December 9, 2000

It goes without saying that during a time of crisis such as we are facing now, events take their toll on everyone -- men, women and children. The stress affects us all differently.

Much to everyone's surprise, the children are holding up better than might be expected. Knowing that your house is being shot at with the intent to kill you, your family or friends is far from comforting. Some children have trouble concentrating, some don't eat with the same appetite they previously had, some don't want to play outside by themselves, and some have trouble falling asleep at night. The latter problem plagues my nine-year-old girl, Ruttie. She is old enough to understand what is going on, and young enough to let her thoughts wonder. She is, as are others her age, afraid.

Yesterday morning, Ruttie was a little late getting out of the house. I drove her to school at about 8:30a.m., just a few minutes after hearing that a terrorist shooting attack had occurred just south of Kiryat Arba. All we knew was that some people had been hurt.

A few minutes after Ruttie sat down at her desk in her classroom, a substitute teacher came in and started talking to the fourth grade girls. She told them that a little while ago Arab terrorists had shot at a car, and that the girl's teacher had been seriously injured. A few minutes later the school principal joined the girls and told them that their teacher, Mrs. Rina Didovsky, would not be returning to their classroom because she had died of wounds.

The girls began crying and wailing.


Rina Didovsky taught in the Kiryat Arba school for almost 2 decades. The 39-year-old mother of six dedicated her life to her young students, usually in third and fourth grade. In many Israeli schools, teachers spend two years with their classes and the children and their teacher get to know each other very well. This was Rina's second year with this class. The girls loved their teacher.

I asked Ruttie to tell me about her teacher. She told me that Rina never yelled at the children, was always very understanding, and always smiled. If they hadn't finished their homework, she would give them a chance to complete it. If a girl had a headache in class, Rina would immediately fix her a cup of tea. And Ruttie added, "She always did things that were fun."

Yossi Dayan, past principal of the school where Rina Didovsky taught, told me that Rina was a wonderful teacher, the kind of teacher every principal and every child dreams of. She had endless patience and dedication above and beyond the requirements of her job. She saw teaching, not as an ordinary career, but as an ideal. Rina worked as a classroom teacher for years, enlightening the lives of hundreds and thousands of children.


But the schoolroom was not Rina's only role in life. She was a model mother and wife. Together with her husband Haim, they raised a family of six children. The oldest girl, Reut, 19 years old, is presently in the midst of a year of volunteer work following graduation from high school. The youngest child, Tzion, is one year old. Tzion was named for Rina's father who passed away just before Rina gave birth. Rina's parents both survived the Holocaust.

Yesterday, hundreds of friends and family gathered next to the Beit Haggai community synagogue, where the funeral began. Speaking in a breaking voice, Reut eulogized her beloved mother:

"You always thought of everything, from a warm sweater to a sandwich for our 10:00 break. Last night I talked to you about future plans, but now, everything has changed -- everything, except for a few things that you have left us for eternity, that we will always carry with us -- the values on which you raised us: Education, which you were on your way to do this morning; the obligation of Jews to live in the Land of Israel, everywhere, and here you were killed. Your whole life went according to your ideals... You instilled in us Torah, fear of God, good deeds... Now that you are up there with the Holy One Blessed be He, we ask for a lot of strength here below... to look after all of Israel, who all want nothing more than to come home safely to their families."

Rina's husband Haim directs a news agency called HaKol MeHaShetach, which broadcasts news events to journalists throughout Israel. When Haim receives information about a breaking story, he notifies correspondents via personal pagers. Yesterday morning at 8:20, Haim, unsuspectingly sent out a message saying, "In the area of Bani Naim, near Kiryat Arba, shooting at an Israeli car. Probably two people injured, being treated near Kiryat Arba. The condition of one probably medium to critical."

A few hours later, Haim led his family from their Beit Haggai home to the funeral procession for his murdered wife, weeping, telling his six children, "Come, say shalom, say goodbye to mother."