How many people you know were murdered?

“How many people do you know has been murdered?” I had asked my liberal non-Jewish friend who seem genuinely interested how I could not believe in the BDS mission statement, She had asked me how could I live in a land that forced Arabs to go through checkpoints to get to work.  When I answered her with my question she dropped bothering to communicate with me.

How was it she hadn’t wondered why there are checkpoints? Why are Israelis even allowing Arabs to work in Israel?  And the biggest ironical question (granted I have an easier time than Arabs leaving the “west bank”), why do I have to go through a checkpoint to go to Jerusalem for work, shopping or leisure. The difference is I don’t have the profile of someone who is carrying knives and would like to kill someone, so our wait is faster.

The answer is 4.  I personally knew and counted as friend four people who have been murdered by Arabs.  I’m not going to mention the many acquaintances; people I heard of, knew through other neighbors, friends and work colleagues, that number is so much greater. The new statistic every 4th Israeli knows someone who has been knifed this intafada.

Let me tell you about them.

Shoshan Ben Yishai hy”d  murdered at 16, as she was riding a bus from school one afternoon to visit the gravesite of a Rabbi on his yartzeit, the day that became her yartzeit too.  At a traffic light an Arab starting shooting a rifle at the bus and she and another boy were killed.  She had been a neighbor who I had taught English.  Her mother, a nurse, only found out it was her daughter involved with the terrorist attack as Shoshana was brought into the surgery theatre.  She would have been 27 today. I remember her smile and warm greeting she always gave me when I would see her on the street.

Yeheskel Issur Goldberg hy”d,  a father of 7 children (the youngest was barely 2 and oldest was 18 when he died. He was blown up on an egged bus. Sitting across the aisle from Hesky had been the suicide bomber.  Yeheskel had been on the way to open the first time a new office for his counseling services.

He was a neighbor and friend, besides a Talmud Chacham; he had  had a daily schedule of learning that he would not miss.  He was a counselor especially good with teenagers and a writer for the Jewish press.  He was a person who saw only good in people, he had great insight to know the right words for all those around him.  He would not stand for false protocols if it would hurt someone.  He would speak to women modestly, taking care than no one should feel ignored.  He would speak to those in charge if he felt something was wrong.  He stood on truth. His youngest is going to have his bar mitzvah this month. So far he has missed greeting 4 of his grandchildren.  (One of them has his name.)

Rabbi Kalman Levine hy”d, father of 10, a teacher, rabbi, oved Hashem, was the husband of my friend Chayah who I knew her since before she even met Kalman.  Modest, but truth seeker, he respected Chayah with love.  Chaya has been successful in many things because of that support he gave her.  From  running a career counseling clinic, writing a book, a shaitel macher business, and in kirev, as well as running an international couple Ner LeeLef’s program , and now an executive director of Neve Yerushalym  Kalman supported her. He encouraged Chayah to grow and glow.  He was the Torah of the house imbuing the family with his strength.  Rabbi Kalman Levine hy”d was axed down standing outside of the shul waiting to ask Rabbi Twersky hy”d a Torah question (since he had already davened in an earlier minyan.)

And then month ago, I went to menacham ovel (pay a shiva visit) my friend Risa Rotman, the widow of Chaim Yichel Rotman hy”d.  Chaim was my husband’s first chuvrusa (study partner) in Ohr Somayach.  When Chaim got engaged he brought Risa, the young kallah from Montreal up to Zichron Yaakov to make sure we would meet her. Little did I realize the power house he was to marry.  Risa , no stranger to tragedy (they lost a son in a freak bike accident), stood by her husband for the last year as he laid in a coma from the axe wounds that had cut his brain stem in half and built her emuna (her faith). She didn’t wallow in false hopes of the future, but recognized that HaShem put her in this position for her to grow.  And she grew. Chaim was also attacked by the Arabs last year in Har Nof.  This past motzi Shabbes Risa joined the other 4 alumas (widows) as Chaim (Howie as we first met him) became the 5th korban.

Their youngest child only 5 is a bit confused where Abba is – since in any case he hasn’t come home in almost a year.  Chaim has already missed 2 grandsons born to him and a son’s wedding. Risa spoke about his tremendous hasmadah (love of Torah learning), his love to do mitzvots as he would run to shul the way Dovid HaMelech had sung in Tehillim, and his remarkable ability to truly love every yid.  His business colleagues all came to the shiva house when I was there.  But this was not the first time Risa has gotten to know them; they have been showing up at the hospital all year.  Chaim’s warmth, honesty and modesty were his hallmarks and even his secular workers could not do enough for him over this long year.

These were only the people I really knew.  The people I was proud to have had known.  All murdered as they were doing what Jews do best, serving HaShem doing mitzvots. May HaShem have Rachamim on his people.

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