The year was 1994 and Charles Dweck, along with four other boys in his seminary, headed down Ben Yehuda street. The pavement gleamed with new October rain, as the boys headed to a local restaurant, eager to shelter themselves from the cold, heavy drops dripping down their faces.
Suddenly, in the midst of eating, the five boys heard a gunshot coming from outside. In a panic, restaurant-goers began to scream and call for help. Unsure of what to do, Charles and his friends ran to the bathroom and the five of them squeezed into a tiny stall. Hours passed, and no one had come to retrieve the boys. Did anyone know they were there? Charles silently prayed to Hashem that their hiding spot would remain hidden and that the gunman would not find them.
All of a sudden, they heard someone kicking open the stalls, one by one, until they got to the very last one, where the boys were hidden. Charles’ hands started shaking as he watched to door slam against the wall of the stall. The boys slowly slumped out of the stall. The second they came into full view, they found five guns aimed at their faces. The boys hurriedly explained that they were Americans; they had been staying in Israel for the last semester and had been eating in the restaurant when they heard the gunshots and ran to hide. In thick accents, a gunman assured the boys that they were Israeli military, looking for a terrorist of some sort, with no interest in tourists. The soldiers allowed them to exit the bathroom and restaurant. Outside, they saw that a terrorist had been shot and killed by the army. Disgusted and traumatized, the boys were forced to step over the dead body and across the street.
Fast forward 20 years. Charles is now married with four kids and still friends with most of the other American boys. They often reminisce about their positive experiences in Israel, while trying to forget the not-so-positive ones—overall though, the horrifying incident affects him very little. Recently, Charles went to Israel for his grandfather’s 90th birthday, and while on the trip, the family visited a shooting range called “Caliber 3,” at his grandfather’s request. At the range, Charles is greeted by a man named Atan, a strong but weathered looking man. Atan explained that he is a retired soldier who now works at the shooting range, giving others a glimpse of what the IDF does day-to-day. As Atan began explaining what to do during emergencies such as bombs, missiles and shootings, Charles whispered his Ben Yehuda story to an advisor standing near him. The advisor informed Charles that Atan is knowledgeable about shooting and he should talk to him. After Atan completed his demonstration, Charles approached him and detailed his past experience. Atan stopped him and said, “October 24, 1994?”.
“Yeah, how did you know?” Charles replied shell-shocked.
“That was my first mission,” Atan explained. “It was me and my men that encountered that terrorist.” Charles stood up with tears in his eyes, walked over to Atan, hugged him and thanked him for saving his life.
Today, I too am grateful for Atan. Atan allowed my father, Charles, to have me.
Joanie Dweck is a sophomore at Yeshiva Of Flatbush. She is a Staff Writer for Fresh Ink for Teens.