April 30, 2003
Different Kind of Visit
I am in Israel for a few days to visit the victims of terrorist acts. I'm on my own, not with a group. It's the first time I've been in Israel with a purpose other than visiting family and enjoying myself. I'm not frightened but there is something unsettling to visit Israel this way. It was the idea of my sister, Dalya. She had returned from Israel a few weeks earlier. She just heard on the radio about a suicide bombing on a bus in Jerusalem.
"You have to go and help," she said to me.
"But what will I do?" I asked.
"Just go and you will find a way to help."
I go to Hadassah Hospital and ask at the information desk to visit the terrorist victims. They tell me I cannot visit patients in critical condition, but their families are willing to talk to visitors. It helps share their sorrow and pain. The noncritically injured patients in the burn or plastic surgery section of the hospital will also speak to visitors. I start with the noncritically injured. Each room holds about four patients and the rooms are sadly full.
The first patient I meet is a 40-year-old woman in great pain. She is sitting up in her bed surrounded by friends who are trying to cheer her up. Her arms are covered with bandages from her wrists to her shoulders. I was surprised when she told me that her face was badly damaged in the explosion. Thanks to plastic surgery, except for a wound on the side of her nose, she was beautiful. Thank God for Israeli doctors. She was on her way to buy food one morning when the explosion ripped through the bus she was on.
I then talked to a beautiful young girl also sitting in bed. She was alone and very lonely. She tried not to cry as she told me, "I am a nobody. Just a 20-year-old girl studying history at the university."
I wasn't brave enough to ask her where she was injured. She was a beautiful soul with light coming from her face. But she didn't want to talk very much, so I said goodbye and moved on.
I then visit a third woman whose legs are badly burned. I cannot bare anymore to look at their suffering, so I walk into the corridor. I have only a minute to collect my thoughts when a nurse asked me if I want to visit an Iranian patient. I was glad that she asked me.
She leads me to a room where I first notice a few family members standing at the base of a bed where a young man covered with white bandages lies very still. I say "Shalom" to the family, and a dignified woman introduces herself to me as the mother of the patient, her son, Aran. I ask permission to talk to Aran and the mother smiles warmly. I ask Aran what happened.
"I don't want what happened to me to happen to anyone else in the world, not even to my enemies." I was surprised that revenge was far from his mind. "It was horrible. I was in my army uniform on an Egged bus returning to my base. Standing in front of me was an Arab who seemed perfectly normal. When I noticed bus No. 13 behind me, I pulled the cord to tell the driver to stop so that I could transfer. The Arab must have thought that I knew what he was planning because he immediately exploded himself."
Aran is perfectly still as he tells me the story, even though his voice is full of emotion. He is unable to move his body or even fingers because of the pain.
"I remember a terrible explosion and the bus door beside me flew off it's hinges and I landed on to the street," he continues. "I was on fire, in shock and suffocating, but all I could think of doing was running. Luckily, a man driving by noticed me burning in my uniform. He wrapped me in a blanket to put out the fire, helped me into his car and rushed me to the hospital where 10 doctors were working on me at the same time. One of the doctors saw that I was burned inside also and that I would suffocate in a few minutes if he didn't hook me up to a respirator immediately. A few minutes later, they moved me to the ICU."
At that moment I see how painful it is for him to speak and understand why he spoke so slowly. I also start to notice how handsome he is.
Then, Aran's mother tells me her part of the story.
"When I heard about the bus explosion on the radio I just knew that my son was on that bus," she says. "I became numb. My oldest son came and took me to Hadassah. Aran was burned badly all over his body. His face kept swelling bigger and bigger. I was only able to recognize him from his feet."
I cannot contain myself and start to cry without control. Aran's mother hugs me, asks me why I am crying and kisses me. I looked directly at Aran and my tears fall on his healing face.
"Aran," I ask him, "do you give me permission to touch your face?"
I want to make sure this is not a dream. I don't wait for his answer. I stroke his cheek gently with my finger tips. In this moment, he lifts his hand with great difficulty and gently scratches the air with his fingers in a sign of love and kindness. I cannot bear the pain and sorrow anymore. I have to leave or they will have to start comforting me instead of my comforting them.
It's been four months since my sister, Dalya, suggested that I go to Israel. I didn't realize it at the time, but she did me a great favor. I received so much more out of this trip than I ever gave. Now, I want to return the favor to all of you reading my story. Visit Israel and comfort the people by being there. It will make a great difference to you and them.
Lilly Gohar Bolour left Iran with her children a month before the revolution. She visits Israel frequently and lives in Los Angeles with her husband and family.