From the coverage it received in the Israeli media, the story
of how Pinchas and Mali Cohen survived a terrorist shooting
attack on Chol Hamoed Sukkos seemed nothing out of the
ordinary. Most papers gave the story just a few lines or
incorporated it into larger stories on terrorism in Eretz
"A husband and wife were shot in their car and moderately
wounded by terrorists last night on the Ramot-French Hill
road in northern Jerusalem," the Jerusalem Post
reported. "Around midnight, terrorists in a passing
vehicles opened fire on Pinchas and Mali Cohen as they drove
with their infant son on Route 9.
"Mali Cohen, 24-years-old and in the advanced stages of
pregnancy, was wounded in the head. Doctors say neither she
nor her baby is in life-threatening danger. Pinchas Cohen,
26, suffered a moderate gunshot wound to the stomach. He is
in stable condition, Army Radio reported. The couple's nine-
month old infant, also with them in their vehicle, was
unharmed in the attack."
One might wonder, however, how Pinchas and Mali Cohen, who
were shot point blank in the stomach and head respectively,
did not sustain major injuries.
According to Rabbi Tuvia Levenstein, who supervises Lev
L'Achim's activities in the south of Eretz Yisroel, their
story is nothing short of miraculous -- and it actually began
more than four years earlier.
One afternoon in 1997 Rabbi Levenstein was working at his
office in Lev L'Achim's Yerushalayim branch in Geula when a
young man, clad in a black leather jacket and holding a
motorcycle helmet in hand, walked through the door.
"I want to find out more about G-d," the man told Rabbi
Levenstein, "do you know of any gemora shiurim I can go
Rabbi Levenstein took in the leather jacket, the helmet --
plus the man's long hair and earring -- and quickly surmised
that the man probably had never learned a word of Torah in
his life, and certainly was not ready to join a gemora
Rabbi Levenstein invited him to sit down, and the two spent
the next few hours discussing the basic concepts of Judaism.
"He told me," recalled Rabbi Levenstein, "that there was
something inside him telling him to get connected to Judaism.
He said he had a thirst, that he felt like something was
missing in his life."
During the course of their conversation, Rabbi Levenstein
learned that it was actually Lev L'Achim personnel who had
whetted the young man's appetite for Torah. Members of the
organization's Door-to-Door Division had visited his home on
several occasions and learned with his father. He had
overheard their discussions, which piqued his interest.
Soon after the young man left, Rabbi Levenstein picked up the
phone and spoke with the Door-to-Door Division and the men
who had visited the family. "Concentrate your efforts on the
son," he told them. "He is very eager to learn."
The men followed Rabbi Levenstein's instructions, and before
long the young man began to attend a regular shiur. As
time passed, the more he learned about Judaism, the more he
wanted to become completely observant. But there was one
thing standing in his way: his wife.
"He went up and he went down," said Rabbi Levenstein. "At one
point, he even began keeping Shabbos, but then he fell apart.
His wife, who was from a secular family in Petach Tikva, kept
telling him that she wasn't interested in this `whole
religious thing' and that he was making her depressed with
all his religious talk."
After a while, it appeared that the young man's wife had
convinced him to give up his newfound interest in religion.
He stopped returning Rabbi Levenstein's calls, and it looked
like he would stop being religious altogether.
Then one day, Rabbi Levenstein received a phone call. It was
the young man, who explained that he had recently found a job
at Tnuva, Israel's national dairy, and he was working
alongside several Orthodox Jews. They had invited him to join
their minyanim and he was beginning to once again take
interest in Yiddishkeit.
Not long afterward, Rabbi Levenstein was able to convince the
young man -- and his wife -- to attend a weekend seminar,
which had a major impact on the couple. The young man became
increasingly drawn to Yiddishkeit, while his wife,
although not ready to practice Judaism, was becoming more
interested and was no longer "anti."
The young man also developed a strong kesher with Rabbi
Shabtai Weiss, the rosh yeshiva of Ohr Baruch, a Sephardic
yeshiva in Bayit Vegan, who played a major role in his
As the couple continued to progress in their Judaism, they
began spending Shabbos with Rabbi Levenstein and his family,
talking to them for hours on end about their doubts and
But again, there was one major problem: the wife just
couldn't come to terms with the idea of covering her hair.
"This issue was something she felt she just couldn't handle,"
explains Rabbi Levenstein. "There was also her family, who
wouldn't react well to her covering her hair. It was like
proclaiming that she had turned chareidi all of the sudden."
Out of respect for Rabbi Levenstein and his family, however,
the woman covered her hair whenever they visited, but she
would take off her hair covering upon leaving their home.
Things changed this chol hamoed Sukkos, when the couple came
with their infant to visit the Levensteins. They spent an
enjoyable afternoon and then piled into their car and waved
good-bye to their hosts.
The wife, who was wearing a head covering as she always did
when she went to the Levensteins, turned to her husband and
said, "You know, I think I can handle covering my hair. I'm
going to start right now."
A few minutes later, Rabbi Levenstein, who was sitting in his
succah, heard shots and, not long afterward, the wail of
ambulances and police sirens. It was obvious that there had
been some sort of terrorist attack nearby.
He punched in his guests' cell phone number just to be sure
they were okay. When they didn't answer after several tries,
he began to get nervous. He got into his car and headed in
the direction of the shooting -- Route 9, which connects
Ramat Shlomo with Ramot and the rest of the city.
Before long, Rabbi Levenstein reached the site of the
shooting. His worst fear was realized when a policeman told
him that the car riddled with bullets was just the kind of
car the couple drove.
He soon found out from a member of Hatzala that the husband
had been shot twice in the stomach, while the wife was in
serious condition with a bullet wound in the head. He rushed
to the hospital to see if he could help.
In The Zechus Of A Mitzva
That couple, of course, was Pinchas and Mali Cohen. When
Rabbi Levenstein arrived at the hospital he found Pinchas in
the emergency room. He was conscious but had been shot twice
in the stomach. Pinchas' first question was: How is my wife?
"I told him I didn't know, and that I'd go to find out," said
Rabbi Levenstein. "The doctors told me that an amazing thing
had happened. The bullet penetrated the skin near her temple
-- right where the edge of her head covering was. It
deflected downward, skidded along her skull and then lodged
itself in her neck. She was going to be fine. The doctors
couldn't believed it; they called it a miracle."
When Rabbi Levenstein shared the good news with Pinchas, he
told Rabbi Levenstein how his wife had made a kabboloh
minutes before the attack to cover her hair.
This Succos was also the first time Pinchas observed all the
laws of yom tov, including building a succah and
purchasing arba minim. He had called Rabbi Levenstein
on erev Sukkos from a store, asking whether he could buy a
heter mechirah esrog. Rabbi Levenstein told him it was
preferable to buy one with a hechsher from otzar
beis din, even though it was more expensive.
"He bought the more expensive esrog," said Rabbi Levenstein,
"and he was so happy with his arba minim.
"After the shooting, he told me he felt that they were saved
in the zechus of his wife's kabboloh and the
mitzvos of Succos. He said all he could think of was the
verse, `Ki yitzpeneini beSucco beyom ro'oh, He will hide
me in his shelter on the day of evil.' He felt that Hashem's
hand had saved him and his family from certain death."