TEL AVIV – The former rabbi of New York City’s prestigious Fifth Avenue Synagogue has “no regrets” about immigrating to Israel despite his teenage son’s near-death experience in a terror attack on Saturday.
“We knew that we were coming to a place where our enemies never let us take our blessings for granted. While this experience was unnerving, the beautiful way that the kids and the school responded reminded me that this is a very special place. And in general, we feel very safe in Israel. We do not have any regrets about moving here,” Rabbi Yaakov Kermaier told the Algemeiner.
Rabbi Kermaier fulfilled a decades-long dream when he moved with his family to Israel in the summer of 2015.
After having spent the Sabbath in the West Bank settlement of Tekoa, Kermaier’s 16-year old son was riding in a private bus when a Palestinian car pulled in front and a terrorist opened fire. A bullet hit the window in front of the driver’s seat but ricocheted because of the bulletproof glass.
“Though the bullet impact was strong,” Rabbi Kermaier wrote in an email to friends, “the driver maintained his composure and did not lose control of the bus. We were told afterwards that the likely agenda of the terrorists was to force the bus off the road so that they could then murder the kids, and perhaps kidnap some of them.”
Kermaier said students of his son’s Yeshiva, or Talmudic school, intended to invite the bus driver back to the school in order to honor him for saving their lives.
Kermaier related how on Sunday the boys recited the Jewish blessing for having one’s life saved, Birkat Hagomel “whereby an individual humbly acknowledges that he is hardly worthy of God’s incredible kindness” in a moving ceremony attended by Israel’s Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon.
The rabbi, who has three other children with his wife Elana, said that the incident taught him a valuable lesson.
“Elana and I, and our parents, were rattled by the experience (Binyamin seems to have taken the whole incident in stride). It is unnerving – to say the least – to know that a ruthless killer targeted our son and his friends. But at the same time, we are so moved by the way that the school and the students responded to a near-tragedy with faith and goodness,” he wrote. “Reaffirming and celebrating life – no one does better than the people of Israel.”