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Saturday, December 14, 2019 - 16 Kislev 5780
 
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Saved From Terror
The series of terrorist attacks in Brussels turned world attention to the city. Thousands of people, including Jews, were in the metro and the airport during the attacks, and many of them were saved by open miracles.

In the wake of the horrific attacks, the most serious in the history of Belgium since World War II, the country is on high alert. The airport was closed, flights were canceled, public transportation, including buses, was halted. Areas of the capital which are usually bustling with people were cleared out in fear of additional attacks.

The director of the Rabbinical Centre of Europe, Rabbi M. M. Margolin, and his staff were able to hear the sirens outside the windows of the organization’s offices. They were preoccupied in ascertaining that nobody from the Jewish community was among the victims.

“We heard everything in real time because the metro station where the second attack occurred is only a few minutes-walk from our offices.”

His colleague, Rabbi Nisselevitz, described the tense atmosphere in the streets.

“After several days when there was no transportation, everything has returned to normal, including the train station where the attack took place. The army and police are on constant alert and are working within those neighborhoods that have large populations of Moslem immigrants. In our area, we see less of the security personnel.”

The attack caught the people at the Rabbinical Centre of Europe just as they began their day of work.

“We immediately evacuated our family members from the Jewish school. We were afraid of additional attacks and we contacted other families to take their children one at a time, not all at once. From then until after Purim, all the families remained at home and awaited instructions from security,” said Rabbi Margolin.

“There were some inspiring stories. There is a convert in our community who bought a ticket for Israel for Tuesday morning. When he came over to me, I asked him to stay another two days until after Purim. We needed his help in arranging the big Purim event, which did not happen in the end. He readily agreed. When he agreed, he postponed his flight to Thursday. When we heard about the attack that took place Tuesday morning, we spoke about how he was saved thanks to his willingness to help with the Purim event, because he would have been in that terminal at that time.

“I heard from another community member that he had already undergone the security check and had boarded the plane minutes before the bombs went off where he had just been standing. If he had stayed there a few minutes longer, he could have been hurt. We must thank G-d, for there definitely were miracles in the midst of the devastation,” says Rabbi Margolin.

There were quite a few Israelis and other Jews in the airport on Tuesday morning with destinations divided between New York and Israel. Two of them, residents of Israel, who belong to one of the large Chassidic groups and live in Jerusalem, were injured, one moderately, while the other, his brother-in-law, was treated for shock.

Rabbi Chaim Winternitz, who was lightly injured, is recovering after an operation on his foot to remove shrapnel. According to his family, he is already walking around and is significantly improved. His brother-in-law, Rabbi Mendel Farkash, is still considered moderately to severely injured after being under heavy sedation and on a respirator for most of the week. Now his family reports about a slight improvement in his condition. Shortly before Shabbos (following Purim) they took him off of sedation and he reacted to his surroundings. The family sang Shabbos melodies with him and when they said a blessing he tried to answer amen.

In an interview with the website B’Chadrei Chadarim, the lightly wounded man spoke about the reason for his injury:

“I was on my way back to Israel from a family wedding in Brussels. We arrived at the airport in Brussels and everything was calm. I was in the entrance to the arrivals terminal, before the security check, when we suddenly heard a thundering explosion. I ran and a minute later there was another powerful explosion and I fell. I tried to move but could not; it hurt so much. I could not move my legs. I lay there bleeding for a long time until two individuals came to help me. They put me on a bench on the side of the airport.

“My brother-in-law, Mendy Farkash, who was also injured, was hospitalized in Brussels where they are trying to wean him off the respirator. We were there together in the airport. After the first explosion we ran together as I told him to take our suitcases with him. Then I suddenly realized he was gone and then came the second explosion when I fell and was hurt. I don’t know what happened to the luggage. The big miracle was that when my wife went to take care of the customs tax I told her to take our daughter with her and they were thus both saved. After the bombs went off, they took shelter in the area.”

As the days go by, we learn that the attacks that took the lives of dozens could have been even more devastating and a more serious attack was prevented at the last moment. The three terrorists who carried out the attacks in the airport ordered a large taxi that would take them from their apartment in northern Brussels to the airport on Tuesday morning. But when the driver arrived, they saw that the dispatcher had sent a small taxi and they couldn’t put all their suitcases with explosives in the trunk and they had to leave two suitcases behind.

We can only imagine how much greater the tragedy would have been if they had been able to take all their explosives with them. A few days later we also learned that the terrorists planned on also attacking a Belgian nuclear power plant and that their co-conspirators had taken twelve hours of videos in the course of which they followed a highly placed nuclear official, perhaps with the intention of kidnapping him and forcing him to help them penetrate the place. And more serious than that, Belgian forces discovered that two of the people who work at the reactor are also members of the terrorist organization. If not for miracles, the carnage could have been many times greater than it was.
 

 


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