Except for my updates in my first year in Israel, I don’t send out mass (or even semi-mass) emails. This isn’t a mass update – just for a few family members and friends.
I just wanted to take a moment to make something in the news a little bit more real. Last week, you probably read about the four Jews, and a Druze policeman, killed by Palestinians. The Palestinians went into a shul with a pistol, a butcher knife, and an axe, and killed four Jews, injuring others. They hacked at the dead bodies on the floor. A sickening story that makes us all shudder. But, fortunately, far away.
Well, it’s not so far for me. That shul, in Jerusalem, is in a neighborhood called Har Nof. Where I lived for two years. I prayed in that shul. I spent time sitting and learning (reading) in that shul. I celebrated a friend getting engaged in that shul. I celebrated my friend’s sons’ Bar Mitzvah in that shul. My yeshiva held an annual night to thank the community both of the years I was there.
I don’t know the people that were murdered. But I’m one step removed from them. I know many who know them. Good people. Peace loving people. People who would give you the shirt off their backs, the last food out of the fridge. It’s a peaceful neighborhood, a sweet neighborhood, a special neighborhood.
They came in and slaughtered people praying. You can’t say they acted like animals, because no animals are so vicious, so evil, so wanton. And while the Jews mourned, the Palestinians celebrated their murderers – hanging up their pictures in the streets, celebrating; in interviews, promising more. It’s sick. It’s really sick.
I excerpted below from an email a family I’m close to sent me, connected to the victims. Below that, a letter from a Rabbi’s wife that was subsequently published in a newspaper. And the Machon Shlomo yeshiva boy that helped save the son-in-law – he’s a friend of mine. We lived and learned together.
The Jews just want peace. They just want peace. They don’t want to kill women, or children, or anyone. They don’t want to push anyone into the sea. They don’t want to convert any infidels. They don’t want to imprison anyone. They don’t want to build walls. They don’t want to spend most of their tax money on defense research, and defense tools, and paying soldier’s salaries. They just want peace.
Letter from my friend
Blackness and despair has fallen over Har Nof. Children are scared to go to sleep at night, people walk around in pain, there is heavy quiet around... And fear, and we are lost...
At the funeral, the Chief Rabbi of Har Nof kept on shouting, "24 orphans, 24 orphans"... and then those orphans had to say kaddish and we could hear the childish voices reciting these holy words... And kids from the age of 5 had to say the dreaded bracha 'baruch dayan emet' (Blessed is the true judge) on the microphone for all of our weeping community to hear. Each family is a world, a holy and beautiful world. With their brutal losses, they will never ever sleep again the same way, never smile the same because they are empty, and sad, and it won't leave them.. ever... They won't be the same again, Har Nof won't be the same again, and we are all entrenched in sorrow...
I know personally the wonderful Goldberg family. They are Londoners, from good old Golders Green. Each of them always jolly and happy, truly people who live like proper Torah Jews always doing acts of chessed and love. I texted Rivka on that fatal morning, "is your brother in law safe?". She replied yes thank G-d, but that her father hadn't come home. Alas, he never did...
Then Yacova Kapinsky.... the mum of Yehoshua, Eli's friend from gan, a true bastion of faith and simcha. She inspired us all 2 years ago with the way she dealt with the death of her 13 year old daughter. She had gone to waken her daughter up in the morning, but she never woke up. She had not even been ill- Hashem just returned her pure soul to Him, it was devastating and unbelievable. She and her family lived through this nightmare back then, and 2 years later are reliving it this time with the cruel murder of their husband and dad. Its too horrid to fathom, but when I saw her at the funeral she hugged and kissed my friend Shira, with a reassuring smile of love and faith in Hashem.
Each person who died was a whole world, with large families, large hearts, and the merit of Torah and good deeds. We could write books about them all. The Torah tells us that people who die for the sake of G-d's name go straight to Heaven, in purity. Those left behind can only have the strength to continue knowing that Hashem loves them, and with the belief that He will protect them, and that this had to happen for a reason, which is obviously incomprehensible to us mere mortals. Its something we can never fathom, never ever.”
Letter from Rebbetzin Heller, a highly respected teacher at a women’s school.
Yesterday at about 7am my daughter Miri called. "Mordechai just came home from shul. He said that Arabs came in and are shooting, and that a man with an axe is hitting everyone. Some of the people threw chairs at them, but it didn't help". The twelve year old had hit the floor along with everyone else when the bullets began to fly. He was fully aware of what was going on, and what it meant. He somehow found the courage to let go of his father's hand, crawl towards the exit and break into a run.
Some of you know Miri and her family. She has had some of you over for Shabbos and holidays, and others sleeping in one of her kid's bedrooms when the crowd at my house gets too big to accommodate sanely. Mordechai is blonde, freckled, and a soft spoken somewhat introverted and studious boy, much like his father, Shmuli. He is not Huck Finn, and the courage he found at those moments were a gift straight from G-d.
