Boys Town Jerusalem student, Shlomo Vaknin, 14 still trembles when he recalls the moment he discovered that his friend and neighbor Naor Shalev, 13, had been critically injured in a recent terrorist attack. “Naor was riding his bicycle just outside the candy store near our home when he was attacked and stabbed repeatedly by two terrorists. He was so badly injured that he was clinically dead upon arrival at the hospital, and the doctors had to fight hard to save his life,” Shlomo explained.
Shlomo, who has been playing soccer together with Naor for as long as he can remember, joined with neighbors and family for special ongoing prayers held in the synagogue of their Pisgat Ze’ev neighborhood in Jerusalem. “We were not just praying for Naor, but also for his family to be strong. He is the oldest of four kids,” Shlomo noted.
These prayers were answered last week when Naor was released from Hadassah Hospital after a recovery that can only be described as miraculous. “I never expected that a terror attack could take place on a street full of shops in broad daylight so close to my home,” Shlomo recollected. “Even though there are always Arabs in the neighborhood, I was never really scared. I’m not scared now, just a lot more careful.”
The recent wave of terror sweeping Jerusalem has touched not only Shlomo, but the entire Boys Town population to some degree. The school’s social services team mobilized immediately to ensure the physical and emotional security of the students. “There is no question that fears are greatly heightened,” says social worker Rivka Hakakian. “To allay them, we have gone to each classroom to hold frank discussions with the students about the reality of the situation. Media hype and rumours have fueled the panic, and we are cautioning students to keep a critical eye on what flows through social media channels. Once the situation comes into proportion, students gain awareness and confidence.
“Among the younger boys who commute home regularly, there are those who now come to school with defense sprays like tear gas and pepper spray,” she continued. “Again, their safety is uppermost, but we are helping to guide students in the effective, secure way to use these devices. Most important, each and every student knows that we are here to listen to their fears and apprehension and to draw strength together to weather this latest storm.”