June 6, 2024
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June 6, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Exactly a year and a half ago I was on my way to my National Service (Sherut Leumi).

I was with my friends; we were walking as if it was a normal morning.

But it wasn’t. It was no ordinary morning.

It was the exact opposite.

We started to cross the road; we stopped at the red light and suddenly there was a huge boom!

Things started flying in the sky and I saw something black hurtling towards me.

I felt something hit my hand.

I saw that my friend was shouting “Naomi! Shira! Run!!!”

There was a terrorist attack!

Run!

I couldn’t hear anything.

There was a strong ringing noise in my ear.

We got to the other side of the road and I looked back at the bus stop.

I saw Ariel.

I saw him every morning at the same bus stop.

I saw him sitting on the bench.

One more minute and I was supposed to be sitting next to him.

On the same bench that I sit on every morning.

And then suddenly I didn’t see him anymore.

Suddenly he wasn’t sitting there anymore.

And then I saw it.

I saw a body without a head.

I saw a child who was already gone.

It was dreadful.

After I went to the hospital, I tried to understand what happened, but it’s something that’s impossible to understand.

It is impossible to understand the hatred that people have against us Jews.

A week ago, I had the privilege to travel to Poland and see the horrors that my great- grandparents and so many Jews were subjected to.

Before my attack, I never understood what trauma was.

I didn’t know what it meant to be afraid of noise, to be afraid of a bus stop, to be afraid of an ambulance, to be afraid of seeing people, to be afraid of seeing my friends.

I did not understand the difficulty my great-grandfather and grandmother had.

I did not understand what they had to deal with after the Holocaust.

As I stand here today, I not only feel sorry for all those who came here and were unable to leave, but also for those who left here but never managed to say goodbye.

I feel sorry for my great-grandparents who had to move on without their family.

That every morning they had to experience the horrors.

Yossi, our tour guide, asked us on the trip why they added “heroism” to the name of “Holocaust Day?” (Yom HaShoah v’HaGevura)

The answer for me is because they continued every morning despite the difficulty — and yes, everything was so hard.

They continued and thanks to them we are here.

Thanks to them we have a country.

Thanks to them we have a home.

Thanks to them we have a family and a whole nation!

And I also see a huge personal privilege, precisely because of the attack from which I was miraculously saved, with only a slight scar, to be in a place where some of my family members were and did not survive.

And with that I want to end with a huge thank you to all of you, that you helped me every step of the way I took here.

Thank you for being here for me.


Naomi Pilichowski made aliyah to Mizpe Yericho from Florida with her family in the summer of 2014. She is currently in her second year of National Service (Sherut Leumi). This essay was presented to the group of Israelis who traveled to Poland with Naomi on Holocaust Remembrance Day this year.

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