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Their Light Remembered

Their Light Remembered

A bittersweet Chanukah.

by Miriam Meyers

Chanukah, 1996 -- Beit El, Israel

My husband's cousin was visiting us from Canada, enjoying our six young children, spinning their 'svivonim' and eating latkas (or 'levivot', as my Israeli-born kids refer to them).

The phone rang. It was my husband's friend, Jack, who asked in an agitated voice if we were all home.

"Yes, what's up? Are you two coming out to Beit El for a visit?" I asked.

He sighed, "I just heard first reports that a family with many children has just been shot on their way home to Beit El. I had to see if you were all right. May we only hear good news."

I had barely given over the gist of the conversation, when the phone rang again. It was a neighbor and long-time resident of our community.

"It has not been released to the press yet, but the Tzur family was attacked on their way home from visiting their relatives in a near-by Yishuv. Efraim, their 12 year old son, was killed immediately. Ita, the mother, was shot in the neck, and three girls in the car, were injured. They are in surgery now at Hadassah Hospital. The father is only slightly injured. Please say Tehillim (Psalms) for the recovery of the mother and three daughters."

Again, I barely got the story out, and my two oldest had just picked up two volumes of Tehillim, when my friend called back with more bad news. Ita, the mother had died in surgery. Her daughters had not yet been told.

The next scene at home was one I had never been prepared for. Regardless of the 'How to raise your kids' pop culture books I loved reading, my years of experience, and advice gathered from other mothers in the playgrounds, I had no training as to how to react to my kids. My oldest daughter, nine years old, began crying, "It's not fair! They think their mother is still alive, but WE know she isn't! It's so sad, Ima!"

My 11-year-old son's response was even more difficult for me. "I HATE those Arabs that killed them. THEY should be killed!" he said, with a young face twisted in anger.

I stood there, just wondering what to do. I spoke, only half-believing what I was saying. "Kids, we were asked to say Tehillim for the girls. They need a full recovery. Why don't we do that now?" and I took a volume of Tehillim, too.

Even though I spoke Hebrew fluently and had been in a religious community for over 15 years, I had not attended any classes dealing with the tradition of reading Psalms written by King David. I had never felt the interest or need to read them. I almost felt as if I were in a play of a devoutly religious woman who, with total faith, was encouraging her children to carry on her tradition. I had no tradition. This was so new and foreign as a concept.

I sat on the sofa, looking at my young children sitting at the dining room table. They would read a chapter, and then speak to each other. My son in a monotone, shock said, "Efraim was the boy who would choose who got to sing at the end of the morning services. He was always so nice to the younger boys. Ima, he wasn't even a Bar Mitzvah!"

I close my eyes and think about the eternal little light our people has carefully nurtured through the darkest times of history.

Through tears, my daughter choked on her words, "I saw him playing tag with his sisters in their front yard a few days ago. Ima, he didn't know he would be dead today, on Chanukah!"

And then they would go back to reading. I began to read. I became aware of the unity I felt with my children, without having to answer them or say anything. And my consciousness widened to include my entire community that was reading these same Tehillim at that moment. And I thought of the generations of suffering during which my People turned to these Psalms. Regardless of my lack of Jewish background or understanding, I felt solid and sure of my action. And even as we waited to hear about the Tzur family, I felt the small light of Chanukah reminding us all why we are here. Can such a small light cast off the darkness?

Ten Chanukah celebrations have passed, and we are bringing out the menorahs, potato graters (or in my case, a new food processor) and chocolate 'gelt'. It is such a fascinating and happy family holiday, but it is bittersweet for me. I imagine the Tzur family putting their Yizkar memorial candles along side their Chanukah lights. I wonder how those little girls did growing up without their mother. I think about the "Middle East Peace process." Everything seems dark. I close my eyes, I think about the words of the Ma'oz Tzur (Tzur! Just like the name of the family...) and I think about the eternal little light our people has carefully nurtured through the darkest times of history.

I am filled with a light of gratitude for the honor of being a "Yiddishe Mama," and I write this so all of us can remember Ita and Efraim Tzur, may their blood be avenged.

December 8, 2007

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Visitor Comments: 33

(33) American, February 16, 2010 5:48 PM

Vengeance vs Justice

I know this article is a couple years old, but I found it today and wanted to comment. Maybe it's a language difference, but here in the US, the word "avenge" means a violent, personal revenge. In this case it would mean the father of this child taking up a gun and going on a rampage and brutally killing those responsible. Compare that to "justice" which means the criminals are caught, tried, convicted in a legal court, and punished. To many of us Americans, people who promote vengeance are no better than those who they are taking their vengeance out on. When I read the comment #18 from "Mary", I see her as a violent, brutal, dangerous vigilante who wouldn't think twice to pick up a gun and blow away whoever she personally sees as evil, regardless of what the courts and laws may say. But I imagine that's not really the case. I'm one of these bleeding-heart liberals she seems to love to hate, but I'm also for justice. When somebody murders, they should have an honest trial to determine if they are guilty; if they are guilty, they should be punished. That's called justice, and is very different from vengeance. I feel the people who murdered this boy and his mother should be brought to justice and tried -- obviously not just ignored or let go, and certainly not violently and personally avenged. Perhaps we all agree on this, and don't realize it's actually a matter of how different people and cultures read and interpret different words.

(32) Malka, December 11, 2007 3:22 PM

May G-d avenge their blood.
It really makes you realize how badly we need the Third Temple and the service of Ahavat Yisrael. The best sacrifice we can make now, until we have the mizbayach, is to keep the Torah's laws, (including Kashrut).

Recommended reading: an easy-Hebrew small volume called "Anochi v'Hayeladim", written by HaRav Yitzchak Ginsburgh of Gal Einai ( published in their memories.

(31) fred, December 10, 2007 4:06 PM

Re: May their blood be avenged

" My 11-year-old son's response was even more difficult for me."
Why? Seems like the proper respobse to me.

"revenge can be by teaching all in our lives, [...] even those who hate us, that there are other ways to act"

Wonderful! When you succeed in getting that subject added to the Palestinian school curriculum, please post and let us know!

(30) Anonymous, December 10, 2007 11:29 AM

Raising your children to care

It was inspiring to see the unity in your community and how your children are brought up with the sensitivity to feel the pain of others and pray for their recovery with such heartfelt emotion. Keep up the great articles Miriam! Aliza

(29) Anonymous, December 10, 2007 1:50 AM

Enough about the last phrase!!!

Mrs Meyers, thank you for the incredible chizuk that your story gave me. I am not prone to tears but they flowed freely when reading this.
You managed to connect this story with thousands of years of suffering that we have been enduring for thousands of years.
Occasionally Hashem has to give us a reminder that we are still in Galus until Moshiach comes and the Beis Hamikdash is rebuilt.
May be merit to witness His Glory returning to Yerushalyim Bekarov!!! and see the end of this galus.

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