Survivor of Tel Aviv Dolphinarium Attack Reaches out to Comfort Manchester Terror Victims
The powerful personal story of a young woman’s survival of a terrorist attack in Israel made its way into the New York Times this week, following the horror of Monday’s night atrocity outside a concert arena in Manchester, in which 22 people were murdered and dozens of others were wounded by an Islamist suicide bomber.
Tanya Weisz was 17 and living in Tel Aviv on June 1, 2001, when she and three friends — Liana, Oksana and Tanya — headed to their regular haunt, the Dolphinarium discotheque. Recalled Weisz:
Girls could get in to the club free before midnight — and we didn’t have any money, so we decided to go early. We bought a bottle of cheap vodka from a convenience store and hung out on the beach talking and taking sips until we saw a crowd start to gather outside the door at 11:30 p.m.
Tanya and I got into the line on the left-hand side of the door; Oksana and Liana went to the right so we could all get in faster. Then, at 11:44 p.m., a Hamas suicide bomber blew himself up at the entrance to the club.
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Everything went mute. To this day, I don’t know if I lost consciousness. All I know is that I had flown some distance in the air, and everywhere I looked there were dead bodies. It seemed that every single person in that line had been murdered except for me. Liana died on the spot. A total of 21 people were killed, 16 of them were teenagers.
There was blood on me, but I didn’t feel any pain and didn’t know whom the blood belonged to. My only thought was that I had to find my phone to call my mom. The battery had been dislodged, and I somehow managed to put it back into the phone.
All of a sudden, I felt very, very cold. I put my hand on my neck and three of my fingers went deep inside my throat. Four steel balls — the kind that are inside pinball machines — had torn into my flesh. That’s when I started to panic.
Somehow, I don’t know how, I crawled on my stomach toward a “makolet” (bodega). I will never forget the dead girl on the ground near the store. She was wearing a silver dress and had shoulder-length blond hair. There wasn’t a scratch on her. It looked as though she had had a heart attack. Or had simply fallen out of the sky.
At some point a soldier came and carried me into the makolet. Only then did I start hearing the screams and notice the cameras in my face. Liana’s twin brother showed up at the scene, desperate to find his sister: “Where’s Liana? Where’s Liana?” All I could do was point in the direction of the bodies. Much later, I found out that my family knew I had been in the blast only because they saw me on TV, lying on the sidewalk and reaching for help.
Liana did not survive the attack — one of 16 teenagers in the final death roll of 21.
They kept Liana’s death a secret for another week and a half; they told me she had a broken leg. Liana’s twin brother visited me every day in the hospital, which I thought was weird. Why was he with me and not his sister? The moment I found out Liana died was when the reality of the situation hit me.
For me, a bombing was something you see on the news. Even in Israel, you don’t think it can happen to you. Until this day, I see it in pieces, like a nightmare.
Weisz ended with these reflections for the victims and their friends and families in Manchester.
I know there is nothing I can say right now to make the survivors of the Manchester bombing feel any better. The guilt for me began the day of the blast. Seeing Liana’s mother is especially painful. I see her looking at me and I know she is imaging her daughter at my age. But I would tell the survivors to stay strong and focus on your recovery. You have to be very strong to recover.
These days I live in Toronto, and I have people in my life who don’t know about my past. They say to me: “Wow, how did you live in Israel? It’s so dangerous!” And they have no idea.
I have a huge scar on my neck. I work in retail at a mall and sometimes people ask me about it. I just say: “I had an accident.” The scar will always remind me of that day. Always. But it’s also a scar that reminds me that I’m alive.