Unfortunately all too many families, like the Palmer family, have had to experience the excruciating pain and shock that completely overtakes every fiber of your being when the terrible news that a family member(s) are tragically lost. In the blink of an eye many lives are forever changed.
What are the thoughts, the memories that run through the minds of the families as they recollect upon the lives of the victims? I cannot pickup my grandson. I cannot give either of them hugs and kisses and bounce my grandson on my knee. It’s not fair.
Michael Palmer (father of Asher and grandfather of Yonatan), agonizingly recounts in court about the murder of two precious and innocent lives, bringing to life within the walls of the military court the victim’s presence. Asher and Yonatan’s murderers were not acquainted with them; they murdered them merely because they were Jews.
While recalling the birth of his son, Michael exuded pride and unending love. It is a poignant and elated moment in every father’s life.
From the miracle of a his son’s creation, through the 9 months of protecting and nurturing within his mother womb, finally a new little life emerges into the world – and his life begins. No words can satisfactorily describe the joy and love which resonates in the heart of a father, as he looks upon his son.
Time and interaction create an unbreakable bond between a father and son. Sounds of laughter, as well as many tears, fill their lives as they face together the many challenges that life has to bring. That is what a father does.
One day the Michael turns around and his son is all grown up. The next stage of life begins. Asher must build a life with a good career to help support his family. Asher’s goal in life was to combine Torah and a career in the Israeli high-tech industry in order to strengthen Jewish life in the land of Israel. He will find himself a Kallah (Bride), get married and build his own family. Asher met his bride Puah, got married and began building his family. He too will know what it means to be father. For a very short time, Asher also knew what it meant to be a father.
This is the cycle of life.
THEN SUDDENLY IT IS ALL GONE!
Suddenly a life of joy and happiness becomes a life of tears, pain and unbearable grief. Shattered are all dreams; life’s goals and plans to build a family, a career and a home are gone – in one swift moment in time.
How do we carry on, asked Michael?
Friday September 23, 2011, the news of the heinous murder of Asher and Yonatan shatters Erev Shabbat, a day of joy and celebration of HaShem’s creation of the world.
Then the dreaded knock at the door, Asher’s mother opens the door and immediately she knows. She sees the officers standing in front of her and she knows why they are there.
Asher’s mother stands there in silence as the head officer asks her the usual precise and enquiring questions to be sure he is informing the right family.
A chilling scream of NO is exclaimed after receiving the horrific news; breaking the silence.
No consolation exists for the parents of the victims or their families, for murder is always
no preparation exists for this moment,
– someone has destroyed the life of your child in an act of violence,
– someone has intentionally committed this heinous crime.
Traumatized by the grief and disbelief the Palmer’s feel almost paralyzed. Please tell us this is all a dream, a sick joke. How can this be happening to us? They lose belief in humanity, and ask can anyone be trusted again? The loss becomes a process of dealing with both religious ceremonies and of course the justice system, if the murderers are caught.
First is the funeral. The funeral, often thought of as part of the healing process, is obviously not the thought on the minds of those who have lost a loved one. What is? Who really knows other than those who are suffering the loss? Everyone comes to their victimization with different life experiences. Two people experiencing similar victimization will inevitably have different reactions. How can a family begin coping with the pain, endless tears, grief beyond words, a feeling of helplessness and loss of control. As if by rote, everything occurs as it should and yet all events are like a blur of sequences. There is not way to bring back their loved ones. “We too are victims”, cry the victim’s family, “The question is can we become survivors?”
Legal proceedings follow the hopeful capture of the accused murderers. Even then there remains the doubt the murders will get what they deserve? What punishment is suitable for the crime?
As difficult as this stage will be by reliving all these events, the case finally coming to court, often brings a feeling of relief. The family will have to make decisions and choices about whom, if anyone attends court; the family may have to travel a long distance from home, which may cause the family a great deal of strain physically, emotionally and financially.
The legal process is not an easy road to travel down. The preparation for the trial takes so long. The investigation process involves different authorities. In this particular case the army, the police, the security services (Shin Bet), and the court authorities (prosecution, lawyers and judges). There are many confusing and frustrating delays. There is not always a clear channel of communication between the family and officials, or even a certainty of whom to turn to. Often the family’s only option is to seek legal counsel. This is what Michael Palmer wisely did (Adrian Agassi – a former military court judge).
