Israeli hero: How I saved Briton from terrorist

It was the second time in seven years that Meshi Ben Ami, 49, had confronted a terrorist


News photographer Meshi Ben Ami became a national hero in Israel last week when he jumped out of his car to open fire at a major Jerusalem junction, saving a British-born man who was being viciously stabbed.

Astonishingly, it was the second time in seven years that Mr Ben Ami, 49, had confronted a terrorist. In 2015, he killed a Palestinian who attacked him with a knife as he waited for a Jerusalem bus.

For his latest courageous action, Mr Ben Ami been hailed as a hero by Prime Minister Yair Lapid and President Isaac Herzog, as well as the family of Briton Eli Mellish, 41, whose life he saved.

Last Tuesday, as he drove into the city from the town of Kfar Adumim where he lives, Mr Ben Ami, who works for Ynet, noticed a commotion in the middle of the busy Ramot Junction.

Parking his car by the side of the road, he left his three-year-old son Nir strapped in his child’s seat and ran towards the disturbance.

“I saw one guy lying on top of another, stabbing him,” he told the JC. “There were people milling around confused, people spilling out of a bus. I saw a guy who tried to get the terrorist with a rock."

Mr Mellish was lying in the road, pinned beneath terrorist Ismail Nimer, a passenger on the same city bus, who was stabbing him with a screwdriver. As Mr Ben Ami assessed the scene, Nimer, 44, stood, turned toward him and lifted the bloodied weapon. Mr Ben Ami shot him point-blank once, wounding him and halting the rampage.

Briton Mr Mellish, a father of six, has now been released from Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek hospital, and is recovering at a convalescent centre. Talking to the JC, his wife Liron said: “He is getting better, thank God, and thanks to Meshi and the doctors. He doesn’t yet have the strength to talk.”

Prime Minister Lapid called Mr Ben Ami to thank him, and invited him to receive proper recognition at his office in Jerusalem, an event Mr Ben Ami later said “was extremely moving. Very significant and it really meant a lot to me.” President Herzog has invited him for a similar honour.

The Ramot terror attack was only the second time Mr Ben Ami has fired his gun outside a firing range. As a soldier, he was anything but a sharpshooter. The oldest of 10 children, he identifies as a traditional Jew and served as what Israelis call a “jobnik” during his military service, conducting menial but necessary tasks from sweeping the base clean to night-time guard duty.

His first heroic act occurred in October 2015 as he waited for the bus to Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda market. He heard a strange sound and swivelled around to find himself facing a man poised to stab him with a knife. Unlike this last time, he says, “there was actual contact then.”

The terrorist tried to grab him and lunged at him with the knife. Mr Ben Ami pumped 15 bullets into him, killing him before police arrived.

He bought his Glock-19 10 years ago for personal security, shortly after moving to Kfar Adumim, which is located in a “security zone”, enabling its residents to apply for gun licences.

Mr Ben Ami applied for one, practising at the firing range and devoting himself to the theoretical and practical training every applicant must undergo. That is the sum total of his firearms training, but it was enough to imbue him with a clear sense of mission when confronted with a risk to life and limb.

“I feel that it is my destiny,” he said. “I feel that I was called on to help in this way, and I did what the circumstances required of me. I did exactly as I’d been instructed to do.”

He has never used his gun for its purpose of self-defence in Kfar Adumim. “When you live in a yishuv and there is security around, there’s no need to go around playing big shot,” he said.

“The parameters of the two events are very different. The first time he was trying to kill me. The training I received fell into place. My task was to bring the terror incident to an end, and make way till security personnel could arrive. And in each case, that is what I did. I neutralised the danger.

“I’m glad [Nimer] didn’t die. This time I was cooler, my judgment was quicker and more precise.” Nimer is also recovering in a different Jerusalem hospital.

Mr Ben Ami added: “I was given a rare gift, the opportunity to make a difference. It is your obligation as a citizen. It is the very heart of what it means to be an Israeli.”

While he identifies as a right-winger, Mr Ben Ami says it doesn’t define him. Though he’s never voted for Mr Lapid, he admires him: “I think he also understands that it is every citizen’s obligation to do what you have to do for your country.”

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