On June 30th, the last day of school for many Israeli children, Rena Ariel stood in the entrance to the Shaare Zedek Emergency Room. Behind her was the portrait of Dr. David Applebaum, hy’d, who, along with his daughter, Nava, hy’d, was murdered by a suicide bomber on the eve of Nava’s wedding thirteen years earlier. With a voice full of pain Rena described how a sixteen-year-old terrorist had entered Hallel Yaffa’s bedroom and murdered her thirteen-year-old daughter while she was peacefully sleeping. Rena’s voice then held a plea, a plea for all to come comfort and strengthen them in their home, to show that Kiryat Arba is a place to live and not die.
Her words went straight to my heart and I resolved to find a way to make a shiva* call. It wasn’t going to be easy. At best, Kiryat Arba is a two hour drive from Shilo by way of Jerusalem in a car. By public transportation, well, that was an option I didn’t want to consider. And I didn’t have to. A neighbor posted a message on the community emails that she would be going and happy to have passengers join her. I signed up.
In the end it took us three hours to arrive at the home of the mourners. That gave me plenty of time to prepare myself emotionally. It wasn’t that I had never before comforted parents whose children had been murdered by Arab hate. Sorrowfully, I’ve done it already seven times, but each of those times I knew the parents.
From these seven experiences I was aware of what to expect: relatives and friends tripping over each other to help out, younger siblings trying to understand what had happened to their lives, an overflow of visitors both known and strangers, politicians, and dignitaries. In the past, when a terrorist murder of someone I did not know touched me I’d opted to send a note instead of visiting, reluctant to invade anyone’s privacy. This time, though, I could not ignore the mother’s plea.
It’s not clear to me if Rena’s English is so good because she was born in America or just that her parents spoke only English at home when she was growing up. Whatever the reason, I found it encouraging that I would be able to speak to her in my mother tongue. Still, I stammered the one sentence I said to her. Had my visit been comforting? I don’t know.
For various reasons we stayed at the shiva house for an hour and a half. It was then too late to make the thirty minute drive south to Otniel where the nine orphans (one of the children was still in the hospital) sat shiva for Rabbi Marks, hy’d. There was plenty of time for reflection on our ride home.
When, I wondered, would the hate-filled education so many Arab children were receiving end? When would the world stop making excuses for terrorists? When would our own government realize appeasement never works and stop coddling of the terrorists in our jails? When would the Arabs such as the couple who helped the Marks family after the shooting become the majority? When would we have true peace? As I wondered I also prayed. I prayed that I would not again hear another mother’s plea like Rena Ariel’s plea. I prayed I would never, ever again need to make a shiva call for a terror victim.
*shiva: the seven days of mourning after a funeral