Meet Larry, my buddy from Bensonhurst. Okay, so it’s not Larry. For reasons of security his identity cannot be compromised. But take my word for it, Larry looks exactly like William Powell in The Thin Man. Or not.
The sun falls, gently folding itself into the surrounding hills and valleys. The same Judean hills where Jews have lived, worked and fought since Biblical times.
The unearthly light makes a final golden splash.
My wife Karen and I are visiting Karen’s brother David, his wife Elana, and their four children, residents of Efrat.
Attending Sabbath services in an Efrat synagogue, out of the corner of my eye, I spot “Larry.”
Security requires that I do not use his real name.
We’re both from Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, a tough neighborhood even by Brooklyn standards. Together, we attended high school, Brooklyn Talmudic Academy, a tough Yeshiva even by San Quentin standards.
We have been friends forever.
Larry’s parents are Holocaust survivors and as Larry often tells me, his father is obsessed over the fact that so many Jews were unprepared, mentally and physically, to fight the Nazis.
“He’s written thousands of pages about this,” Larry confides.
Thus, it is only fitting and somewhat ironic that several years ago, in an Efrat supermarket, Larry bravely confronted an Arab Muslim homicide bomber and deleted the terrorist.
Larry and I discuss the killing which probably saved dozens of innocent lives, men, women, children and infants.
“How’d you know he was a terrorist?”
“I didn’t. I mean I knew him. He worked on a construction crew here in Efrat. For years.”
“So what made you suspect that he was dangerous?”
Larry is no John Wayne. He’s middle-aged, doughy around the mid-section, has an infectious smile, and wears a yarmulke. Larry is, well, just a regular guy from Brooklyn.
“Look,” says Larry, “he was an Arab worker, we got along just fine. But the day I saw him wasn’t one of the days he was supposed to be here. Also, he was heading into the supermarket, a place he never ever went to. And he was wearing an overcoat on a very hot day. It was all wrong.”
“What did you do?”
“I was outside when I spotted him. I followed him into the supermarket and I looked at his face and he looked, I dunno, spacey, all drugged up.”
Hamas–a proudly Jew-hating and genocidal yearning terrorist organization– often medicate their homicide bombers. Drugs dull the edge of fear.
“How did you know you weren’t shooting an innocent man?”
“He tried to self-detonate. There was a malfunction. I saw smoke. But homicide bombers are almost always armed with redundancy, a second detonator. I didn’t want to take a chance on him hitting the backup trigger. We were in a supermarket. Women and children all around. I drew and and shot him in the chest.”
“You shot to kill.”
“How did you feel when you saw him go down?”
My buddy ponders for a long moment: “Scared, relieved. I dunno. You do what you gotta do.”
“Not everybody would have had the presence of mind.”
Larry shrugs and half smiles: “Hey, us Bensonhurst kids had to grow up tough, right?”
We study each others’ faces. We are older, middle-aged, we have children and grandchildren, but we are still our impish and dopey childhood selves.
“Nobody lives in the old neighborhood anymore,” Larry sighs.
“Yup, they’re all gone.”
We step outside where men and women gather before heading home for the Sabbath meal. Friends make plans to visit, share coffee, dessert and lively conversation.
Jeremy, David and Elana’s son is home, on leave from active duty somewhere quite dangerous in the land of Israel.
Meet my nephew Jeremy. Again, for reasons of security I can’t reveal his face, but he looks like Paul Newman in Exodus. Seriously.
A fresh, evening breeze dances through the winding streets of Efrat.
Together, Larry and I stroll along. I press my friend for more information. Details are all important in counter-terrorism. And Americans better get wise to the details in order to effectively deal with the emerging grassroots Islamist terrorist threat. The United States is, after Israel, ground zero for the Caliphate Islamists.
“The Glock is a good weapon when every millisecond counts,” says Larry. “There’s no safety, which can take precious time away from shooting. You can keep a round in the chamber, then just draw and fire.”
Larry totes his Glock in a Fobus speed holster.
“What kind of rounds did you use?”
“I keep hollow points in the Glock, but my spare magazine has full metal jackets. The day I killed the terrorist, I put him down with the hollow points. Don’t want to use full metal jackets in a crowded supermarket, they’ll go right through and kill an innocent bystander.”
“The supermarket was crowded?”
“At that time of day, sure. That’s why it was chosen as the target. Look, the terrorist was here,” Larry demonstrates using his body and mine, “and behind him were several women and children.”
“How close were you to the the terrorist?”
“About fourteen feet.”
Most gunfights, contrary to popular mythology, take place within seven feet. Fourteen feet can seem like a yawning chasm when the adrenalin is pumping, innocent bystanders are all around, and a determined terrorist has his finger on the detonator.
“The full metal slugs would have gone right through him and there’s no telling…”
Larry’s voice trails off.
My childhood buddy is a sweet man, a devoted husband, father, and grandfather. There is no bravado in Larry. He’s fine with killing the terrorist, but it does not define who he is.
Me, I’d script a self-glorifying movie, get all aw’ shucks on talk shows, try and cash in, big time.
It’s time to go home and enjoy the evening meal. It’s time to enjoy the miracle of the Jewish Sabbath.
There is an entire culture and religion bent on eradicating Israel and Jews.
We are so few, and we are so vulnerable.
But there are, thank G-d, many men and women like Larry in the Jewish state, the land of Israel.
Larry and I hug.
I say: “You’re my hero.”
Copyright Robert J. Avrech