My wife went out to buy some challah for Shabbos. She was just about to leave after having paid when suddenly the terrorist entered the shop. He fired several shots in the air to let people know he was there. My wife only had a brief moment to realize what was happening. She grabbed our baby out of the buggy and followed a Jewish man who was going downstairs to hide in the cold storage unit. Having worked there some time ago, he knew the layout of the shop.
They entered the room with two other men and two other women. One of the Jewish men had the presence of mind, baruch Hashem, to turn off the fridge before shutting the door, so that it was a bearable temperature in the room for everyone, particularly our baby. Once they were shut in the fridge, the long hours of waiting in fear began. Baruch Hashem, the hostages were all strong in their emunah and confident that the siege would have a positive outcome. They only had one wish — to return safely to their homes and to celebrate and honor Shabbos. The women also hoped to be able to light Shabbos candles. Each person in the room accepted upon themselves a commitment to increase an aspect of their observance of Torah and mitzvos.
At one point a woman came down and told them that the terrorist was demanding that they come upstairs with the other hostages on pain of death. However, the people in that cold store refused and remained there until the end of the ordeal. Baruch Hashem, they did not have to be present upstairs and witness what was happening.
The hostages began to feel an atmosphere of strong mutual concern. They all helped each other, taking turns with my wife to keep our 11-month-old baby quiet, and each one reassured the others. They were able to be in contact with the police outside and slowly the hope of an imminent assault and release began to grow.
In the meantime, a young hostage upstairs carried out a brave act of heroism, may his soul repose in peace in Gan Eden with the other victims. The terrorist had left one of the weapons on the counter, and the young man, with great courage, tried to grab and fire it in order to surprise the terrorist. But unfortunately the gun jammed and the inevitable happened [the terrorist killed him].
A few moments later, the terrorist began to pray, without having properly hung up the phone on which he had been communicating with the police. They heard him and took the opportunity to enter the shop and kill him.
We now know that he had placed explosives throughout the shop and, had there not been a true miracle from Hashem, the toll would have been much greater. This is just one of the several miracles that took place, including the fact that our young baby did not make a sound during the whole time.
The surviving hostages were freed on Friday evening and were able to celebrate Shabbos, baruch Hashem, and thank Hashem for this good outcome, saddened by the loss of life. The heroes of this story were not only inside the shop, but also outside. The way in which people across the world mobilized and the feeling of solidarity that characterizes our people, together with their prayers, was surely a great help. As it says in the commentary on the verse: “When the voice of Yaakov is heard (in prayer), the hands of Esav are not able to act against us.”
May Hashem protect His people and send us Moshiach very soon, so we can see all the victims and our lost dear ones. May the souls of the victims of this terrorist and of all the martyrs across the world rest in peace in Gan Eden, amen.
The names of the witness and her husband have been withheld upon their request.