Rabbi Who Recently Immigrated to Israel Recounts Son’s Near-Death Experience After Palestinian Terrorist Opens Fire on Bus
A prominent New York City rabbi who moved to Israel in 2015, and whose teenage son narrowly escaped death on Saturday night when a terrorist opened fire on the bus he was riding told The Algemeiner he has no regrets about making Israel his home.
“We moved to Israel this past summer to fulfill a decades-long dream to live in our homeland,” Rabbi Yaakov Kermaier, the former spiritual leader of the prestigious Fifth Avenue Synagogue said. “We have visited Israel over the years during times of war and waves of terror. We knew that we were coming to a place, where our enemies never let us take our blessings for granted. While this experience was unnerving, the beautiful way that the kids and the school responded reminded me that this is a very special place. And in general, we feel very safe in Israel. We do not have any regrets about moving here.”
On Saturday, Kermaier’s 16-year old son, Binyamin, was riding in a private bus after spending Shabbat in the Judean town of Tekoa, when a Palestinian car pulled in front and a terrorist opened fire on the bus. The bullet struck the window directly in front of the driver’s seat, but “blessedly,” he said, it didn’t penetrate because the window was bullet proof. “Though the bullet impact was strong,” Rabbi Kermaier wrote in an email to friends, “the driver maintained his composure and did not lose control of the bus. We were told afterwards, that the likely agenda of the terrorists was to force the bus off the road so that they could then murder the kids, and perhaps kidnap some of them.”
Despite the terrifying encounter, Kermaier, who began his email with the quote: “God’s kindness is limitless; His mercy is never exhausted. (Lamentations 3:22),” said that when the driver brought the students back to their Yeshiva — Mekor Chaim — the school and its students responded with a spirit of faith and kindness. The Rosh Yeshiva (Dean) gathered the students in the study hall to talk with them about what happened and they sang songs of thanksgiving to God for bringing them home safely, he said. Rabbi Kermaier also recounted that the students decided that they were going to bring the bus driver back to the Yeshiva to honor him for saving their lives.
The next day, he said, the boys recited Birkat Hagomel, “the blessing whereby an individual humbly acknowledges that he is hardly worthy of God’s incredible kindness.” Israel’s Deputy Defense Minister also attended the moving ceremony the next day, Kermaier told The Algemeiner.
The rabbi, who has four children with his wife Elana said that the incident still haunts him, knowing that his son had so narrowly escaped death.
“Elana and I, and our parents, were rattled by the experience (Binyamin seems to have taken the whole incident in stride). It is unnerving – to say the least – to know that a ruthless killer targeted our son and his friends. But at the same time, we are so moved by the way that the school and the students responded to a near-tragedy with faith and goodness,” he wrote. “Reaffirming and celebrating life – no one does better than the people of Israel.”