Israeli survivors seek sanctuary in Ojai
By Misty Volaski
The scene that Boaz Shabo found
when he arrived at his house in Itamar, Israel from work that
night was a father's worst nightmare: half of his family had
been brutally murdered, and his home was on fire.
At 9:15 p.m., on June 20, 2002, Boaz's wife, Rachel, was preparing
food for an event the next day. His four sons were watching television
another room. The boys were quietly watching a nature program,
and at the very same moment, a terrorist walked in and opened
fire on the boys.
Asae, 10, was shot in the leg, and he laid still as the terrorist
continued to fire, shooting his brothers, ages 3, 9 and 14. When
their mother ran into the room and saw that her children had
been shot, she ran to the side of her eldest son, hugged him,
and was promptly shot to death.
Hearing the shots and knowing what they meant, Boaz's daughter,
Atia, hid under a bed upstairs. She heard the terrorist enter
the room, where he engaged in a standoff against the Israeli
military. As he shot at the Israeli soldiers below, the terrorist
talked excitedly into his cell phone. Atia listened intently
to the conversation, and the information the terrorist inadvertently
revealed eventually led to the capture of those responsible for
As the Israeli army attempted to stop the terrorist, he caught
the house on fire. When the terrorist went to the bathroom, Atia
was able to get the attention of the soldiers, who rescued her
and forced the terrorist to jump out the second-story bathroom
window. As he tried to run away, the Israeli soldiers threw a
grenade at him, blowing off his legs.
As Boaz waited for news on each of his family members, he was
asked to make a list of those inside the house. As each mortally
wounded member of the family was pulled out of the house, Boaz
identified their bodies.
Asae, who was not dead but had a severe gunshot wound to his
leg, was transported by helicopter to the hospital, where attempts
to save his leg were unsuccessful. He had his right leg amputated
later that night.
Boaz recounted his heartbreaking story to a translator as he
watched his son, now in a wheelchair, pet and feed the horses
at the Ojai Equine Sanctuary. Boaz and 30 other Israeli survivors
of terrorist attacks were invited out the ranch Wednesday afternoon
as a part of their tour of the United States.
Already, said Sanctuary director Alexis Ells, the survivors have
visited Ground Zero in New York, have been to Hollywood, and
several other notable places around the country.
Ojai came to be on their list of stops because, said Ells, animals
can be a huge part of the healing process after a crisis occurs,
especially for children.
"It's an inspiration for healing, to come here with all
the animals," said Ells.
The visitors were treated to a day with the horses and a pizza
party, and learned about how each horse had ended up at the Sanctuary.
One, they learned, had been extremely allergic to vaccinations,
but was given a full load of them by her previous owner anyway.
The shots nearly killed her. She was finally brought to the Sanctuary
after being injected with more vaccinations, and was in critical
condition for several weeks until Ells and her volunteers were
able to nurse the horse back to health.
It was just one of several moving stories Ells recounted that
day, explaining to the children and adults alike how the Sanctuary
cares for the horses. She takes in many that can be healed and
later trained in different disciplines, she said, and many others,
such a Breezy, Sir Thomas and Elegante, who will remain as lifelong
members of the ranch.
"We heal them physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually,"
Rabbi Shimon Kashani, of the Southern California Jewish Center
and the new Terrorist Victim Institute, is trying to do the same
for the victims of terrorism.
As one of the organizers for the Israelis' tour, Kashani arranged
meetings in Washington D.C. with the victims and Jewish and Israeli
leaders. They were also invited to White House meetings and a
tour of the Sept. 11 crash site at the Pentagon.
All these things, he said, help in the healing process of the
victims. But it also shows America that terrorism is indeed a
harsh reality that needs to be faced and addressed. "I want
to put a face on terrorism for Americans."
The Ojai Valley News
to the news
SHABO in center, with daughter on right, Atia Shabo, and friend
Connie Friedman, 16. Atia and Boaz were among the three of their
family of six to survive an attack by a terrorist in Itamar,