Gila Weiss, the nail polish on her toenails

April 18, 2002


[Note by Tom Gross]

A friend of mine has asked me to write about her friend Gila (Jennifer) Weiss, a 31-year-old American woman living alone in Israel, who was badly burned and injured in last Friday's suicide bomb at Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem.

Gila's face was so disfigured by the blast that her roommate was able to identify her only by the nail varnish on her toenails.

Almost no American newspaper journalists have written about or even mentioned Gila, whereas many have profiled the Palestinian woman who tried to kill her (and murdered six others, including the Israeli-Arab bus driver). Those of you in the U.S. may want to contact your local newspaper and find out why.

If journalists would like more information on Gila, they may contact her friend Nomi Elbert in Jerusalem at [This email address, originally sent out with the dispatch, has been removed from the website version TG].

If you would like to write get well cards or letters of support to Gila, she is at:*

Surgery Ward A, Room 4
Hadassah-Ein Kerem hospital

[* For website readers: Please note that this dispatch is from April 2002, and therefore no letters should now be written to that address.]

If you want to read about Gila, you can see the story in last Monday's Ha'aretz titled "I recognized the nail polish on her toes" (attached below).

Since that story was written Gila has regained consciousness and is now speaking.

-- Tom Gross


Tom Gross adds four days later, on April 18, 2002:

Many people on this email list wrote to Gila and sent her cards, and some went and visited her in hospital. Her father has also flown in from the U.S. to comfort her. While her injuries are very serious, she now has friends around her, excellent medical attention, and has strong personal courage which is helping her begin to make a recovery. She has already had an eye operation and may need additional surgery on her ears, but remains in a lot of pain.



'I recognized the nail polish on her toes'
By Gavin Rabinowitz
April 15, 2002

In the early hours of Sunday morning, friends finally found Gila Weiss, 31, in the intensive care unit of Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem in Jerusalem, where she had lain unconscious and unidentified since being seriously wounded in Friday's suicide bombing in the Mahane Yehuda market.

Galia Khut, a friend of Weiss, first became concerned when Weiss failed to arrive at a Friday night dinner to which she had been invited. "We knew she had not forgotten dinner as she had called and confirmed in the afternoon. She said she was going to Mahane Yehuda so we were obviously worried," said Khut. When Shabbat ended, Khut and other friends of Weiss, a new immigrant from Washington DC, began calling all the hospitals and even the Institute of Forensic Medicine at Abu Kabir. However, they were told that Weiss was not among the injured or the dead.

"We called every hospital three times, but they neglected to tell us that there was an unidentified woman. It was only after one of us went to the hospital that we found her," said Khut. A spokesman for the hospital said the confusion had been caused by the fact that Weiss had regained consciousness briefly and told hospital staff that her name was Hila and that she was from New York, before lapsing into unconsciousness.

One of Weiss's friends went to Ein Kerem to identify her but could not be sure it was her as Weiss had been hit by shrapnel in the face, which left it swollen and covered in scabs. It was only after Weiss's flatmate, Pnina Dekel, arrived at the hospital that they finally identified her. "She was wearing a browny-pink nail polish on her toe nails which she had come to show me a few days ago, I recognized that," said Dekel.

Weiss immigrated to Israel in June last year and has no relatives in the country. "Her brother and his wife were living here but left because of the situation," said Dekel. "He called her a week ago and told her she was crazy to stay, but she said she really wanted to be here and told him that she was careful and did not go to coffee shops or other dangerous places."

"This is really indicative of problems faced by new immigrants," said Khut. "When you are here alone you have to rely on your friends, but they don't know things like your father's name or your medical history or how to contact your family," she said. "If she had not been coming to us for dinner she may not have been missed. Her flatmate was away for the weekend and may not have missed her till Sunday," she said.

"At four in the morning after hundreds of phone calls we started to search through her belongings looking for her father's phone number," said her flatmate who has been living with Weiss for only three months.

Weiss has been enrolled in the Etzion Ulpan in Jerusalem and was studying for the accountancy board exam. "She has worked so hard to be here in Israel. She was determined to take the exam in Hebrew and not wait for the English version of the exam in November," said Khut. "She loves entertaining people, having friends over for meals," said another friend, Jonathan Levine. "She loves being a shadchan [match maker]," he said.

Weiss underwent two operations on her eyes Sunday and is listed in serious condition.

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.