First Responder on Scene at Har Nof Attack Recounts the Horror


magen-david-adom-paramedic-akiva-pollackMagen David Adom paramedic Akiva Pollack was the first emergency responder on the scene of the Yerushalayim shul attack on Nov. 18 that resulted in the murder of five people. On Tuesday night he spoke about rushing to the sanctuary on the day of the attack and being unprepared for what he found.

“I came from my house to this scene. I had no equipment with me. I was with my slippers. That’s how I got to this scene,” Pollack said, speaking at the American Friends of Magen David Adom New York Annual Benefit Dinner at the Lighthouse at Chelsea Piers.

Pollack lives in the neighborhood where the incident happened and said he arrived at the Har Nof synagogue about 30 seconds after the terror attack started. The first thing he saw was one of the victims sitting outside in his prayer shawl (talit) and his phylacteries (tefillin) and bleeding very badly. After the wounded man alerted the paramedic that he’d been shot, Pollack called an MDA dispatcher to report the attack and state that he was at the scene.

When Pollack went up the synagogue steps to see inside the building, he found another man lying on the floor with his talit and tefillin, and a big puddle of blood around him. Pollack dragged the victim closer to check whether he was still alive when he came under a hail of bullets. He managed to seek cover just as policemen arrived and surrounded the entrance to the synagogue.

Heavy gunfire was then exchanged between the terrorists and the Israeli police officers. An officer standing near Pollack was hit by one of the terrorists; minutes later, the same attacker was killed by Israeli officers as he exited the synagogue. Though Pollack dragged the wounded police officer, 30 year-old Zidan Sayif, out of the line of fire, he died later that night.

Pollack spoke at the AFMDA Benefit Dinner in front of more than 400 guests. The event raised $4.5 million for MDA, the largest sum ever raised at the annual dinner, and proceeds will go toward the organization’s new national blood center and ambulances.

Pollack has been with MDA since 1986. He said the terror attack that took place at the Jerusalem synagogue was unlike anything he had ever seen before.

“I’ve seen a lot of things: suicide bombings, rockets, bus explosions… but I have to say, what I saw two weeks ago was different,” he explained. “The violence, the anger, the wounds, the size of the wounds that these terrorists did to these people. How could a human being do it to another?”

“Just to give you an idea of how crazy it is in Israel,” Pollack said, a day after the synagogue terror attack he worked an MDA shift with an Israeli Arab EMT who was from the same village as the terrorists. Commenting on the irony, he simply said, “that is Israel.” He ended by saying that his efforts at the scene of the synagogue attack was him merely doing his job.

“People ask me if I feel like a hero. No, I just do my job,” he said.

The Algemeiner Journal



  1. He says it’s crazy that a day after the attack he worked an MDA shift with an Israeli Arab EMT from the same village as the terrorists. The following question begs to be asked: Is it that this is “crazy”, or stupidly being blind & too trusting? Unfortunately we can never be sure until it’s chas v’shalom too late, as to whether or not ANY Arab could or would turn around & do the unthinkable in evil, hateful brutality. This is unfortunately a risk we cannot afford to take; it’s our own lives & those of our own brothers & sisters. I ask: What would it have to take for us to do something to prevent or at least minimize this possibility? It would take more concern for ourselves than the concern we have for what the rest of the world might think, as the current status quo. I hope people read these sentiments & think about them seriously, & do whatever is necessary to influence our leadership to do the same. We need to daven very hard, but we also need to do our own strong hishtadlus, & use our seichel! “Ein somchin al ha’nes!”