Reliving The Shul Massacre
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Reliving The Shul Massacre

First responder recalls scene at Congregation Kehilat Bnei Torah.

It has been two weeks since two axe-wielding Palestinian terrorists killed four synagogue worshippers and a policeman in western Jerusalem, but the gruesome attack is still resonating here.

Israel’s United Nations ambassador addressed it in the General Assembly, and the first paramedic on the scene is speaking about it on a two-week speaking tour here for Magen David Adom, Israel’s emergency medical service.

Akiva Pollack, 44, a 28-year MDA veteran, is telling audiences that he was a short distance away when an MDA dispatcher reported shots had been fired at the synagogue shortly after 7 a.m. on Nov. 18. He said he raced to the synagogue and “saw a guy sitting outside bleeding badly from his head, and his ear had been chopped off. He was wearing a tallit and tefillin and I saw two cuts on his back and chest. … There were five or six other people outside wearing tallit and tefillin who I assumed had escaped [unharmed].”

Hearing no sound inside the synagogue, Pollack said he raced up 10 steps to the entrance, saw the body of a man lying in a pool of blood in the hall, and began dragging him to safety while telling his dispatcher to send the police.

“He was covered in blood and then I heard gunshots coming towards us,” Pollack said. “I heard a scream behind me.”

Looking back, he saw that a paramedic volunteer, Yaacov Erlich, had twisted his ankle while ducking for cover and that bullets were “flying over his head.”

“One of the terrorists was apparently walking down the hall and shooting at him. But the angle was not good because of the steps and he kept missing. I and another man with me jumped out and dragged Yaccov to us.”

Within five minutes, a half-dozen police officers were at the entrance to the synagogue when one of the gunmen “ran out pointing his gun at a policeman and shooting him in the head” before being shot and killed. The other terrorist was similarly killed. Pollack said he remained with the shot officer until they arrived at Shaare Zedek Hospital, where the officer later died of his wounds.

At the UN last week, Israeli Ambassador Ron Prosor recalled the attack, saying: “We have reached the point when Israelis can’t even find sanctuary from terrorism in the sanctuary of a synagogue. …

“Following the savage attack … celebrations erupted in Palestinian towns and villages. People were dancing in the street and distributing candy. Young men posed with axes, loudspeakers at mosques called out congratulations, and the terrorists were hailed as ‘martyrs’ and ‘heroes.’”

He then told the world body that countries can “work to end Palestinian incitement, or stand by as hatred and extremism take root for generations to come. You can prematurely recognize a Palestinian state, or you can encourage the Palestinian Authority to break its pact with Hamas and return to direct negotiations. The choice is yours.”

editor@jewishweek.org

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