While millions of Christians around the world stand for Israel, some have expressed their love by living in the Holy Land. A life lived in Israel, however, nearly cost one Christian Zionist her own. Writing at The Jerusalem Journal, our good friend Dexter Van Zile talks to Petra Heldt about the day more than twenty years ago when a suicide bomber nearly killed her:
When Petra tells you about surviving a suicide bombing attack in Jerusalem’s Machane Yehuda Market on July 30, 1997, she laughs. She laughs with astonishment of having survived the attack and the kindness shown to her by friends and strangers on the day of the attack and in the years since. She laments the 16 people who were killed in the attack, but she has no room to obsess about the bombers who tried to kill her and drive her from the land. Instead, she focuses on the Israelis who saved her.
She laughs with astonishment when describing how a random taxi driver stopped her as she ran in the street away from the attack and pushed her broken and bloody body into the back seat of his car — without regard for the blood she was shedding on his upholstery.
“I wish I could remember his name because this was such a wonderful deed,” she says.
Petra laughs with gratitude at the kindness shown by another passer-by, a woman who barged into the back seat of the taxi, sat close to her and held her hand on the way to the first aid station. “I’m not letting you go on your own in this situation!” the woman told Petra.
The woman showed no sign of fear or panic despite the damage done to her charge’s body. Petra’s left foot was nearly cut in half crosswise and her face was numb with pain. She thought her face had been torn open. Petra wasn’t even sure if her nose was still attached. (Thankfully, it was.)
“I didn’t want to ask if my nose was blown away, so I asked her, ‘What do I look like?’ and she said, ‘Oh, if you have two or three operations it will be all right,’” Petra explains before—you guessed it—laughing some more.
Then there was the kindness shown by a social worker who rode with her in the ambulance to Hadassah Hospital after her taxi brought her to an emergency aid station that had been established in the aftermath of the attack.
“I remember clearly the doctors were waiting in the street for the victims to arrive,” Petra says. “It was amazing, they were all so prepared. It was very quickly decided to be passed to Hadassah. I was put into an ambulance and in the ambulance there was a young lady, a student from Canada.”
The woman was doing an internship with Magen David Adom as part of her training to be a social worker.
“She asked me, ‘What is your name?’” Petra says incredulously. “I mean, what do you do with a horrible looking injured person? But she talked to me and asked me my name and I said ‘Petra’ and then she said, ‘This is the most beautiful name I’ve ever heard.’” Here Petra laughs even more. “I was so amazed with her response. The kindness was just so amazing. It was only just the beginning of hundreds of millions of kindnesses I got.”
Petra Heldt has been a fixture in Jerusalem’s ecumenical community since the early 1980s...