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Works for the Jerusalem Ministry Center, an organization
with the International Christian Embassy of Jerusalem (ICEJ) to help Jewish
immigrants return to Israel, since 1999
Education: B.A. in Library Science; Kiev, Ukraine, 1985.
Svetlana "Karen" Milchiker, a Russian Jew who immigrated to Israel in the early 1990s, miraculously survived a bus bombing in Jerusalem on the morning of January 29, 2004, that claimed the lives of 11, including the suicide bomber, and injured 50.
Karen was on her way to work, taking the No. 19 bus as she usually did every morning but had decided to go to her bank, a few stops farther than her usual stop to work. (Had she gotten off at her regular stop, she would have avoided the bombing.)
A German friend soon joined Karen that morning on the bus, and the women chatted until the bus reached a particular destination. Karen's friend decided to get off the bus there, instead of riding with Karen to the bank as Karen had hoped.
A few stops later, the bus exploded. The location of the bus was 15 yards away from the residence of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who was not home at the time.
Karen says she lost consciousness. When she regained consciousness, she heard a blast from far away – her cell phone exploded. She then realized that the bus had exploded, and she saw smoke and pieces of human flesh. Karen says everything felt like it was happening in slow motion. She couldn't move anything, didn't feel like she was in her body, and felt like she was dying. She saw people severely injured around her outside. Karen then looked at her hands, moved slowly, and then started moving the rest of her body. She realized that Jesus had spared her and so she said, "Jesus." Though she was grateful, she says she felt terrible. Her head hurt. She felt internally and externally nervous. She thought something was wrong with her hands, but they were fine. That is when she realized there was blood on her head.
She took a closer assessment of her surroundings. The man that was sitting next to her had "empty eyes" and looked dead, the window of the bus was totally broken, and she saw human flesh and a lot of awful things. Thankfully she says she did not look at the back of the bus, because "the most horrible things were behind the bus… bodies."
Karen knew that help had arrived, so she got out of the bus and managed to call Gina, her supervisor. Karen eventually realized that God had saved her for a purpose. She remembered the name of Jesus – the most important thing to her to this day. Though she was thankful that God had spared her, it was very difficult to go through the tragic events of the day.
Jim Schultz, a friend who lived a block away, saw Karen and asked if she had been in the accident. She told him she had been. Karen says Jim was a representation of God's love to her because he was able to pray for her and comfort her right away.
Soon after this, Karen was taken to the hospital where the doctors discovered that her eardrums were damaged and that there was air in her lungs that could turn into pneumonia. Doctors kept her in the hospital for four days so that they could monitor her. Shortly after, she recovered at home, and her recovery was quick.
Karen firmly believes that Israel has a right to defend itself. When Karen first immigrated to Israel, she wanted to join the Israeli army, but she was too old. In an odd way she thinks that in surviving the terrorist bombing and being able to share about it, she is able to serve Israel in another capacity. She has had opportunities to share her testimony at churches and various functions. Karen has had the privilege of telling her story at a gathering of thousands in May 2004 in Finland on behalf of the security fence, which is a fence that is being constructed to keep terrorists out of Israel.
Karen says her life hasn't dramatically changed since the tragedy. She appreciates life more and finds more meaning in it. She knows it wasn't time for her to die. Promises have been spoken over her. Some of these promises have been fulfilled and some are yet to be fulfilled.
The Journey Home
Karen was born in Kiev, Ukraine, where she lived the typical communist life. She had a Jewish heritage but wasn't really brought up in the Jewish faith. She thought she had to be brought up Jewish to be truly Jewish. Karen wanted to believe but didn't know how.
She knew there was no future for her in the Ukraine, so Karen started researching her options to immigrate to another country. Karen's mother wanted to immigrate to America, but Karen didn't want to leave the motherland. For some time Karen, her mother, and her sister could not agree about immigration.
In 1991, the opportunity opened up for them to immigrate to Israel. Karen says that this was a divine calling from God, because they really did not have any particular desire to go to Israel, they just went. They applied and left Kiev three years later. Karen came to Israel with her mother and sister when she was 28, and her search for God began.
Messiah As Savior
Karen, her mother, and her sister lived in an apartment in Jerusalem. One day Karen was smoking on the balcony and saw people walking by speaking Russian, which wasn't typical for her neighborhood. She found out that other Russian immigrants were getting help through an organization called Christian Friends of Israel. Karen and her family were able to get help. A man in the organization told her about Jesus, and they were also referred to a Bible study. From there they were introduced to a Messianic congregation.
Karen was not a believer at the time, but she enjoyed the fellowship. She began to read the Bible and to believe. After a few months, she decided to give her life to Christ.
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