Last but not least, the press. What is it that makes them interested? What makes them tick? What role can they play in the ongoing representation of the victims rights both inside and outside the courtroom? Can their involvement change the outcome of the court’s decision, public opinion and of course the healing process of the victim’s family? How does a family deal with the inaccuracy of the press and negative press releases?
When asked about many of these issues, this is what Michael Palmer responded:
Rivkah: Victim or survivor? What comes to mind when you hear these words? What is the politically correct word, or preferred title a family like yours who has been through such a tragedy prefers?
Michael: As you know the family can give a victim’s statement in court. Everybody is a victim, but not everyone is a survivor. First there is the psychological and/or physical blow. The victims can only begin envisioning themselves as survivors, if they can successfully get through the chain of events that follow in the recovery process.
Rivkah: Recovery – is there such a thing? There is the expression time can heal all wounds. Is this true?
Michael: Time does not do much. If you compare this to a physical tragedy – it alters one’s interaction with the world. The person must learn coping mechanisms. A person can lock themselves up in a room, close themselves off from the world and basically exist. Or, they can find ways to cope, to rebuild relationships with people and move on with rebuilding their lives.
Rivkah: What does the term alleged mean to you when you hear it, or see it used in the media?
Michael: To me this is simply part of the vocabulary used by the press. It is a term used during the process of the investigation and trial, until such time the accused becomes convicted and sentenced.
Rivkah: What support if any is available for the victims and/or their family members? You mentioned in the video with “In the Last Days” that the support available was not helpful.
Michael: There is a special department of Bituach Leumi that deals with terror victims and/or their family’s needs.
- Government Agencies: Were fine and the people were professional
- Private Organizations: Fine and very helpful
- Army: Showed up during the Shiva (One week of mourning for the loss of a Jew) spewing untruths, perhaps buying time. They are inept in dealing with these situations. The army claimed they have worked hard to thwart similar attacks. How hard could they have tried to avoid this? In Sept there were at least 25 other cases involving these guys alone?
Rivkah: What impact has the media had on your family?
Michael: What is disappointing is the lack of representation of the Israeli press.
- The greatest representation of positive Israeli press presence has been from “Chaim Levinson” and News, who have given the greatest amount of positive representation. Others news agencies have been sporadically represented well.
- The strongest representation of negative Israeli press was Amir Haas – also from.
Change in the news-media behavior toward crime-victim families is crucial. Both the media and the families benefit from a mutual co-operation. The media could play a vital therapeutic role for the victims. This exposure of family testimonials would allow them to tell their crime stories in a forum that will receive broad public viewing.
The media’s presence is necessary inside and outside of the courtroom, not just on the scene by a reporter looking for a juicy tidbit of news coverage to present to their editor. Follow-up with both legal counsel and the victim/family will make sure there is accuracy in the information distributed. It will also create an open line of communication to get further details if necessary.
Rivkah: What impact has the media had on this case?
Michael: Again the lack of presence is obvious. Therefore, the rights of the victim and/or their family are not being properly represented.
Note: Being a victim not only applies to the injured or dead person(s), but also must include the family members and others close to the direct victims. Further trauma may occur to secondary victims through their encounters with insensitive journalists and the cold and impersonal nature of the criminal justice system.
Rivkah: How could the media’s involvement have helped/harmed your case?
Michael: This is a more important issue with the “Ali” case (Second accused who was also in the car with Wail), it is more political. The summation in that case involved an attack on the methods of the Shabak (Shin Bet – Security Services).
Note: The media can help humanize a victim and their experiences at a time when the criminal justice system is so focused on the offender(s) and the crime. It can help someone tell their story of resilience and hope. It may offer an avenue for the murder victim’s family to talk about their loved one, or give someone a platform to advocate for social change or justice reforms.
Media coverage can re-victimize victims, especially if overly sensational or inaccurate coverage. It can reinforce misconceptions and myths about crime victims. Focusing on the sensational, high-profile crimes, often means other families with less compelling stories needs are not fulfilled.
Media involvement can impact different victims in different ways. The media will pick which victims get the most coverage and the most sympathetic coverage depending on characteristics of the victims, of the crime and the offender.
