‘I missed the terror attack only because I decided to have a night in’

When Liverpool-born Viki Silver moved to Israel five years ago, she knew it was a risk.


When Liverpool-born Viki Silver moved to Israel five years ago, she knew it was a risk.

She anticipated rocket attacks, but she never thought she would have face to shootings and stabbings on the streets of Tel Aviv.

As two Palestinian terrorists released fire at diners in the Max Brenner restaurant, an attack which left four dead and 16 injured on Wednesday night, the 27-year-old was around the corner in her Tel Aviv apartment.

She had considered going to the speciality chocolate diner, where her five French friends had gone for the evening, but she had decided to have a “night in” at the last minute.

That decision, she knows, might have saved her life.

It’s wrong. We shouldn’t have to deal with this - Viki Silver, 27

“I am always out, every night. But I just decided to stay at home. I thought, ‘okay I am going to have a night in’. I was lazy and stayed at home – it was my first night in for ages. It’s insane.”

As she sat curled up on the sofa watching the Sopranos, she had no idea what was to follow.

Mid-episode, her mobile phone pinged. It was a WhatsApp message from her boss on the group forum her team uses to communicate.

Ms Silver, who works in telecommunications, recalls: “He messaged us to tell us what happened, to tell us there had been a mass-shooting. He told us to be safe and asked us to all individually message him back to let him know that we were all okay.”

Then, she heard the ambulance sirens.

“I heard an insane amount of ambulances and didn’t know what was going on. Then I got an insane amount of messages and it hit me that my friends were there and that was when I had this panic attack.

“My heart was racing like crazy. I was crying and crying while I was calling my friends. I can’t express how freaked out I was until one of my friends finally answered and told me he was fine. He told me that he had to work and had left two hours before the attacks. My heart was pumping in my chest; I was having a full on anxiety attack. It was the thought of any of my friends being hurt.

“When I knew they were okay, I called other people who were worried and told them they were okay.

“Here in Israel, whenever an attack happens, you go through everyone in your contact list and message them – asking if they are okay. I messaged all my friends; my friends messaged me. It’s the norm.

“People really care for each other. They really want to make sure you are okay.”

She continues: “It is really scary.

“There were videos everywhere, videos that showed people in the market throwing chairs out of the way, trying to get away.”

Next, she messaged her family. She knew that her mother, who still lives in Liverpool, would be worried – just as she has been whenever there’s been an attack.

“If I am honest, I didn’t even know if they would report the attack in England.

“I had to message my whole family in case. I wrote: ‘I don’t know if this will be on the news, but I want to let you know that everything is fine. I’m home’.”

But she, like so many, feels that the rest of the world does not care when a terror attack targets Israelis.

“I don’t think many people care; I know my friends and family do, but that’s it.

“Before I moved here, I was an avid Israel advocate on Facebook. But now I’m not. I feel people don’t care anymore and I’m found myself with fewer and fewer friends on Facebook.

“People judge Israel a lot more. When there’s a terror attack, they excuse it by saying ‘it’s the people of Gaza lashing out’; or they say ‘it’s the fault of the Israeli government who have brought attacks on their own people’.

“When there’s an attack in Europe, there is a lot of reaction because it doesn’t happen so often. But when it happens in Israel, they think: ‘Oh, it’s Israel, it happens. Oh, you live there, you deal with it.’ It’s wrong, we shouldn’t have to.”

She questions why Facebook - which launched its ‘Safety Check’ to enable people to check-in online and let people know when there is a “disaster or crisis” around the world – had not released the mechanism on the night of the attacks on Wednesday.

She explains: “People here are pissed.

“They want to know why Facebook does not have the ‘check in’ alert in Israel, like they did with Paris and Brussels? People are annoyed; they’re asking why they can’t also report that they are okay.

“We feel they care less, like we don’t matter.

“On Wednesday, they would all individually write on their Facebook page that they were okay. They’re people from all over the world. Like all Israelis, they want to let their families and friends know they are okay.”

But in the aftermath of the attack, she is still trying to come to terms with what happened around the corner from her home.

“I am scared to go through the names of people who were shot in case I know them. It’s just so scary, in Israel you always know someone who knew someone who got shot or died. It’s small, and Tel Aviv is small.”

