Meaning of Life

Saved from a bomb blast … and a mob

By Andre Moubarak , 1 May 2020

The voice came suddenly, no more than an urgent whisper.

“Andre, move. Right now!”

For a moment I thought my friend who was with me had spoken. But he hadn’t, nor had anyone else out on bustling Ben Yehuda Street in West Jerusalem.

It was December 1, 2001, and a beautiful evening for wandering the central city. The time was shortly before midnight, but Kikar Tzion, Zion Square, is always busy, especially on a Saturday night, when it is full of young people hanging out after the Sabbath ends.

Countless times I had been among them, enjoying the fun and excitement. Yet tonight I felt inexplicably tense. Something was wrong – I knew it in my gut.

“Andre, move! Now!

The voice was louder – but whose was it? People were everywhere, but other than my friend, there was no one I knew. Was I hearing things?

Like a fast-motion movie, my life flashed across my mind. What had I achieved with it? Nothing.

Must be my imagination. Just ignore it.

Seconds later, I felt someone pushing me, shoving me across Zion Square towards Jaffa Street. But it wasn’t my friend – he was following several paces behind.

No one was near me. Yet something that felt like a gust of wind was holding my arms, legs, and body and propelling me forward.

Now I was really freaked out. I must be drunk – but I hadn’t had even a sip of beer.

The Cafe Aroma on Jaffa Street was just ahead of me. Shaken, I went inside and sat down.

BOOM!

The windows shattered and my body felt the jolt of a tremendous explosion. I could see debris flying and blood splattering and hear people screaming in pain and horror.

Immediately I knew: Bomb attack.

My first impulse was to make sure I was still in one piece. My second was to pray. Half-consciously, I made a vow: “Lord, if I live, I will give you my life.”

My life? Like a fast-motion movie, it flashed across my mind. What had I achieved with it?

The answer hit me hard: Nothing.

The street in Old Jerusalem that leads to Andre’s childhood home in the Christian Quarter.

A few feet from death

Jerusalem, turbulent City of Peace.

For thousands of Christians on pilgrimage every year, it is their destination.

For me, it is my home.

Here in the Christian Quarter of the Old City I was born and raised.

Andre and his twin brother, Tony, with their mother, Reema Bajes Shaheen.

The religious and historical sites that people from all around the world come to see, the ancient pavements that believers of every nation and culture travel thousands of miles to walk — these are my neighbourhood.

I know them like I know myself.

I am a Palestinian Arab Christian born in Jerusalem in 1975. My mother’s family is from Ein Areek, a Palestinian farming village near Ramallah. My father’s family came from Jaffa.

Although I was a believer, I did not take my faith seriously.

Growing up, I just went with the flow, my faith sometimes up and sometimes down.

But just now, I had been only feet from death. Suddenly, I realised how precious my faith truly was.

Just as swiftly, my natural fears gripped me. I was a Palestinian. The Jews would take revenge on me if they caught me here. I had to get home.

I had been only feet from death. Suddenly, I realised how precious my faith truly was.

Outside the coffee shop it was a nightmare of blood and glass. All the windows in the area had been blown out by the force of the explosion. Hundreds of screaming young adults were running from the blast site.

BOOM! A second powerful explosion, even louder than the first, rocked the street.

And now the same panicked crowd was stampeding back my way. I froze. What should I do?

If they noticed me, they’d assume I was part of the attack, and my life would not last a moment longer than it took them to lay their hands on me.

A backstreet branched off Jaffa Road and went through the Russian Compound. I hastened down it toward New Gate, the nearest entrance to the Christian Quarter, where I lived with my parents and brothers.

While I was en route, a third bomb exploded, less powerful than the first two but still lethal.

The beautiful night had become a nightmare.

Once through the New Gate, I passed my old high school and hurried down the steps by St Saviour’s church and down Christian Quarter Road to my house. I had completely forgotten about my friend, though I learned later he had made it out and was safe.

The time was half past midnight when I slipped inside and I turned on the television. The news was all about the Hamas bomb attacks, the first two of which had been suicide bombers and the last a car bomb. Thirteen people were killed and about 100 injured.

God had supernaturally intervened to save my life. Images of scattered bodies, blood flying through the air, and windows exploding in front of me were blasted into my brain.

A year passed before I could walk on Ben Yehuda Street again.

Peace can come to Israel only if people get saved by the blood of Christ. This is the only way any of us can have the power to forgive our enemy truly and from our heart.


This story is an excerpt from Andre Moubarak’s book, One Friday in Jerusalem: Walking to Calvary – A tour, a faith, a life, which can be purchased here. It is republished with permission.

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