The hardest part of telling Daniel’s story is that it is in the past tense. Otherwise, it’s inspiring and uplifting.
In April 2006, during the intermediate days of Passover, Daniel Cantor Wultz suffered devastating life threatening injuries to most of his 16 year old body. Standing next to Daniel on an outing with his family during their holiday visit to Israel, Daniel’s father also suffered severe injuries when a suicide bomber detonated the belt full of explosives, killing 11 and injuring 70.
In the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attack, Daniel was rushed to the hospital by Magen David Adom. On board the ambulance and at the hospital, EMTs and doctors feverishly tried to do everything they could to keep Daniel alive. In order to sustain his severely damaged body, doctors were challenged to replenish the blood being lost, while at the same time, trying to repair his badly devastated body. In all, Daniel required 80 units of blood just to stay alive in the hours after the terrorist attack.
The doctors were able to stop the bleeding, yet Daniel’s life remained in grave danger. For weeks, his family prayed by his bedside, recalling better times and hoping that they would again be able to enjoy these together with Daniel soon. At one point, dozens of students from Daniel’s school in the US arrived to join the family in prayer.
As they played for Daniel’s recovery, they recalled how he was a great people person. He loved people, especially his family and friends, and was widely loved as well. Daniel was known for warm embracing hugs which his friends and family longed to have again, as they hugged and comforted one another.
Daniel also loved Israel. Upon arriving in Israel at the beginning of the Passover holiday, Daniel told his parents, “I’m glad to be home.” At his young age, Daniel understood the centrality of Israel in Jewish life, and loved the feeling of being there.
Daniel loved his Judaism which instilled in him a deep sense of humility and respect for the values and beliefs of others. Daniel’s ability to respect others enabled him to reach out and be accepted by others in turn, young and old, black and white, Jewish and non-Jewish. Daniel never spoke badly of others. This was so important to him that if he heard others speaking negatively about their peers, he would actively reach out to encourage them to stop.
As they waited and prayed together in the hospital, Daniel’s friends remembered what a role model he was to them, as well as adults who may have been much older but did not possess his maturity.
Daniel loved sports, especially basketball. He looked up to Michael Jordan not only for his incredible athletic gift, but for overcoming many personal challenges as a young man to become “the best basketball player ever.” Daniel respected that Michael Jordan never blamed anyone or felt angry at those who criticized him for not playing well enough. For Daniel, Michael Jordan embodied the ability to overcome severe challenges, and Daniel’s friends and family hoped that somewhere deep inside, Daniel would be able to overcome the life threatening challenges that he faced at the very moment, beseeching God to give Daniel a full recovery.
Daniel loved “XBOX,” movies, and had a great sense of humor. Daniel loved flying airplanes, and at 14 ½ flew a jet. Daniel loved life, but two years after the “height” of flying a jet, he lay in grave danger as a result of a terrorist’s hatred.
On Mother’s Day that year, all Daniel’s mother wanted was for her son to be well again. But on Mother’s Day, just weeks after sustaining the life threatening injuries, weeks after doctors used every imaginable means at their disposal to keep Daniel alive, Daniel’s body succumbed to his wounds and he died.
Today is Yom Hazikaron, Memorial Day for Israel’s lost soldiers and victims of terrorist attacks. In its own short life, Israel has lost more than 22,000 soldiers defending the Land that Daniel loved, and more than 4000 victims of terrorist’s hatred and intolerance. In Israel, where we celebrate together, we also mourn together and the media is replete with stories of courage, bravery, inspiration, and, sadly, death.
This year, I remember Daniel, a young man who I never met, but because the terrorist attack that killed him took place on the day I organized my first blood drive in Israel, he is someone to whom I feel very close. Today Israel mourns its martyrs. Daniel is among them. Sadly, today is Mother’s Day. Daniel’s mother never got her wish in 2006, and since, has only the comfort of the memory of Daniel’s short 16 years.
May Daniel’s memory be a blessing for his family and friends, and all of us, and may no more mothers ever have to spend this day mourning their child.