There we stood, my husband and I, on the darkened mirpeset (balcony) of our home. It was 8:00 p.m. Our mirpeset overlooks the valley which marks the boundary of Efrat. In the distance is the road leading south to Kiryat Arba and Hevron, and north to the holy city of Yerushalayim.
We have stood on this mirpeset numerous times joining mourners who, while chanting Tehillim and holding Israeli flags, line the road to give chizuk (support) and a show of strength to the bereaved. We stand in sorrow as vehicles filled with mourners follow the Chevra Kadisha in funeral processions of murdered soldiers and civilian victims of terror. We have stood on this mirpeset watching ambulances with their sirens wailing past as we prayed that it was a mother being rushed to the hospital to give birth, not an injured person being rushed to the hospital for emergency care.
We have stood on this mirpeset looking at the sky, watching the flight of army helicopters, praying for the speedy execution of their orders and their safe return. We have stood on this mirpeset with pride as we watched Israeli flags and our neighborhood’s banners floating in the breeze proclaiming: We are here to stay!
Tonight, as we stand, we listen to the wail of the sirens proclaiming Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day) – the day set aside to honor all those of our brothers and sisters who died defending our country and those who were fatal victims of terrorist attacks. The cars pull over and stop, and others stop whatever activity they are involved in. The country is at a standstill for one minute, marking a moment in time set aside for remembrances.
I too stand in silence remembering those we lost, reflecting on the ripple effect each and every loss has had upon the families, the communities, and the nation. I despair at the amount of potential that has been lost. I think about those who personally face such horrific losses, including those I’ve had the privilege to become acquainted with. They, along with others, have taken the horror that they have sustained and have created something positive, something that gives honor to them as well as hope to us. Our hearts and thoughts reach out to them all the time, but especially today.
Miriam and Aaron Freund’s daughter (mother of nine), son in law, and grandson (Hannah & Yosef Dikstein and Shuva’el HY”D) were victims of a murderous attack on the road on erev Shabbat. Their nine year-old-grandson was found dead, head slumped over the sefer on his lap. Miriam is retired, but she tutors new olim in Hebrew. I was, and still am, the recipient of her largess.
The Blaustein and Alvan families both mourn the deaths of Sara and Esther HY”D. Terrorists murdered both women as they traveled into Yerusalayim. Their car was attacked and along with their deaths, Sara’s husband and son were wounded. Sara was on her way to the Kotel and Ester was on the way to attend the funeral of another who was murdered by terrorists. Sara attended the same classes in the Efrat Woman’s Beit Medrash as I did. Now her family helps support the Beit Medrash and has given it her name.
Cheryl Mandel and her family mourn the loss of their son/brother Daniel HY”D. He was an exemplary soldier and officer who was gunned down while leading his men on a mission of tracking down terrorists in Shechem. The family and Daniel’s elite Nachal unit called the “Mendel (Mandel) Team” are instrumental in creating many projects in his memory, which are a reflection of Daniel’s quiet acts of chesed.
Sherry and Seth Mandell and the Ish Ran family mourn the deaths of Kobi and Yosef Ish-Ran HY”D. These two 14-year-old best friends were despicably stoned to death as they hiked in Wadi Tekoa, five minutes from their homes. Sherry Mandell and her husband set up the Kobi Mandell Foundation that aids the siblings and parents of victims of terror.
Blessings have grown from the ashes of their sorrow and pain. Just read and be inspired by Sherry Mandell’s book The Blessing of a Broken Heart, visit the Kobi Mandell Foundation, or picnic in the Kobi Mandell/Yosef Ish-Ran Park. View the movie created by the Mandel family; learn about the activities of soldiers in Daniel’s unit who have created a living monument of chesed to him. Visit the Pina Chama (warm corner), a home away from home for soldiers in the region of Gush Etzion, dedicated to Dr. Shmuel Gillis and Tzachi Sasson, both victims of terror, by the wives. Volunteers from the Gush Etzion area stock and staff the “warm corner”.
The next day, Monday at 11:00 a.m., finds my husband and me, along with many parents, grandparents, siblings, faculty, and students sitting in the stands of the athletic field of my grandsons’ school. It is an especially beautiful day. The color of blue in the sky is the beautiful blue seen only in Israel. The gentle breezes bring the sweet smell of new growth. It should be a calm, serene day, but the strident sound of the sirens from Efrat and the neighboring communities fills the air. The wail of broken hearts, the cries of longing echoes in the sound of the sirens as we all stand in silence.
Through my tears I see the children, first through eight graders. I see my beloved grandsons and I pray to Hashem to protect them from evil. I contemplate the loss of their innocence and childhood. How can they maintain a carefree, playful childhood when they know children whose lives have been ripped apart by the deaths of family members at the hands of terrorists; when they have been taught how to use their gas masks for a gas attack? I think back on our history and realize that times aren’t much different now than they were in the past.
Jewish children were victims in the time of the destruction of the Temples, in the time of the Macabbees, in the time of Bar Kochba, Massada, the Crusades, the pogroms, continuing through the ages until the Shoah and the numerous Israeli wars. And, in answer to my thoughts and questions, I suddenly remember a book I just read and I feel comforted. Read “Courage and Hope” a collection of essays, poetry, short stories and art work created by the youth of Gush Etzion. You will admire these children who represent the courage and faith of the Jewish people in the face of overwhelming circumstances.
Through it all, we as a nation, as a people, continue to exist. With the help of the Almighty and the continued faith of our people, we will IY”H survive, as expressed by one of our grandsons (a participant in the ceremony), “Long Live Israel!”