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The day a terrorist murdered my cousin - 17

Updated: Oct 21, 2021

It was 2006, Passover.

Have you ever noticed that when you get bad news, I mean really, really bad news, your brain tells you it's not real? Years ago, we learned of a tragedy that dear friends had experienced. When I got the phone call at 5:00 AM, I was absolutely convinced it was some crazy mistake. But it was no mistake.

Daniel Cantor Wultz

And it was no error when my dad called me as we were driving home from Ashkelon, Elana's hometown, where we had eaten the Passover dinner with her family, and told me that my cousin Daniel and his father were in the hospital in Tel Aviv after a terrorist attack.

We were stuck in traffic for about two hours, trying to get to the hospital—there's nothing as bad as the traffic after Passover in Israel. The whole country is coming home from relatives. We rerouted to go straight to Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv. The truth is I had not seen Daniel or his father Tuly for about 15 years, when Daniel was a newborn. His mother, Sheryl, was my cousin.

Tuly used to work for my father when he arrived in America as an Israeli immigrant. Daniel was now 16, and the whole family was in Israel for Passover. And as many of you know, once Passover starts, we do not eat leavened bread for eight days.

So as the chag (holiday) was fast approaching, Daniel was longing for a shawarma. Israel is famous for three sandwiches; of course, the most famous one is the falafel, next is the meat-filled shawarma, and then the lesser-known but equally delicious eggplant-based sabich. They were close to the old central bus station, and the taxi driver knew just where to take them. Rosh Ha'ir (Head of the City) Shawarma is known as one of the best shawarma stands in Tel Aviv.

Head of the City Shawarma at the Old Central Bus Station in Tel Aviv.

I believe it is owned by three brothers, and this would not be the first time it had been targeted in a pigua (terrorist attack). That word, pigua, is one of the first words you learn when you make Aliyah (immigrate). At least it was 20 years ago; thanks to the security fence and good intelligence, you rarely hear it anymore. We moved Israel at the tail end of the second intifada. Between 2000 and sometime in 2004, it was a normal thing to hear of a terrorist attack and, for some, to actually hear the attack taking place when a bus would blow up or a restaurant.

Thankfully it has been a long time since we have had a major terrorist attack. But not long enough, as I remember receiving that phone call from my father. We arrived at the hospital with our whole family at midnight. We could not find the family. Finally, we gave up and went home.

The next morning, I got the room number. My cousin Tuly has suffered a broken bone in his shin, while Daniel, who was between his father and the bomber, was fighting for his life. When I got there, there were about eight people in Tuly's room. No one knew who I was; I hadn't seen Tuly in years. I reminded him, and I met his large religious family.

From his bed, he told us what had happened. He and Daniel were eating shawarma when the terrorist came in. He had a mouthful of food so he would not have to speak. Even if he could speak Hebrew, his accent would give him away. The guard motioned for him to show him what was in his bag, a very normal thing that happens in Israel hundreds of thousands of times every day. But when he picked up his backpack, it exploded. Tuly watched the scene as if in slow motion. He knew something was wrong, but there was not enough time to do anything. The bomb ripped through Daniel's back, wreaking havoc on his internal organs. He literally saved his father's life by taking the brunt of the explosion. He was still conscious and asked his father what had happened.

Not long afterward, Tuly would tell Congress that his son was a hero who "shielded me with his beautiful body and took most of the shrapnel." While they both lay on the ground, the father took his son's hand and told him he loved him. Daniel responded, "I love you too, Dad." Those were his last words to his father.