By the time he finished telling Miri what happened, sirens from Hatzalah ambulances, police cars, and Magen David could be heard telling her that there were casualties. "Where's Shmuli" was the thought that entered her mind again and again as the seconds which felt like hours began to tick. She called me and said, "Say Tehillim. There is shooting in Bnei Torah". I began to say the ancient prayers, stopped myself and called Rabbi Weidan, and told him what was happening. I then began the Tehillim again, knocked on my neighbor's door and told her to do the same. Chani called and told me to look at the news to see what was really happening. Nothing was reported as yet. Of course not. It was only 7:10.
I realized that the whether or not the attack was over, that no one as yet knew whether the murderers escaped. I called again, asking that everything be done to see that no one leaves the campus, and then called Miri. Thank G-d she had the sense to stay indoors and not run to the besieged synagogue. When Mordechai came home, the shooting was still happening.
By 7:20 we both realized that if she didn't hear from Shmuli, something was very wrong. The police and other services had no information as yet to give to the public, but a family friend who had seen the terror with his own eyes, said that Shmuli had been taken to Haddassah Ein Karem. When Mordechai let go of his hand, he instinctively ran after the child placing himself in the sight of the terrorists. One of them attacked him with his axe, hitting him on the left side of his head, his back and his arm. Somehow he made it to the door. Josh White, a student of Machon Shlomo was riding down Agassi on his bike. He noticed what he described later as "a lot of confusion" in front of Bnei Torah asked someone what was going on, and surprisingly (for Har Nof) the man answered him in Hebrew! In the midst of what to him was gibberish, he picked up the word Aravim (Arabs) and immediately grasped what was happening. He approached the shul and saw Shmuli who was still aware. The Machon student took of his shirt and stopped the bleeding, a move which may have saved Shmuli's life.
The shooting was still happening inside. It was about 7:15! The emergency crew drew back, but because Shmuli was already outside, they evacuated him thus making him the first of the wounded to be taken to Hadassah, another factor in his survival. Before collapsing, he asked where Mordechai was, and when he was told that the boy ran away from the carnage, he said, "Baruch Hashem". Inside, the terrorists were continuing their "work". When they entered they turned to their left, and immediately cut down Rabbi Twerski and Rav Kalman Levine who were standing in the corner. Reb Kalman was the husband of Chaya, formally Markowitz who was a student and later a madrichah at Neve. Her husband was not a regular attendee of Bnei Torah. He would generally daven in the earliest possible minyan so he could get in a couple of hours of learning before beginning his day. Yesterday he had a question about something he had learned and had gone after davening to Bnei Torah to put the question to its erudite rav, Rabbi Rubin. The question will now only be resolved in the Heavenly Acadamy.
Rev Avraham Goldberg, the third man to be killed is Breina Goldberg's husband. Many of you know Breina as the warm caring efficient secretary cum mother figure at the front desk in the afternoon. I don't as yet know how her husband, or Reb Kupinski the fourth victim met their deaths. The only thing that I know, is that it was brutal and swift.
The first policemen to enter were traffic cops who knew what they were facing, and also knew that they were not wearing protective gear. They entered anyway and together with the forces that came afterwards ended the bloodbath. By 7:30 the murderers were apprehended.
Miri, my daughter Guli, and her husband were in Hadassah. Miri's other kids were watched by relatives and friends for the day. Mordechai was urged to speak about what he saw again and again in order to diminish the damage of the trauma he had undergone. The rest of the family flowed in, saying Tehillim and waiting for updates. The hospital social worker, Aviva, who is blessed with the rare gift of being empathic without being overbearing, and the women of Ezer Mitzion (a volunteer organization) kept us well supplied with food, calming conversation and practical advice. We were allowed to see Shmuli who was put under anesthesia. We don't know if he heard us or not, but we were talking to him stressing that Mordechai was fine. In the hours before the surgery was done, we found ourselves with Risa Rotman. Her husband, Chaim Yechiel ben Malka, was also attacked, and the extent of his wounds are very serious. Some of you may know Risa (who if I am not mistaken also is an OBG) and those of you whose husbands learned in Ohr Sameach or who recall Reb Meir Shuster who he helped unstintingly for years, may know him as Howie. The policeman who entered first, passed away. May Hashem avenge his blood.
Every day in Eretz Yisrael is a gift and a miracle. I have no pretensions of knowing Hashem's will, but I do know that everything He does is purposeful, and that His compassion that is often hidden from the human eye. Anyone who values human life and reality and the eternal nature of the soul is appalled by the idea of people entering a synagogue and killing people who they never met randomly.
Except for CNN. They reported the entire event as an attack on a mosque.
Except for BBC. They reported that the Israeli police killed two Palestinians (they meant the murderers). The victims of Israeli brutality presumably were going on a stroll through scenic Har Nof when attacked by the racist troops….
Please post the truth to whomever you can reach.
Please please continue saying Tehillim for Shmuel Yerucham ben Baila and the other victims. Daven that Hashem give strength to the five new widows and 24 new orphans. Most of all thank Hashem that we are not Them, and treasure Hashem's Torah and His Land.