Bombing experience remembered by Maccabiah team member

July 28, 2009 by J-Wire
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Maccabiah tennis player Carolyn Rubinstein took time out to confront her past.

Carolyn examines the plaque

Carolyn examines the plaque

Carolyn Rubinstein lives in Sydney, Australia, where she works as a Hebrew teacher in a Jewish day school. On August 21, 1995, Carolyn was a student in the ulpan at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. She was traveling to the university on the number 26 bus, as she did every morning, together with a friend. “It was always the same bus driver,” she says, “always the same people waiting at our bus stop in Kiryat Yovel.”

About a half hour after boarding the bus, as it was traveling along Levi Eshkol Blvd., a terrorist boarded the bus and blew himself up at the corner of Netter St. Four people were killed in the attack.

My friend and I sat at the back of the bus,” Carolyn remembers. “She always had a kind of calm balance about her and never got excited about anything. But at one point, she grabbed my hand and said, ‘We are moving NOW.’ She never talked like that, so I knew that she was very serious. Afterward, she told me she had no idea why she felt that way or was so insistent, but she just had this feeling that something was going to happen. Two minutes later the bomb exploded right near where we had been sitting.”

Carolyn suffered cuts and lacerations to the back of her neck and upper back. She was hospitalized for two days at Shaare Tzedek and then released. Her friend suffered injuries to her lower legs.

Five days after the attack, Carolyn flew home to Australia. “Through all the phone calls back and forth, my father couldn’t believe that I was all in one piece. When he saw me at the airport, he started crying in relief.”

For years, Carolyn refused to talk about her experiences. “For ten years, people wanted me to speak. They wanted to hear about the ‘heroine’ who survived. I am no heroine. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. But because I managed to continue breathing, I was suddenly some kind of celebrity. I couldn’t feel that way. I felt guilty – that I was alive, that others were dead. I felt pain.”

Four years ago, Carolyn felt ready to begin confronting her experiences. She began speaking a little about what had happened to her. But she had still never returned to Israel – until last week, when she arrived to compete for Australia in tennis at the Maccabiah games.

Through a friend, Carolyn approached the OneFamily Fund, the central organization helping Israel’s victims of terror and told them of her story. She came to OneFamily’s Jerusalem center, where she met with several other victims of terrorism, and with a group of visiting Canadians who were also in Israel to compete at Maccabiah. She introduced herself to the group and spoke to them about the challenges she has had to overcome in order to be here.

Then OneFamily staff member Yehuda Poch took Carolyn to the site of the bombing in which she was hurt. Carolyn spent about half an hour at the site, looking closely at the details of the place she had passed by so often before her attack.

“Now I felt it was time,” she says. “I felt it was time to come back, and it was very important for me to come back to the site of the bombing. I escaped with my life here, but four others did not.”

“The visit was very important for Carolyn,” says Poch. “After all these years, she was able to find closure for a very painful episode in her life. Everyone needs to do that after going through something so traumatic. I was pleased that we were able to give Carolyn this little bit of peace.”

Carolyn has kept the newspaper clippings from the day after the attack. One of the pictures in the paper that day was of a teenaged boy with both eyes covered with bandages. The boy was not identified in the picture. “I have always wondered what happened to him,” she says. “I would love to find out, and maybe even to meet him.”

“I would also love to meet the doctor who took care of me at Shaare Tzedek and to thank him.”

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