The violence in the Middle East has affected New Yorkers for years. Some have lost loved ones—or experienced the conflict first hand. NY1’s Michael Herzenberg filed the first installment of a two part series.

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“I love working with people,” says Rabbi Gideon Black.

Black supports and teaches students as NYU’s campus rabbi, but his experiences as a student in Israel left him with a loss that changed his life.

“There was an enormous explosion, a ball of fire nothing like I’d never seen before,” he says.

Two Hamas suicide bombers killed 11 young people and injured nearly 200 others on Jerusalem’s Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall in 2001.

“My friend Daniel—I just looked at him and he had blood streaking down his face and I started to panic, looking for a wound, realizing after a couple of minutes that it wasn’t his blood,” Black recalls.

They escaped physically uninjured, but the following year in Tel Aviv, he wasn’t as fortunate.

“And you just hear a bang again, the same sound and just turned around immediately and saw my cousin Yoni on the floor,” Black says.

A bomber stepped on a bus and blew himself up, killing six people and wounding 60, including Black.

“A little bit of shrapnel into my chest but thank God, I spent the night in the hospital but was I was fine, and Yoni—that just one small bolt that was packed to the in the bomb hit his brain stem,” Black says. “”I was screaming his name. I remember one of the medics screaming, ‘Altamut, altamut,’ which is Hebrew for ‘Don’t die.'”

Nineteen-year-old Yoni Jesner didn’t make it.

The teen had already gotten into medical school and wanted to save lives. He did that in death by donating his organs—which saved two Israeli men and a Palestinian girl.

A decade later, a documentary featured Yoni’s mother meeting the kidney recipient.

“That message of hope is very strong. I think it says something about Israeli society,” Black says.

Rabbi Black says the loss of innocent life on both sides of the conflict is tragic.

In the second part of the series, we’ll give a view from a New Yorker with Palestinian roots, and losses.