As we mourn our three teenage terror victims – Naftali Frankel, Eyal Yifrach and Gilad Shaer – I keep remembering another young Jewish teen whose tragic death thirteen years ago had also caused me acute pain.
I had decided to attend her funeral.
I knew that she was fifteen years old, and had been killed by a Muslim terrorist. I also knew that like most of the young teenage victims killed in that terrorist act she was a recent immigrant from the former Soviet Union. And, as a rule, recent immigrants do not have many friends in their adopted country, not enough friends to share the parents’ pain, to express sympathy in the hour of grief, to lend emotional support.
I wanted to be there among the mourners, the family, the classmates. I wanted my presence to cry out: I am one of you. You are my brothers and sisters. Your pain is my pain.
It was the height of a brutal heat wave. Just like now, the sun’s assault was unrelenting as I made my lonely way on the desiccated, narrow road to the cemetery. To my surprise, the scene changed dramatically after I made a turn on the approach to the entrance. Hundreds of cars and countless buses filled every available inch of the wide-open expanse. Scores of police cars careened about.
I joined the periphery of the mass of mourners, a silent, dark circle patiently absorbing the barely audible tones of a sermon by a government representative, Mr. Gideon Ezra. But when Miriam Feuerberg, the mayor of Netanya, reached the lectern and began speaking about Raisa, a kindly little girl who loved children and wanted to follow in her mother’s footsteps to care for sick children, soft sobs broke the silence. The mayor spoke of the previous Wednesday when a Muslim terrorist’s bomb exploded at the entrance of the ORT High School in Netanya where Raisa was a pupil, and how she hastened to phone her mother and grandparents, assuring them that she was safe. That happened just two days before another Muslim terrorist’s bomb killed Raisa in Tel Aviv!
Mayor Feuerberg spoke of Raisa’s mother, Dr. Liuba Nemirovsky, who seven years previously took the courageous step of leaving behind an established medical practice, extended family and numerous friends, and bringing her eight-year-old daughter to Israel, the Jewish country, in order to give her a safe Jewish future. They came from Turkistan, one of the former Soviet Union’s Central Asian Republics, a Muslim country where Raisa’s mother feared Islamic hatred of Jews.
The tall, elegant mayor’s voice broke with emotion, and tears flowed down her cheek as she addressed the grieving mother, one woman to another, admitting that she could “find no fitting words of comfort for her grief.”
Miriam Feuerberg concluded her words with a quote from Hayim Nachman Bialik’s poem, “Upon the Slaughter”: “Nikmat dam yeled katan – revenge for the blood of a young child, od lo bara haSatan – the Satan himself has not yet devised!”
Invariably I keep remembering this searing line with a stab of agony, with helpless despair, when hearing of yet another terrorist murder of a Jewish child.
Bialik wrote that poem in 1903 after visiting the scene of the pogrom in Kishinev where forty-nine men, women and children were murdered for being Jews. How many Jewish children have been murdered since then by relentless Jew hatred?
Raisa, Eyal, Gilad and Naftali, may your souls and the souls of your companions in Kiddush Hashem throughout our long history of suffering rise to Heaven and besiege it with fervent pleas, crying out against the tragedy of yet another Jewish victim!