By Larry Gordon
They had already davenedMinchah early last Friday afternoon before returning to their yeshiva dormitory room for the weekend in Yeshiva Shavei Hebron. Three hundred and thirty students are learning in this school, just a few yards from the entranceway to the Cave of the Patriarchs, and another 150 are presently serving in the army. On Shabbat Chayei Sarah, more than 200 guests from all over the world–England, France, United States, and Israel–came to stay at Yeshiva Shavei Hevron.
The inspirational Shabbos began with the arrival of the commander of the Yehuda and Shomron division, Brigadier General Lior Carmeli, on erevShabbat. At the meal, he blessed all those who came to Hevron despite–or because of–the present situation. Further, he said that the IDF is involved with operating the weapons, and at Yeshiva Shavei Hevron, the students and teachers are involved with the spiritual. He emphasized that without the spiritual side, the army would not be able to successfully carry out its operations. All those present at the meal responded with much emotion and enthusiasm and gave him a standing ovation. It was a touching moment. Dovi Weiss, the executive director of the yeshiva, thanked the brigadier general and requested to relay our appreciation to all of the soldiers of all ranks, wherever they are. The guests stated that the atmosphere of this Shabbat Chayei Sarah was the most uplifting of all of the previous ones ever held. Despite a terrorist attack on one visitor, Eli Borochov, all of the guests already expressed an interest in coming again next year.
What happened to Eli is scary and miraculous at the same time. Eli and his father dressed for Shabbos, and at about 4:00 p.m. headed back toward Me’arat HaMachpelah where they would be joining thousands of Jews to welcome Shabbos in Hebron.
“We walked up the first flight of stairs before making a sharp left turn to head to the security metal detectors and then up the next set of stairs,” said Eli Borochov, 20, a student at Lander College and resident of Cedarhurst.
“We heard a boom but we’re not sure where it came from,” said Eli’s father Ronen. He said that at first he thought it might have been a firecracker or something similar. But then young Eli fell to the ground.
“I thought that I might have been hit by a rock,” Eli says. “I felt a pain in my upper leg but I never would have imagined that I was hit by a sniper bullet from somewhere out there in the Hebron Hills,” Eli says.
Eli could not get up as the pain worsened. His father immediately told the nearby young soldiers guarding and patrolling the plaza leading to the main entrance to the cave that his son was shot. “I saw blood pouring out of his pants. Soldiers rushed over as did medical personnel, but the officer in charge said that he didn’t think it was a sniper’s bullet,” says Ronen. He says that at first the soldiers asked whether Eli was carrying a gun that might have fired accidentally and injured his leg. Regardless of the cause, Eli was rushed to an ambulance for the long ride to a Jerusalem hospital.
The Borochovs–Eli, Yosef, 16, a student at DRS high school in Woodmere, and their father–arrived in Israel the day before on Thursday. This was their third year together for Shabbos Chayei Sarah in Hebron. Ronen Borochov says it has become a tradition that he and his boys go for Chayei Sarah to Israel as an expression of their love of Torah and Eretz Yisrael. They believe in the land of Israel and have many friends who have made aliyah and reside in cities like Bet Shemesh and others.
It’s Tuesday night and we are sitting around the dining-room table in the Borochov home. Eli, now featuring a slight limp, sits at the head of the table. Across from me is Ronen, then Yosef, and next to him his mother, Devora.
This entire scenario was a potential nightmare. Dan Rosenstein, the head of the Hebron Fund, said this week that they had no idea what would happen on Chayei Sarah in the city due to the unpredictable security situation on the ground. Over the years, there have been Shabbosos where up to 20,000 people descended on the city to celebrate. This year, Dan said over the phone on Tuesday, they thought that only a few hundred would come to spend Shabbos there. In the end, over 4,000 came to Hebron for Shabbos despite or perhaps because of the purposeful terror and the bottom-line objective to scare Jews away.
When Eli arrived at Shaare Zedek Hospital in Jerusalem, it was already Shabbos. His father said that what he witnessed next was awe-inspiring. Since the nature of the wound or the trajectory of the bullet that hit Eli was still not clearly defined, a team of doctors were called in–some pulled away from the Shabbos table as is unfortunately not unusual–in case their medical expertise would be required.
