JWR Wandering Jews

Jewish World Review May 23, 2002 / 12 Sivan, 5762

RISHON LETZION DIARIST



Checkmate,
you're dead!


http://www.jewishworldreview.com | The opening move for Moshe was the King's pawn. Each night he and his friends -- all elderly, some new immigrants, a few of them in wheelchairs -- would gather at the park benches near the entrance of this city's pedestrian mall.

The municipality had just installed more lighting to enable the chess players to see their bishops and knights in the darkness of the short summer nights. The benches here are 3 feet away from each other, in lines of fours. Each table had two games going at the same time in the chess tournament that Moshe loved to play.

His opponent, Vladimir, immigrated to Israel a few years ago and had played chess with the best of the best back in Russia.

The "punkist" with the dyed blonde hair who walked past Moshe and Vladimir looked like some of the other teenagers headed for the pedestrian mall. Each night, around 9 PM, local kids would skate by the chess players.

But this "punkist," was not some wayward, "experimenting" youth. He was a terrorist disguised to allow himself to pass unnoticed by the other teens and seniors in the area.

Zecharia Gutman, 55, had just "taken" the Queen piece on the chess table against his partner, Rafael, 62. Rafael looked up at Zecharia. He told him that he was closing in; soon it would be "checkmate" time.

It was at that very moment, the terrorist blew himself up.

Rafael died instantly after losing the Queen.

He lost his life, playing chess.

Zecharia survived and awoke after a night of surgery that saved his life.

As soon as the fervently Orthodox group, ZAKA, the Chevra Kadisha, and Magen Dovid Adom (Israeli Red Cross) arrived onto the scene, images of their tedious work of removing body chunks and skin for proper burial were broadcast live on TV.

One ZAKA worker held up a chess piece that he picked up from the Sidewalk of Terror. It appeared to be a Queen. Perhaps it was the Queen that Zecharia had "captured" from Rafael.

Anya's mother had just returned from her daughter's grave, where she had brought flowers and balloons. The teen was one of the 21 innocents murdered last year at the Dolphinarium club in Tel Aviv. In fact, yesterday was the yahrtzeit (commemoration date of the Hebrew calandar) for the terror victims.

The mother told a TV interviewer that just days before the disco carnage, she had bought her only child two parakeets.

Yesterday, the mother released into the clouds a balloon with a digitally printed picture of Anya holding one of the birds.

She had just left the chess area, where she was visiting her uncle, an avid player, when they heard the blast. Moments earlier, the two decided to enjoy a snack in a nearby restaurant.

They survived the terror at the park benches.

Anya's tears from the heavens on the day of her yahrtzeit were, no doubt, met half way with the tears of her mother and uncle, as they hugged and huddled near last night's terror scene.

Last week, David Levy, 50, was released from the hospital. A survivor of the prior Rishon LeTzion terror attack, shrapnel had punctured his leg. David owns a kiosk in the shadows of the chess tables. His first day back at work was this Sunday, the day of the Netanya shuk (open-air market) terrorist attack.

Last night, David saw it all again. He heard it all again. But luckily, he was not injured in the blast.

The terrorist's head was blown off his body and found 50 feet away.

There is now a 3-foot hole in the ground near the chess tables.

Checkmate, you're dead!

  —   Harvey Tannenbaum

Comment on JWR contributor Harvey Tannenbaum's dispatch by clicking here.


© 2002, Harvey Tannenbaum