack started. The first thing he saw was one of the victims sitting outside in his prayer shawl (talit) and his phylacteries (tefillin) and bleeding very badly. After the wounded man alerted the paramedic that he’d been shot, Pollack called an MDA dispatcher to report the attack and state that he was at the scene.
When Pollack went up the synagogue steps to see inside the building, he found another man lying on the floor with his talit and tefillin, and a big puddle of blood around him. Pollack dragged the victim closer to check whether he was still alive when he came under a hail of bullets. He managed to seek cover just as policemen arrived and surrounded the entrance to the synagogue.
Heavy gunfire was then exchanged between the terrorists and the Israeli police officers. An officer standing near Pollack was hit by one of the terrorists; minutes later, the same attacker was killed by Israeli officers as he exited the synagogue. Though Pollack dragged the wounded police officer, 30 year-old Zidan Sayif, out of the line of fire, he died later that night.
Pollack spoke at the AFMDA Benefit Dinner in front of more than 400 guests. The event raised $4.5 million for MDA, the largest sum ever raised at the annual dinner, and proceeds will go toward the organization’s new national blood center and ambulances.
Pollack has been with MDA since 1986. He said the terror attack that took place at the Jerusalem synagogue was unlike anything he had ever seen before.
“I’ve seen a lot of things: suicide bombings, rockets, bus explosions… but I have to say, what I saw two weeks ago was different,” he explained. “The violence, the anger, the wounds, the size of the wounds that these terrorists did to these people. How could a human being do it to another?”
“Just to give you an idea of how crazy it is in Israel,” Pollack said, a day after the synagogue terror attack he worked an MDA shift with an Israeli Arab EMT who was from the same village as the terrorists. Commenting on the irony, he simply said, “that is Israel.” He ended by saying that his efforts at the scene of the synagogue attack was him merely doing his job.
“People ask me if I feel like a hero. No, I just do my job,” he said.