A social worker at the hospital reached out to the American embassy to inform them that an American citizen had been injured in a terror attack. But there was no response from any representative of the U.S. until Tuesday after the Borochovs returned to the U.S. Ronen showed me an e-mail he received from the U.S. consulate inquiring as to whether he would require any assistance and also advising him that their office would be closed on Wednesday in observance of Veterans Day. The letter writer suggested that Ronen try to reach her on Thursday.
“It’s a little astounding that an American is wounded in a terror attack and your own country representatives are nowhere to be seen or heard from,” Ronen says. He is, however, exceedingly pleased that because of the support of so many friends in Israel as well as here in the States, he did not need to depend on any U.S. involvement.
Since the Borochovs have returned from Israel on Monday, the office of Congresswoman Kathleen Rice has reached out to the family to assist them with whatever they might need related to the terror attack. Assemblyman Todd Kaminsky, Nassau County Supervisor Tony Santino, and Nassau County Councilman Bruce Blakeman have also been in touch with the family.
But the question remains: Where were the U.S. representatives in Israel during those hours of fear and uncertainty when a young American student visiting Israel was shot by a sniper–who still has not been found? Was it an issue for the U.S. that Eli was shot in Hebron, a city in which the U.S. has made clear that they would like to see Jews withdraw from, one of the many so-called areas of Israel that the State Department considers “occupied territory?”
Can it be that it is U.S. policy that if an American is hurt in an area of a country where there is a territorial dispute, that the U.S. officially has no obligation to provide assistance? Disappointingly, so far in this case, it seems that this might be the reality that we are dealing with.
Meanwhile back at the hospital, Eli says that there were at least 15—20 medical personnel around him trying to determine the nature of his injury. Ronen says that the Shin Bet that accompanied him to the hospital from Hebron urged Ronen to call his wife back in New York to tell her what happened to their son. They explained that the news of an American young man being shot in Hebron was all over the news and that his mother should hear it from him rather than see it on a website.
Since there was no exit wound, the doctors felt that the bullet still must be lodged somewhere in Eli. An abdominal surgeon was brought in just in case. A sonogram was done in an effort to see where the bullet was but it was nowhere to be seen. The next day at the site of the shooting in Hebron a bullet was found and sent to the hospital for DNA testing. It was determined that this was the bullet that injured Eli Borochov. How it exited his body has still not yet been determined.
On Sunday, Israel’s defense minister, Moshe Yaalon, arrived at Shaare Zedek to visit Eli Borochov. Many of Eli’s friends with whom he attended Yeshivat Sha’alvim, and other friends, were in the hospital with him at the time. Eli explains that all except two friends and his dad were asked to leave the room when the defense minister arrived.
Eli’s younger brother, Yosef, who sat with us the other night, remained in Hebron over Shabbos under the close watch of Israel security forces and several people from the administration of Yeshiva Shavei Hebron.
“I cannot say enough about how well we were treated at Shaare Zedek Hospital,” says Ronen Borochov. “Every detail was attended to.” He says the hospital provided him with food for Shabbos and people who live nearby the hospital whom he does not know flocked to the medical center to see what they can do for him.
Ronen told them at the time that he did not want anything until his son was out of surgery, in recovery, and he would be allowed see him. Ronen called Devora here in New York after the surgery to say that Eli had been in an accident. She asked what type of accident and Ronen slowly related to her what had occurred. He added that Eli is fine and recovering.
Devora Borochov asked her husband if she could speak to Eli. He handed his son the phone and she was pleased–overjoyed, in fact–to hear his voice. Amongst the things she said to him at the time was, “I guess your suit pants are ruined.” He chuckled and said, “Looks that way!”
Eli is home in Cedarhurst and though it was already after 9:00 p.m., friends were still coming over to visit and in a sense celebrate a miracle with the family.
Eli is hobbling around his home but looks like he is on the mend. He hopes to be back at school at Lander College in Queens next week.
Comments for Larry Gordon are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.