JERUSALEM – Eli Yadid is the luckiest guy in Israel. Or perhaps the unluckiest.
When a building floor collapsed in Jerusalem, killing 23, Yadid was standing just beyond the killing zone. When a suicide bomber blew himself up in from of a Tel Aviv disco, killing 20, he was just arriving.
"My friends all say I have nine lives," said the 24-year-old Yadid. If so, he has only seven left. Maybe only six. He survived a terror attack at his school when he was 16.
The collapse of the Versailles wedding hall in Jerusalem on May 24 was his closest call. His friend Inbal Ben-Shushan, 22, asked him to dance just after the ceremony was completed. Yadid said no thanks, he had a headache — and headed for the tables next to the dance floor.
Inbal found someone else to dance with her. Within seconds, the floor caved in and she disappeared, along with hundreds of others, their screams of terror and pain ringing in the dust-filled air. Then Yadid felt the floor give way under him.
His fall was broken by a section of the second floor that held. Although his legs were trapped under a table and concrete blocks, he escaped the devastating plunge to the ground below.
Using a cell phone he found within reach, he called his brother-in-law. "I cried like a baby," he said. "I thought my legs had been cut off."
As feeling returned to his limbs, he managed to escape the building through a window, clambering down a fire department ladder to safety.
Yadid was taken to a hospital, suffering from fractured ribs and cuts to his legs and back. Some of his friends were not as lucky. Motti Boutil, 25, was found dead the next day under the rubble, arms interlocked with his girlfriend.
Inbal Ben-Shushan's body was also found under the concrete slabs.
"I said to myself, if I sit at home depressed, I'll never get over it, so I decided to return to work right away," Yadid said. Yadid works in public relations. Part of his job is to attract revelers from his hometown of Jerusalem to Pacha, a lively Tel Aviv beachfront nightclub.
This Friday was meant to be special. Yadid had postponed the celebrations for his 24th birthday, which had fallen a week earlier, as he lay in the hospital. He invited more than 300 friends to the club.
Though he had just escaped with his life a few days before, tragedy was the farthest thing from his mind as he drove into the parking lot.
Suddenly he saw a huge ball of fire and heard a tremendous explosion. "I saw body parts — I saw things that are very hard to see," he said. "My first thoughts were to try to help the wounded."
Yadid loaded two injured youths into his car and drove at high speed to a nearby hospital. Then he went back to help others.
His spiky peroxided hair clashing with the blood splattered on his white tank-top, he described the scene as catastrophic. "There were pieces of flesh everywhere," he said.
Yadid traces his near-death experiences back another seven years, when a Palestinian armed with a knife entered his school and started stabbing students. Yadid said he was among the five lightly wounded, along with the principal, who helped a guard overpower the attacker.
The school confirmed Yadid was a student at the time of the attack, and hospital officials said he was among the injured from the Versailles collapse.
Standing near the carnage shortly after the blast on Friday night, Yadid wondered why he often seems to be at the right spot at the wrong time. "I don't understand," he said. "I feel like tragedy is chasing me."