Much has been written in the Israeli media about the love of Dov and Rachel Kol, the couple who were murdered by terrorist gunfire on Saturday night on Tzir Kissufim, the lethal route leading in and out of Gush Katif, where Tali Hatuel and her four daughters were shot dead a year ago.
Our connection to Dov and Rachel was close up and personal. Rachel was the beloved aunt of Avner, son of Ruth and Chezi Cohen of Moshav Ganei Tal, who married our eldest daughter, Naama, six years ago, on the rich green lawn of the Palm Beach Hotel, overlooking the ocean at Gush Katif.
Dov was a Rumanian-born non-religious left wing Tel Avivian, a media personality involved in journalism and PR. He served as a spokesman for Bituah Leumi (National social services) and for Moshe Katzav, when he was minister of Social Services. President Katzav attended the funeral.
All Rachel and Dov had in common, on the surface, was their love for each other and for others.
After Dov's first wife died of cancer, leaving him with an infant daughter, he ended his mourning by marrying Rachel, a good friend of his deceased wife. Rachel, a medical researcher at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, was from an Iraqi religious right wing Jerusalemite family, named Mizrachi. She raised Hila -- who has now lost a second mother -- as her own, and they had two more children. All Rachel and Dov had in common, on the surface, was their love for each other and for others.
From our first meeting, Dov found an ally in my husband Yaakov, who is of the more moderate right wing political bent than some in the family, and with whom he discussed matters of state and philosophy. Dov viewed me as a colleague. I would run story ideas by him and he would suggest that I contact one or another of his media friends. The last e-mail exchange we had was when I sent him a copy of an article I published in Jewish Action, "The Women Writers of Gush Katif", including my translations of their poetry and the experience of teaching them creative writing in the midst of the disengagement tempest. He wrote back, "This is amazing. If you were left wing, you'd be perfect."
He adored our grandchildren, and our daughter even deposited their first child with Dov and Rachel, who lived close by the hospital, when she went in for her second birth. Only one month ago, Dov and Rachel became grandparents for the first time, and their joy was boundless.
It wasn't just Dov who was open to others; it was the Mizrachi family as well. Legendary for their warmth, humor and hospitality, Rachel's family adopted Dov as their son, all the disparateness in their world views notwithstanding. And it was not just Dov they took under their wing. Rachel's extended family by marriage includes Ashkenazim, Sepharadim, haredim, Chabadniks, kibbutzniks, national religious, settlers of various hues and versions, and… Dov. With the marriage of our daughter, I brought the first American blood into the mix. Every family gathering -- with more than 200 present -- was like a meeting of the people of Israel. The extended Mizrachi family is a microcosm of the Jews of the world.
The peace and love and joy and co-existence with which this extended family are imbued is like a lantern in the dark, an example of what we, the State of Israel, could be, if only we loved and cared enough.
BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE
Four days before their murder, Yaakov and Dov met for coffee, as they did once a week. Dov confided in my husband the secret that he was working on an autobiography. He asked Yaakov to send him his e-mail address so he could forward the file to him.
Saturday night, my husband sat down at the computer at 11:30 PM and sent Dov his address. Unknown to us, Dov and Rachel had been cut down at 11:15.
We heard the midnight news that there had been a shooting attack on Tzir Kissufim, and didn't go to sleep that night. I surfed from news site to news site, looking for a crumb of more information, reluctant to call any family members in Gush Katif in the middle of the night. One site reported that the couple were from Jerusalem and had been visiting relatives for Shabbat. I knew that Rachel's family had all gathered at Ruth and Chezi's home for what -- some of them thought -- was perhaps their last time together in Gush Katif. And so it was.
For us, the discovery came before their names were announced. Motty Sender, the Katif.net editor and a dear friend of the family, reported that he had spoken with the man who had been killed only a few days earlier, who had said to him, "I love you all, we want to live together with you, the heart is split in two. My left wing friends in Jerusalem don't understand me, don't understand what I'm doing here, but I know you and I know that you are the salt of the earth and I have to come here. " I called my husband to the computer. He read the words and said, "It's Dov and Rachel."
An Israeli radio personality, a friend of Dov's, said the next morning on air that Dov had traveled to Gush Katif only because his wife wanted him to go. We knew differently. Every time we met him in Gush Katif, one could see he was filled with joy and contentment. He felt like he was in Paradise. He missed no family event there, his political views notwithstanding.
In the car park at their double funeral, blue and orange ribbons flew side by side, like a mirror image to the people inside -- religious and secular, right and left, Gush Katif and Tel Aviv, mingling closely, joined by sorrow and love.
We can only pray that this terrible blow, leading to every Israeli newspaper being filled today with the story of love in the face of differences, is meant to hit us over the head before it's too late.