April 12, 2024
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April 12, 2024
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Adi’s Story: A Miracle Not Fully Realized

I guess it’s fitting that I’m writing this in the backseat of a taxi on the way to Ben-Gurion Airport. It’s exactly how I learned about Adi five years ago. Israeli cabbies are legendary for their gift of gab, and they often prove quite entertaining.  I certainly got more than my “fare” share (pun intended) back in November of 2008.

I had landed one night in Tel Aviv, and of course the baggage handlers were on strike. Knowing that it could take five hours or five days for me to see my stuff, I high-tailed it out of the airport to my Jerusalem hotel with my carry-on. Deciding to go to sleep, I told myself, “When I wake up, I’ll check to see if the strike is over.”

I awoke jetlagged at 3 a.m. knowing that my sleep was over. I called downstairs to the front desk and they informed me that the strike had been settled. I got dressed and made my way down to the completely deserted street, where after 10 minutes I found a lone taxi. The driver was looking to head home, and I was desperate to head to the airport. They say money can buy most anything, and at 3:30 a.m. in Yerushalayim the old adage proved infinitely wise.

My driver was Dudu Nissim, everything you can imagine in your classic Israeli taxi driver. Within 10 minutes I knew about his ex- wife, his current wife, his three sons, and I was ready for an invitation to join the family for a Mimouna barbeque. And then he told me about his step-daughter, Adi Hudja.

Google the name and you’ll find that she is a modern-day miracle. Adi was 15 back in 2003, in the days when Arab terrorists were blowing themselves up in the crowded streets to kill Jews and meet the vestal virgins awaiting them in Islamic Olam Haba.  Adi was celebrating her friend’s sweet-16 outside a restaurant on Rechov Hillel when a “martyr” detonated his bomb, killing himself and 10 others as well. The force of the bomb—and its masochistic content of nails, pins and ball-bearings—tore through Adi’s hip and legs. The medics counted 32 holes in total, with blood gushing everywhere. Somehow, the surgeons of Hadassah Medical Center saved Adi’s life, and their work became legendary, written up in many a medical journal.

But Adi was scarred terribly, literally and figuratively. Her dream, her stepfather Dudu said at 4 a.m.—with me now wide awake and sitting in the back seat at rapt attention—was to fly to the United States and see New York and Los Angeles. After 10 surgeries, some plastic and some life-saving, unimaginable trauma and hundreds of hours of all kinds of therapy, it was the least she could have asked for. I’d told him I would see what I could do to help her dream come true.

My son Joey’s bar mitzvah was coming up in March, and we jumped at the chance to do a mitzvah. With the help of generous friends, Adi and her sister spent two glorious weeks in the States.

Since then, we’ve kept in touch over the years. There have been phone calls and the occasional visit to Adi’s home. She’s returned to the States one other time since. We’ve met new boyfriends. We’ve discussed her desire to leave Israel; we’ve had conversations, about the prospect of jobs and the will to get on with life. She’s a fighter, Adi, but no one will ever know the depth of her anger and fear of the world.

I landed in Israel this past Sunday afternoon and called to check in on her and say hi. She was in bed, recovering from her 11th surgery—the first in many years.

“What happened, Adi?”

“I was having severe pain in my upper left leg and with the latest technology they discovered two more masmerim (nails) that have been embedded in me for 10 years. I just had them removed.”

Dear God, she’s only 25. She lives in a back room of her parents’ basement apartment, near a garden where stray cats strut all day. She watches TV, goes shopping, listens to music, and thinks about life: a life that could have been; a life that may yet be; a life literally torn to shreds by a maniacal terrorist a decade ago who still haunts her every move.

Adi’s a great girl—pretty, modest, humble and so desperately yearning for a semblance of a normal life. Dudu still drives a taxi, and her mom, Mali, is a long-time member of Jerusalem’s police force. They say “it takes a village”…. If any of our readers want to help give a young Israeli woman the chance to restart her life, you can contact me at: katz07621_aol.com

Thanks for listening to Adi’s story.

Robert Katz has been a Bergen County resident for 25 years and has been a Jewish communal professional since graduating Yeshiva Unversity in 1985. He can be reached for comments at: rkatz_jewishlinkbc.com

By Robert Katz

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