St. Louis college student experiences horror in West Bank

Paige Krug, who graduated from Ladue Horton Watkins High School, will be a senior at the University of Kansas. She is doing an internship this summer in Tel Aviv at Chimes Israel, a non-profit organization providing services to people of all ages with special needs.

By Paige Krug, Special to the Jewish Light

TEL AVIV — Last Shabbat (July 21) was different than any Shabbat I’ve ever experienced. 

I was invited by my friend Talia to have Shabbat with her student advisor’s family in Jerusalem. Talia told me that we were going to go past the green line — at first, I didn’t realize what that meant. But after doing some research I found out that we were going to a Jewish settlement in the West Bank. I didn’t think much of it because I knew people who had gone before and had amazing experiences. 

We got to Halamish around 4 p.m. when people were getting ready for Shabbat. Around 7 p.m. we attended an outdoor service and met almost everybody from the settlement. I specifically remember meeting an older man whose children and grandchildren had come from outside the settlement to spend Shabbat with him and his wife. These people were so sweet. 

Talia and I talked with them for about 10 minutes before leaving to help with our Shabbat dinner. Four soldiers also had been invited to our dinner. It was great getting to know the soldiers because they all had very interesting lives. One had separated from his haredi background to serve and protect his country, which I found quite profound. 

As we were finishing dinner, one of the soldiers got a call. He quickly grabbed the others and said there was an emergency. We didn’t think much of it until we heard sirens. The father of the family I was having dinner with was still in reserve duty and got a message about a burglary not far from the settlement. He was instructed to lock all windows and doors. 

Talia and I quietly stepped away from the dinner table to check our phones to see if the Jerusalem Post or IDF Twitter feed had anything about the burglary. A post said there had been a stabbing in the settlement of Halamish. We looked at each other and though we didn’t say anything, we knew this couldn’t be good. We continued to research to see if anything else had been posted. 

We soon found that three people had been stabbed. The mother of the family we were with — Talia’s advisor — came in to check on us. She didn’t seem too nervous; then again, she thought there had just been a burglary. But Talia and I looked at each other in fear because we knew we had to tell her the truth. 

When we told her, she immediately ran to her husband to tell him. Throughout the night five or six soldiers came by to make sure we were OK. 

Right before I went to sleep I checked my phone again for any updates on the stabbings. Three people were dead; an older man and two other adults, which were thought to be his children. When I woke up and checked my phone again, the Jerusalem Post had a front-page story on the Halamish stabbings. 

It said the terrorist was a 19-year-old man from the town of Ramallah, the settlement next to Halamish. He apparently tried to jump over the electric fence in the West Bank to see if anyone would stop him. No one did.

The terrorist picked the house closest to the fence. It was the home of the older man I met at services. His name was Yosef Salomon.

The article said the young terrorist had stabbed Yossi, his wife, and their son and daughter. Yossi and his two children died but Yossi’s wife remained in critical condition. The article also said an off-duty soldier who was home for the weekend heard the ruckus and shot the terrorist through a window. 

I soon learned that I was only two houses away from the attack. I became numb and nauseated. 

Saturday afternoon Talia and I went to an area that was recently rebuilt after a fire in Halamish last November. The soldier who neutralized the terrorist was one of the children of the family who lived there. I saw him calmly sitting there reading a book. I didn’t even know what to think. Should I ask him questions? Should I see if he’s OK? Do I even talk to him? 

I decided to approach him and say “thank you.” He smiled and said “bevakasha,” which means “you’re welcome.”

Talia and I left the home early to take a walk around the settlement. We couldn’t help but notice the house of the family that was attacked. Policeman and soldiers surrounded it. 

We then made our way to the synagogue, where we had attended outdoor services the night before. The shul was hosting a potluck seudat shlishit in honor of the family. Over 300 people were there with more food than anyone could eat. Three people spoke about Yossi. The others weren’t mentioned because they weren’t from the community and no one really knew them. 

I left in the middle of the last speech feeling overwhelmed. All I kept thinking about was Yossi and his children and what had happened. I also couldn’t help but wonder what  if it had been the house I was in? It was literally 200 feet away from where the incident had happened. 

Talia and I rode back to Tel Aviv in silence. Our experience was extremely horrifying and, yet, at the same time truly eye opening. It’s one thing to hear about or see situations like this in the media. Actually experiencing it puts life in Israel into perspective. 

Paige Krug, who graduated from Ladue Horton Watkins High School, will be a senior at the University of Kansas. She is doing an internship this summer in Tel Aviv at Chimes Israel, a non-profit organization providing services to people of all ages with special needs.