Thursday, February 18, 2021

Thoughts on the Horror in Itamar, Written on Ta’anit Esther, March 17, 2011, seven days after the murders, reprinted in commemoration of the tenth anniversary of the tragedy


Monday is my Jerusalem day. My husband and I leave the house early so we can pray at the Kotel. Then after a quick breakfast we part ways and I go to three Torah lectures. This week I greeted my friends and acquaintances and told them I had a new grandson. Their responses were more than happy. We needed good news. Then I told them the brit would be the next day in Itamar. Their faces crumbled revealing their grief. It was a grief that had gripped the whole country since motzei Shabbat. That was when we learned of the brutal murders of the Fogel family that had taken place Shabbat evening in Itamar. Because of the new baby my son, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren had not been in Itamar for Shabbat. So there was not a moment that I worried about their physical well-being. Their emotional well-being was another story. How would they be able to return to their home a mere five houses away from the Fogel’s home? How would my grandchildren be able to go to nursery school the following day and learn their playmate had been murdered? How can any of us be okay with such evil in the world? 

Murder of babies by Arab terrorists is not new. In 2001 ten month old Shalhevet Paz, Hy”d, was murdered when she was shot in the head. Three months later Yehudah Shoham, Hy”d, was killed by a rock hurled at his family car. He was only five months old. However, the Arab who shot the bullet at Shalhevet was aiming for her father and the Arab who threw the rock probably did not intend to murder anyone. The suicide bombers in the pizza parlors and buses and the drive-by gunmen don’t see their victims’ eyes. The Arab cowards in Itamar were able to look their victims in the face as they murdered them: the mother, Rut, the father, Udi, Yoav, eleven years old, Elad, four years old, and baby Hadas, three months old. May HaShem revenge their blood. These murders, and others like them, are reminiscent of the cold-blooded brutality of the Nazis.
While we in Israel were numb with shock and grief, much of the world ignored our pain. Friends in America emailed me that they had found the story on the third or back page of their papers. Of course, the earthquake in Japan was much bigger news and the death of 25,000 cannot compare to the murder of five. But no one was celebrating the deaths of those 25,000. And the Arabs were celebrating the murders of Rut, Udi, and their three children.
More painful to me than being ignored, was the opinion expressed in some articles that Rut and Udi were responsible for their children’s murders. They were wrong for bringing them to live in such a dangerous place as Itamar. Those expressing this opinion had obviously never visited Itamar. They did not see the children able to skip to nursery school without the adult supervision that is mandatory in any American city. They did not see the bicycles, strollers, and other belongings left unattended in front of houses with no fear that they would be stolen. They did not see the unlocked homes and neighbors running in and out to visit, borrow, and help out. They read the statistics that told of other murders in Itamar, but they did not compare it to the number of senseless murders in New York or Tel Aviv. 
I cannot change the world, though. I can only change myself. Monday morning, not even sixty hours after the horror, I made my way to the Kotel. As I drew near I remembered how it used to be called The Wailing Wall. How apt that name was for me on Monday. I reached the ancient stones and began sobbing. I cried my heart out as if I was in my Father’s arms and turning to Him for comfort for all the pain, anger, terror, and grief. It helped. I was finally able to stop crying and begin praying.
As I said the words to Ashrei I began to feel some comfort. Happy are those who dwell in Your house, who constantly praise You. Happy are the people that this is so. Happy are the people that HaShem is their G-d.    
From what my daughter-in-law told me the Fogels were a happy family and that is not surprising. They lived in HaShem’s house, the Land of Israel. They praised HaShem with prayer, song, and dance. They served HaShem with joy. And they left this world having lived in it in happiness.
I cannot change the world but I can change myself. I can drown in sorrow and grief or I can continue to serve HaShem with joy. When I went to my grandson’s brit the following day I have to admit I did cry as I hugged my daughter-in-law’s friends when they wished me mazel tov. I was able to smile though, as they told me how much they needed the simcha in Itamar that week.   
Life will continue in Itamar, in Shilo, in Jerusalem, and in Tel Aviv. The Fogel family will not be forgotten. My grandson, named for my dear uncle, bears a name which contains the Hebrew initials of Udi and Rut. I pray he will never know the pain, anger, terror, and grief we knew from the horrible terror attack on the first Shabbat of his life. I also pray that Tamar Bat Rut, Ro’ie Ben Rut, and Shai Ben Rut will have a full emotional recovery for all of the trauma they have suffered losing their parents, brothers, and baby sister. Please join me in my prayers. 
Ta’anit: fast

Brit: circumcision ceremony
Dancing after the Brit Milah
Motzei Shabbat : Saturday night
Hy”d: May HaShem avenge his blood
HaShem: G-d
Ashrei: prayer of praise
mazel tov: congratulations
Simcha: happiness

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