In 1989, Robby Berman—a recent Yeshiva University grad and enthusiastic Zionist—made aliyah and was drafted into the IDF. Yet nothing in his basic training prepared him for the blood-chilling discovery he made in his friend Tom Cole’s Old City dorm room. There, dangling from the ceiling, Berman saw what looked like a round Hershey bar. But it wasn’t. Instead, he immediately realized, it was a WWII hand grenade. Old and rusty, perhaps, but still fully operational. And how does one get rid of a hand grenade? Thirty years after the dramatic events of that evening, and just in time for Kol Nidre, Berman finally comes clean.

In one version of his life he spends years in jail, as a homegrown terrorist. In the other, he walks away scot-free. What set his life on one path and not the other? In his first-person narrative, Berman answers that question and revisits his encounter with a real-world Detective Columbo.

This is the second of our listener drive specials. The Israel we try to explore is all about its people, about its diversity and complexity, about a place that’s both genuinely wondrous and utterly messed up. It cracks you up one moment, and brings you to tears the next. It’s heartfelt, and bizarre, and interesting. So, on the eve of the Day of Atonement, as our hearts open up and we think back to our own story in the past year, please consider donating. Listener support is what makes this show possible.

Joel Shupack edited and produced this piece, with help from Yochai Maital, James Feder, and Zev Levi. He also arranged the scoring with music from Blue Dot Sessions. The special was mixed by Sela Waisblum. The end song is Shoshana Damari’s version of “Etz HaRimon” (The Pomegranate Tree). It was written by Yaakov Orland and put to a traditional Buchari tune.

This special was edited and produced by Joel Shupack, Yoshi Fields, James Feder, and Zev Levi, and mixed by Sela Waisblum.

Listen to the full special here, or download it from Apple Podcasts. You can hear all of Israel Story’s episodes in English here and in Hebrew here.