Sen. Robert Singer (center), is greeted by Silvan Shalom, Israel’s foreign minister, at Hadassah Medical Center Ein Kerem in Jerusalem. At left is Dr. Yair Birnbaum, director of the hospital. (Photo: Hadassah Medical Organization)U.S. State Senator Robert Singer personally thanked …
Singer, one of two Republican majority leaders of New Jersey’s state senate, immediately flew to Israel upon being informed that Sari had been on the bus.
“To just see her and kiss her and hold her” eased his immediate worst fears, he told the Asbury Park Press. “Like any parent, I was beside myself.”
Singer visited the explosion site on Jerusalem’s Jaffa Road. Seventeen Israelis were killed in the attack and over 100 injured.
“I met the two young men who pulled her out…It was very emotional. There was a lot of thanks and a lot of hugs… I lit a candle at the site where the bus was bombed. They are already putting in windows in buildings and getting back to work,” he said.
Singer said he hadn’t suspected his daughter, 29, could be one of the passengers on the number 14A bus, so the phone call he received Wednesday from one of her friends came as a shock. He immediately searched for the first flight to Israel, and found one leaving from JFK Airport. Time was tight, so the New Jersey governor sent a helicopter to take the senator and his son to the airport.
Sari, who originally came to Israel on the birthright Israel program, is a volunteer with One Family (Mishpacha Achat,) an organization that assists victims of terrorism in Israel.
She said her father allowed her to come to Israel if she promised to avoid traveling on public transportation. From now on, Singer joked, he is giving his daughter an armored car to take her around the city.
“I told her to take cabs. But part of the problem is that if you live here
in fear, you cannot live here. I understand it,” Singer said.
Sari said she usually tries to be careful. She had even debated whether or not to take a
cab on the day of the attack, but then decided that in light of diplomatic progress on the road map and following the Aqaba summit, that it was probably safe to get on the bus.
Sitting in her hospital room last week, Sari, who arrived in Israel a year and a half ago, expressed determination to remain in the country. She plans to undergo rehabilitation in the U.S. and return to Israel in the fall.
“I have made in aliya in spirit, but I haven’t done the paper work,” she told The Jerusalem Post from her room, filled with flowers, balloons and friends. She described how she was rescued from the bus.
“I didn’t notice anything weird. I was looking out the window and felt a strong blast and then I heard it. I closed my eyes right away. I felt like someone had hit me in the face. I didn’t understand what was going on. My left eye wouldn’t open. I was screaming, screaming. I¹m assuming I was screaming loudly, because my throat hurt when I got in the ambulance.
Outside, there was a man, I want to thank him, who told me I have to get out. I told him I couldn’t. He said, ‘you can, you can.’ Somehow I put my feet through the small window.”
Sari recalled that when she lived in New York, she occasionally used the subway hit by the September 11 attack, because her office was nearby. She was saved on that particular day because she left late for work. “So I thought, why not go to Israel?” she said.
Senator Singer said that much more needs to be done to stop terrorism against Israel.
“There has to be a peace process we can’t let it be derailed. The problem I have is that whenever there is an action and reaction it widens the gap. That has to stop,” he said. The solution is for the Palestinians is to clamp down on terrorism instead of leaving the job to Israel. As long as that situation exists, the peace process is in jeopardy, he said, adding that there can’t be a true peace while Hamas is free to be violent.
“Let’s see those acts stop,” Singer said. “We really need to see the Palestinians and the Arabs step up to the plate. There is a lot of hope – everyone in Israel wants peace. They are concerned and do not want to see the peace process stopped. But we have to see some changes from the Arab world so that things will get better.”
Among the 17 victim in the bus blast was a cousin of the American ambassador to Israel, Daniel Kurtzer, Yediot Aharonot reported.
Anna Orgal, 55, was buried Thursday at a cemetery outside Tel Aviv, and Kurtzer attended the funeral, the paper reported. The U.S. Embassy confirmed that Kurtzer’s cousin was killed in the Jerusalem attack.
“The ambassador deeply appreciates the expressions of sympathy he has received. In deference to the privacy of the grieving family in Israel, we will not be commenting further,” the Embassy said in a statement,
Orgal, daughter of Holocaust survivors, was related to Kurtzer through his mother, who was a cousin of Orgal’s father, the paper reported. Kurtzer was in close touch with the family, the daily said.
After the funeral, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon met with Kurtzer to offer his condolences, the paper said.