The murders last month of three Israeli teenagers was a reminder of how terror attacks not only steal lives but leave their mark on survivors, their families, friends, and society itself.
In her new book Living Beyond Terrorism: Israeli Stories of Hope and Healing (Gefen Publishing House), New Jersey-born Zieva Dauber Konvisser focuses on the living — those who must put themselves back together physically and emotionally and somehow find a way to go on.
“My goal was to try to understand the human impact of terrorism on surviving victims and their families as well as bereaved family members,” said Konvisser, who has a PhD in human and organizational development.
Among her subjects is Sarri Singer, who is originally from Lakewood and grew up in a synagogue that was a forerunner of Congregation Ahavat Olam in Howell.
In June 2003, Singer was a passenger on a Jerusalem bus blown up by a suicide bomber. Sixteen people died and more than 100 were wounded, including Singer. That attack, Singer told NJJN in an e-mail, was “planned and carried out by Hamas, the same terrorist organization that kidnapped the three innocent teenage boys” whose bodies were found near Hebron earlier this month.”
In Living Beyond Terrorism, Konvisser writes that the bomb blast left Singer burned, bleeding, and frightened. Rescued from the wreckage by a volunteer worker for ZAKA, a volunteer organization that responds to terror incidents, Singer remembers being comforted by an old woman until the arrival of Magen David Adom, Israel’s first-aid organization.
At Hadassah University Hospital-Ein Kerem, doctors found that pieces of metal and glass had gone through Singer’s left shoulder. She had a broken clavicle, both legs were cut and bleeding, her face was bruised and burned, and both eardrums were blown out by the impact.
According to Konvisser, the medical staff was able to handle most of Singer’s physical wounds, but, she added, what Singer did after she got out of the hospital is what proved critical to her psychological healing.
Singer stayed in Israel for an extra five days before returning to America. “I didn’t want to be afraid to go back to Israel,” she said. “I went out for about an hour each day — to lunch, to the malls, to a store.”
On the last day, she said, she and a friend walked to the site of the attack. “I lit a candle and said some Tehillim (Psalms),” she said.
In the United States, there was a string of opportunities and events where she was able to tell the story.
“I wanted people to know that I had been injured, but that wasn’t going to stop me from being in Israel, and it shouldn’t stop them either,” she said.
Three months later, Singer was back in Israel.
Today, Singer is the leader of Strength to Strength, a nonprofit she established in 2012 to support victims of terrorism around the world. She helped lead a solidarity rally in Manhattan six days before the teens’ bodies were discovered near Hebron.
Back living in the United States, she is the assistant director of career services at Touro College.
“I don’t think you ever fully ‘recover’ from a terrorist attack, but I think you find a way to cope with what you have been through and move forward,” Singer told NJJN. “For me, the most important thing has been the ongoing support of family and friends. Without them I don’t think I would be where I am today.”
“Sarri thinks of herself as a survivor, not a victim,” writes Konvisser, a resident of Orchard Park, Mich., a suburb of Detroit. A fellow of the Institute for Social Innovation at Fielding Graduate University, Konvisser also has served on the National Commission on American Jewish Women and is on the international board of the Israel Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma.