Israel Meir Friedman, 16, from Brooklyn, felt himself leave the ground as if he were swimming, as he fell when he reached the stairs in Meron and was pushed forward. A slim teen who weighs less than 50 kilograms, he was soon buried under the heavy bodies of those who fell on top of him. Breathing was hard. The man to his right asked him to move his arm because he couldn’t breathe. “I moved it as much as I could. There were screams and mostly shouts of Shema Yisrael. I said the Shema, expecting to die.”
Three soldiers pulled him out of the pile of bodies that fell in the stampede. “I lay there, just glad to breathe. They wanted to carry me away, but I told them others needed help more.” His personal documents were lost, but his cellphone worked. He called his mother, Esther, and told her he was alive.
Israel, Esther, and husband, David, told their story to an Israeli TV crew from Israel’s room in the Charlotte Bloomberg Mother and Child Center of Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem. After Israel had returned home, he complained of leg pains, and his mother insisted they go to Hadassah. He is suspected of having internal injuries.
“His survival is a miracle,” says Esther, a homemaker, and mother of seven.
“We are so grateful to the Israel Defense Forces and to Hadassah,” says the father, a teacher at the Mir Yeshiva.
Five people from the Meron stampede are being treated at Hadassah. The hospital is providing counseling for PTSD, as well as treatment for physical injuries.