Two Jewish sisters in Nice: One missing one hospitalized

Carla (77) and Raymond (80) Ben-Shimon, two sisters from city of Antibes, went to Nice to join the Bastille celebrations. They wanted to see the fireworks, but now Carla sits in the hospital in serious condition in the city beset by a terror attack which left 84 people dead and dozens wounded.

Her sister remains missing and is likely to have been killed but not yet identified. Carla’s son, Albert, together with his sister and cousins arrived at the hospital. Her other brother is in Israel. “My daughter also lives in Israel,” Albert says. “She can’t stop crying. She is so close with her grandmother.” Carla has been placed under anesthetic as doctors struggle to save her life. All of the family members are trying to fight back tears and remain optimistic.

Shock and horror continue to permeate the Jewish community of Nice, some of whom were saved purely by chance from the deadly attack. “I saw people falling down on my right and left. I heard bullets flying through the air. I was almost run over,” recalls Sharona, a Jewish girl of Iranian ethnicity who lives in Boston and was visiting Nice during her vacation.

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Sharona went for a walk with her mother, aunt and her 15-year-old nephew, Daniel on the promenade. Daniel returned to the hotel because he was cold. Shortly after, the truck arrived at the scene.

As the people tried to escape, Sharona was separated from her mother and aunt. “It was lucky that we separated,” she explained. Statistically, if we had stayed together then one of us would have been hit by the shooting.”

B.J, a Jewish tourist from Australia who watched the chaos unfold from his hotel balcony opposite the boulevard, also recounted the story of how sheer luck had determined his fate. “My wife broke her leg a few days ago so we couldn’t go down,” he said. “We decided to watch the fireworks from the hotel. I saw the truck arrive and I heard the gun shots. At first I didn’t understand what was happening. It was a terrible sight. Dozens of bodies were left in the area until the morning when rescue teams tried to identify them and evacuate all the casualties. It was an extremely difficult moment.”

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In the local synagogue, the mood remains one of anger and general dismay at the scant security presence deployed at such a popular event. “I am filled with anger,” said Lee Monick, a resident in Nice. “I saw practically no police in the streets.”

Her daughter, who is due to give birth next week found herself shielding her three children as people around her jumped and ran in panic and nearly trampled them. She attempted to hide in a restaurant but the owner “didn’t want to open it for fear that people would make a mess inside,” she continued. “My daughter forced him to open up and they hid inside. Afterwards, the waitress tried to kick them out but she didn’t give up. The children cried. Thank God it didn’t end in tragedy for them.”

Jacqueline, who broke her hip during the attack said, “I used my body to protect the children and then we ran for it like everyone else. People abandoned strollers and ran with their children in their hands. Why did they not close the area like they did for areas during the European soccer championships?” she continued. “Why didn’t they increase the number of policemen. I am so angry.”

Many French Jews and Israelis gathered in the Chabad synagogue where the Rabbi provided them with food. One woman, Yenta Apfel from Jerusalem who was in Nice during the attack compared the Israeli response to the French security reactions: “In Israel someone always quickly overpowers the terrorists. Yet here, how could the terrorist manage to travel such a large distance and kill so many people?”