Chaim Biton is a student of Rav Berland and a relative of Zeri Siboni, one of the girls who was trapped in the supermarket Hyper Casher in Paris, when a terrorist went on a murderous rampage there last year.
He told us about an open miracle that had happened to his relative, in the merit of the Rav:
Shortly before last year’s attacks in Paris took place, Zeri had finished her degree in one of the Chareidi Colleges in Jerusalem, and had returned to Paris for a short period of time, with the intention of coming back to Israel. In the meantime, she was working as a cashier in her brother’s supermarket, Hyper Casher. On Friday Erev Shabbat, Parshat Shemot, a terrorist broke into the shop and immediately started firing at anyone who was standing near the entrance or near the checkout, before taking the rest of the people in the store as hostages.
Zeri was standing closest to the entrance, but miraculously didn’t get hurt by the initial burst of gunfire. She fell to the floor and thought she was going to die like the others who’d already been shot and killed, while the terrorist forced his way into the store.
When Chaim heard that his cousin was working at that time in the supermarket, he immediately called the Rav’s hotline, to request a bracha from the Rav. The Rav said: “Tell them that they don’t have anything to worry about. She will come out on Shabbat, and by motzae Shabbat you will hear that she has been freed and that nothing has happened to her.”
In the meantime, the family didn’t know what had happened to Zeri, and the news was already reporting that several people had been killed in the store. Despite the Rav’s bracha they were still very anxious, so they contacted the Rav again, this time through his driver. At this point, the terrorist was going around the supermarket herding all the hostages together and all of the world was fearfully following the developments in Paris. The Rav again said: “Tell them that they have nothing to worry about, and that they can calm down. She will come out on Shabbat and on motzae Shabbat they’ll hear that she came out healthy and whole.”
In the meantime, the terrorist was scanning the shop and saw Zeri’s foot moving. At that moment, he shot directly at her leg – and again a miracle happened, because the bullet didn’t hit her. The terrorist came over and shouted at her: ‘What’s going on?! It looks you don’t you want to die!’ It seemed as though he understood that she was being protected from Above.
He told her to stand up and said: “Good, if you don’t want to die then you can help me. You’ll do what I tell you to do.” Then he told her to close the shop’s shutters before the police arrived. She began to close the shutters, and when she came to the last section an old man of around 60 years peeped under the shutter and asked if he could come in. She told him: ‘No, no, no, we’re closing, don’t come in!’
He pleaded with her that he just wanted to buy challahs for Shabbat, and that he didn’t have any challahs for Shabbat. He bent down and tried to get in under the shutter - and the terrorist immediately shot him dead. Meanwhile, Zeri’s family still didn’t have any information about what was happening, as there was no communication with anyone inside the supermarket.
Despite the Rav’s double blessing, the family still couldn’t relax. Rav Yaacov Biton, Chaim’s father, contacted another of the Rav’s confidantes to ask the Rav ‘what will be?’ The Rav responded: “Tell them, they have nothing to worry about, they can calm down. She will leave on Shabbat and on motzae Shabbat she’ll come out healthy and complete.”
After they heard the Rav’s bracha the third time, with exactly the same words, they were confident that the promise of the Tzaddik would come good, and that nothing bad would happen to their relative. They continued saying Psalms with emuna (faith / belief) and hope, as they went into Shabbat.
As the saga unfolded, the terrorist wanted Zeri to bring all of the hostages that had fled downstairs to the shop’s basement up to him. Zeri went downstairs, and then came up with only one man, who claimed to be the only one there. The truth of the matter is that there were another 20 people hiding in the store’s freezer.
The terrorist didn’t believe him, and started to get angry. He told Zeri to go down again and to call to the other people down there and tell them to come up. Immediately some more people came up, including a boy aged 3, that the terrorist wanted to kill on the spot.
At that moment, one of the hostages jumped on the terrorist and took his weapon away. Unfortunately, though, the terrorist had another weapon, and he shot the person who’d tried to disarm him in the head and killed him. He also tried to shoot Zeri in the head too, and she felt the bullet graze her cheek – but miracle of miracles, again nothing happened to her.
At the same time, another hostage tried to escape from the store and the terrorist shot him in the face. The wounded man struggled for another three hours, until he eventually succumbed to his wounds and died. Hashem should avenge their blood.
One of the people who was hiding in the freezer downstairs sent an sms message to journalists and told them where they were. The journalists didn’t realize that the terrorist was checking the news channels the whole time throughout the siege, so they wrote a headline that people were hiding in the freezer downstairs at the Hyper Casher. That piece of information flashed up on the screen at precisely the same moment that the terrorist got distracted and turned away from the screen.
Zeri’s brother was one of the shop’s managers. Although he wasn’t actually there, he still managed to access the shop’s closed circuit cameras to show the police what was going on inside the store. At that point, the police believed that they were dealing with two terrorists, a man and a woman, but he told them that the woman ‘terrorist’ was actually his sister, and that the terrorist was forcing her to help him against her will.
The terrorist said to Zeri: “If you don’t do what I tell you one more time, I’m going to kill everyone.” She pleaded with him: “I’ll do whatever you want, please just don’t kill the boy.” He listened to her, and didn’t kill the three year old.
Then he went downstairs with her and told her that anyone he finds down there, he was going to kill them and her on the spot. Another open miracle happened: there was still a number of people hiding downstairs, who went and crouched in a corner when the terrorist coming. Miraculously, the terrorist simply didn’t see them. He went back upstairs and told Zeri that she could live, after all.
A moment after this, the terrorist decided he needed to pray, and when he bowed down the police saw what he was doing via the CCTV, and immediately burst into the shop and killed him. It was already Shabbat, and all the hostages left the store, amongst them Zeri Siboni, who will never forget the miracles that Hashem did for her, in the merit of the promise of the Tzaddik, Rav Eliezer Berland.
Straight after Shabbat, the family called her from Israel, and heard the good news: she was alive, and she’d left the store healthy and complete, exactly as the Rav had said.