For families, this is not easy to understand. They may, if the coverage is vast, feel violated by the endless coverage and the rehashing of the details of their child’s murder and intrusions in their privacy. In cases with limited or no coverage, families may wonder why their loved one was not important enough to garner more public interest and sympathy.
Rivkah: What are your thoughts about the articles that I sent to you and that you read before this interview?
Michael: These are the columnist’s words, expressing his or her opinion. They have a right to freedom of speech. I am not sure exactly what that means here in Israel. There has been a complaint filed against the columnist “Amira Hass” for the article “The Inner Syntax of Palestinian Stone-Throwing”.
Note: Several negative aspects of the media occur during coverage of crime and victims occur. Inaccurate information can shape public opinion and government policies. Like in the Amira Hass article, where the media take on the murders birthright to throw rocks, downplays the victim’s rights and legitimacy of prosecution pursuing charges against the accused.
Rivkah: What about ways of establishing memorial type projects?
Does this help the family?
Michael: This is definitely helpful and is I believe part of what we earlier termed as part of the survivor ship phenomenon.
How soon after the tragedy should this be done, or this a personal decision as far as timing?
Michael: Each person must decide this for themselves. How they decide to memorialize their family member, when and even if it is not done.
Note: Many times Michael (like many other victims of terror attacks) expressed that he could not consider himself to be anything other than a victim of the crippling loss, let alone a survivor.
After answering the first question during this interview (victim vs. survivor) and now discussing the ways one can memorialize his loved ones, Michael has come to realize that perhaps it is possible to begin to think of oneself as a survivor.
No-one can tell victims how to survive this dreadful, life-shattering event. Each individual family has to tread their own path through the darkness. It is a life-long struggle to find your way of integrating the murder of your family members into the fabric of the rest of your life.
Sometimes because we are the ones in the middle of the emotional whirlpool, we do not always see with clarity the progress we have made. Like in Michael Palmer’s case, an indirect question or comment may trigger that realization.
What is a father? He is a parent, a teacher, a confidant and as we grow up and an unbreakable bond is formed, he is a friend. Michael Palmer never gives up, even as he sits in the courtroom determined not to let the pain, the anger he feels stop him from bring justice to his family whose murders sit across from his with smirks on their faces, joking back and forth with their friends and family.
Michael took the witness stand during the sentencing trial to tell his story. There where times during Michael’s narration that you could feel his pride and love exuding through his words and body language. Then suddenly a slight quiver in his voice and the pain and anguish overtakes him. Yet somehow, Michael manages to find the strength and courage to continue conveying what he felt deep in his heart.
Much precedence has come from these proceedings though:
- The victim’s family had legal representation in a Military court for victim of Arab terror. This because of Michael’s determination and desire to achieve the best possible results for his son and grandson.
- Michael requested friends and family to come and support his family and bring a human presence in the military court for those who are not able to speak for themselves, the victims, Asher and Yonatan Palmer HY”D. This has never been done before by families of the victims of terror.
- Michael also agreed to the request to have copies of a photograph of Asher and Yonatan made for those present to hold against them before and during the trials.
- For the first time victim impact statement has been given. The law exists, but simply does not allow the victim(s) to do this; it does not apply in military courts in Judea and Samaria.
- Up until this point a rock was not considered a lethal weapon and certainly not worthy of life sentence this case has changed this concept.
Judges are human beings-pressure works in all spheres-press and presence spread of Jews rights in courtroom. Judges must be reminded who they serve first and foremost the security of Jews in the name of the Military commander and not just Arab rights to a “just” trial.
Compensation which will be given-B”H should become a deterrent for future crimes like this.
Maybe some day sentencing-advocating the death penalty as a deterrent will be an option for the Prosecution. Not an easy option to be sure. The level of certainty required to set this precedence is undoubtedly astronomical.
What really went on here?
“Peace” Treaty gave a Palestinian security guard to become a ringleader of a terror under the noses of the Shaback who work with the Palestinians for security in the area. The Americans fund them and they kill American citizens. Think about it if it was not so sad it would be a great joke!!! The US is funding a peace treaty and security apparatus to grow terrorists to kill Jews and we are working hand in hand with them!!!!!!! Amazing you couldn’t write such a script. All for the sake of Peace!
The King is truly naked but no one is paying any attention! Our children are being slaughtered in the name of Peace. It’s like giving your children to Molech!Rivkah Rybak
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