Joel Mowbray

ASHKELON, ISRAEL—Setting foot into the southern Israeli coastal city mall hit four days earlier by a Palestinian rocket, the natural expectation was to see ravaged shops and smashed kiosks. There were none.

Stepping out of the elevator into the health clinic on the third floor, however, all around was a tangled mess of plaster, broken tiles, shattered glass and exposed wiring. And this was after four days of nonstop clean-up efforts by over twenty people.

That no one died in this attack is no ordinary miracle. So many factors coalesced—from the exact location and timing of the impact to one doctor’s smoking habit—that even slightly different circumstances could have produced far deadlier results.

Minutes before 6pm, as President Bush was meeting with the Israeli Prime Minister in Jerusalem, a Grad rocket slammed into the mall’s roof—roughly 20 feet away from where an obstetrician was examining her patient. The roof instantly came crashing down on them. Though trapped underneath the rubble, Dr. Mirale Sidrer, 52, was able to reach a phone and call her husband, Moshe, also a doctor. But because of the quick medical response, she and her patient had already been evacuated by the time he had arrived just minutes later.

Moments after he saw his wife at the hospital, Mrs. Sidrer fell into a coma. When she regained consciousness two days later, the first words out her mouth were, “How is my patient?” This concern helps explain why she was trying to tend to her patient even as the paramedics were trying to transport her from the scene.

Her patient, a 24-year-old Orthodox Jewish woman, has been married one year and she and her husband are trying to get pregnant. The young woman suffered severe internal injuries—in and around her stomach. Doctors cut out part of her abdomen and liver.

Though not guaranteed, it looks like she still will be able to get pregnant. No small miracle, indeed.

Just as miraculous was the survival of a young mother and her 2-year-old daughter who were in the waiting room, just ten feet from where the rocket hit. Both had shrapnel in their heads and were airlifted to Sheba hospital just outside of Tel Aviv, some 50 miles away.

The medium-range Grad rocket with approximately 20 kilograms—or over 40 pounds—of high-powered explosives smashed into perhaps the ideal spot: the roof’s support beam. Had it entered the building even a few feet lower, it almost certainly would have gone through the floor and into the crowded shopping areas below.

Joel Mowbray

Joel Mowbray, who got his start with, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.

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