Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Every night Devorah would recite Kriyas Shma with her young children as she put them to sleep for the night. Those were her parting words on that fateful night in October.

Not long after she kissed them goodnight, their apartment was enveloped in flames. Devorah and her husband had left their home in Beitar for a family simcha with the oldest sister, 12-year-old Ayelet as babysitter and the neighbor next door in charge. Ayelet woke up to the smell of fire, sent her 9-year-old sister, Racheli, to the neighbor for help, and ran to the children’s room. There she shouted “Fire!” to the children in an attempt to wake them and get them out. She grabbed 6-year-old Elisheva and tried to pull 4-year-old Efrat out of bed. Efrat froze and refused to leave her bed. Nearly overcome by smoke, Ayelet fled the flames with Elisheva. Efrat stayed in her fiery bed, and so did Zvi, the baby who remained asleep forever.

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The neighbor screamed for help as the flames quickly spread throughout the apartment building. Other neighbors got hold of a hacksaw and sawed off bars from windows and yanked them away so that people trapped inside could escape. Passers-by helped trapped inhabitants escape from their porches. Hatzolah arrived first on the scene, followed by the fire department. The firemen entered the smoke-filled staircase with their equipment. Then they entered the smoking apartments to make sure no one was trapped inside. Twelve people were injured. The fire chief reported to Devorah that her three children had escaped unharmed.

“But I have five children,” screamed Devorah over the phone. The firemen reentered the flaming apartment and found the lifeless bodies of the two little ones. They had died instantly, the investigators reported later, when a light bulb exploded, fell onto the baby’s bed and ignited the bedding. The next morning the two little bodies were buried, side by side.

Who didn’t feel the enormity of the tragedy? Anyone who has ever lost a child, or knows someone who lost a child was overwhelmed by the grief of having lost two little Jewish souls. Neighbors rushed to help and generous people from all over the country contributed to a fund to help them rebuild their home and their lives. The family was encompassed by a huge hug from all over Israel.

Devorah bravely faced the cameras to thank all the many people who were helping them to return to their home. “But my two children will never return,” she lamented, and could not hold back her tears as she cried that she wanted so much to hold them and to hug them again.

“Thank G-d, he saved our three treasures. I must garner all my strength to be strong for my children. I promised my daughters that we would remain a happy family despite the calamity, and that, with G-d’s help, we would be blessed with more children.”

Seven months later, Devorah delivered triplets, two girls and one boy, full-term and healthy.

This time, a beaming Reuven faced the cameras at Sha’arei Zedek Hospital in Jerusalem. “We are witness here to the hand of G-d. When He took up to Him the souls of Efrat and Zvi, we did not question. We received the decree with love. And now He has given us a precious and rare gift. There is no other way in which to understand this miracle which demonstrates His providence in the world. He has bestowed upon us a great chessed in order to heal our pain. There is no such thing as chance in this world. It is all pre-ordained.”

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Zelda Goldfield is freelance writer living in Jerusalem for over 40 years.