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What Do You Say To A Child Whose Father Was Murdered?

Coping With Terrorism:
We MUST Stay Strong

News Flash — the worst kind of news there is.  A young man, 29 years old, a husband and father of 4 children was murdered today by an Arab terrorist.  His name was Itamar Ben-Gal.  He was a high-school teacher in Givat Shmuel, a suburb of Tel-Aviv.  He was on his way home from school, waiting at the Ariel bus stop where he was transferring to the next bus ride home to Har Bracha.  He never made it.  An Arab terrorist, armed with two knives lunged at him, stabbing him repeatedly, and then ran away.  Itamar dragged himself towards a nearby bus, seeking help and then collapsed.  He was evacuated by ambulance to the nearest hospital in Petach Tikva where he was pronounced dead.  A family has been shattered.

Itamar taught 8th grade in a religious high school together with my son Yehuda.  Yehuda and Itamar were friends and they worked together to plan programs for their parallel 8th grade classes.  They were both rabbis and taught their young boys to love the Bible, to value the words of our sages and to commit themselves to their Jewish heritage.  Today, Yehuda and Itamar finished teaching and each made their way home to their respective Samaria communities.  My son made it home safely, thank G-d.  Itamar did not.

Tomorrow morning my son Yehuda will meet his class in school and will have to answer the questions and fears of his students.  He will work with the other staff of the school to help Itamar’s students cope with the emotional and spiritual trauma of Itamar’s murder.  I spoke to my son Yehuda but there was nothing I could say to guide him.  We both agreed that this is all in G-d’s hands. There is nothing we can do. There is nothing to be said.  A Jew of faith responds to news of tragedy and death with a blessing: Baruch Dayan HaEmet.  Blessed is He Who judges in truth, a recognition that G-d has His reasons and we accept His judgment, however difficult it may be.

Yehuda (R) and Itamar (middle) at dinner together the night before he was murdered!

One month ago, on the 9th of January, I was having dinner with a group of women friends in Herzlyia, celebrating a friend’s 60th birthday.  We were enjoying our meal, playing trivia games and just having a good time when one of the women received a text message — there had been an attack on someone in Samaria.  Within the hour, we learned the horrible details — Rabbi Raziel Shevach, husband and father of 6 had been murdered just outside his home community of Havat Gilead, located midway between Kedumim and Har Bracha.  He had been loved and respected by many, a teacher and ritual circumciser.

I did not write about his murder because I wanted it to go away.  There had been months of quiet and we felt safer and calmer than we had in a long time.  I refused to believe that things were getting bad again.  There were news commentators who connected that attack with the US recognition of Jerusalem but I dismissed their comments.  Indeed, things are quiet and we cannot assume that an individual terrorist attack bodes a change for the worse.

And I still feel that way.  The massive Arab riots and rampant violence that were so common 10 years ago are no longer common.  Most Arabs are trying to live a normal life, to work and support their families.  And they are doing so much better economically.  There is reason for hope.

But there are evil people who seek to murder and destroy, with no regard for the damage they cause, to Jews and to Arabs.  For weeks now, the IDF has been involved in a man-hunt to capture the men who murdered and who assisted in the murder of Rabbi Shevach.  They have already arrested one man who was involved in planning the attack.  Today, the IDF has already launched a manhunt to find the murderer of Itamar Ben-Gal.  And Netanyahu has made it very clear — these murderers will not be left in peace — we will hunt them until we find them and bring them to justice.

My heart goes out to 10 orphans, the children of Raziel and Itamar who lost their fathers.  And to their widows, women who will need to be strong and courageous as they mourn their loss and raise their small children on their own.

We cannot change the past nor bring back the dead.  But we can encourage and strengthen the living.  We can reach out to the brave men, women and children of Judea and Samaria and give them what they need, when they need it.  I hope you will help us help them.  I hope you will continue to partner with us as we strengthen the Jewish presence in the Biblical Heartland.

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