She adds: “I never thought this would be a part of daily life when I moved here. Rocket attacks? Yes. But individual shooting and stabbing attacks? No. This is something else.”

But one question still lingers for Silver: “I find myself thinking: ‘it’s Ramadan now’. It is like a Yom Kippur, a time when you’re repenting. So why would you hurt people during that period?”

Back in the UK: the MOTHER’s view

Mother of three Janet Malits with her daughter, Viki

Meanwhile, her mother, Janet Malits, says being away from her is especially tough during a spate of attacks in Israel.

But still, Mrs Malits, a member of Liverpool’s Allerton Hebrew Congregation, says she would never force her youngest daughter to return to UK. In fact, she says: “I would be far more frightened if she lived somewhere like Paris with all the antisemitism there. Even all of this is going on, I still feel she is safe in Israel.”

She explains: “My non-Jewish friends say to me: ‘You have to bring her back home; she’ll be much safer here’.

“But that is where Viki is happiest. I just have to tell them that she is fine; and I trust that she will be fine.

“When she made aliyah, I had to put it out of my head that she was going into a danger zone. And she just has such a laid-back attitude about it.”

But Mrs Malits does get nervous when she does not hear from her daughter after an attack.

“Luckily for me on Wednesday, Viki messaged me before I got the news alert on my phone. She knows what I’m like. The minute she hears anything; she’s on the phone reassuring me that she’s fine.

“There have been attacks in the past, where rockets were going off. I kept messaging her and asking if she was okay, asking if she was in a bomb shelter. She told me that she was in the stairwell because they don’t have a shelter where they live.

“Another time, she told me she was on the roof watching the rockets being hit by the Iron Dome. She said: ‘It’s like fireworks’.

“One time I didn’t hear from her for a bit. I was at a lunch and couldn’t speak to anyone.

“I couldn’t get my breath. I was sweating. I felt like I was having hot flushes. It was just a panic situation. I thought: ‘What am I going to do? Am I going to get on a plane and go over there? How do I see if she’s alright?’

“If I didn’t get a message from her, I would be on a flight.

“But my brother has two of his kids out there too. We talk about it. We just accept that this is where they want to live.”

But still, media reports on the situation have made her “furious”.

When one BBC headline focused on a restriction on Palestinian permits, instead of Israeli victims of the attack, she says she felt frustrated.

She says: “It really does enrage me. We cannot get people to see anything except: ‘It’s the Israelis fault – Israel are the baddies’. It’s not anti-Zionism, it is antisemitism.

“When there are attacks in Israel, do people change the colour of their Facebook profiles to the colours of the Israeli flag like they did with Paris or Brussels? No, I don’t think so.”

Sarona Market

Thousands of people flocked to the scene of the attack on Thursday, in a show of solidarity

Up to 2,000 people visit the Sarona Market every-day, from Monday to Sunday. The afternoon following the attack, double the amount of people went to the Tel Aviv market in a show of solidarity.

The upmarket culinary complex has been popular among locals and tourists since it opened last year. It has more than 90 stalls and restaurants, where diners can sample imported cheese to champagne, local produce, fresh fish and meat-based dishes.

Sam Ben-David

Essex-born Sam Ben-David said he eats in the area once a week.

“I go to the Sarona Market with colleagues for lunch,” he said, noting that his office was nearby. “You walk in and there are all these food areas around the indoor market. There’s sushi and burgers, expensive meat and so much organic food – it is all gourmet.

“A lot of people who go there are young and wealthy; it can be expensive.”

He said the attack on Wednesday, which took place just outside the market’s security gates, inside the nearby Max Brenner restaurant, had not deterred him returning to the area.

Mr Ben-David, who works for Israeli software company Waves Audio, said: “I will go back there as soon as I can. Whenever my family come to visit me from England, we go there. It’s their favourite place. I told them that on their next visit, we are going back to Sarona. If we stop going, then we are letting the terrorists win.”

The 29-year-old adds: “The Israelis I work with had taught me to carry on as you were. You might be sad, but you try and carry on each day as normal. I am staying strong-minded about it. I keep my wits about me when I am out, but I try to not let it get to me. It’s one of those things; you have to learn to accept it.”

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