Different Kinds of HeroesMarch 19, 1999
Seven years ago, if I remember correctly it was January first, a young man with three children and a pregnant wife, Shella, was murdered near his Kfar Darome home in Gush Katif, Gazza. I remember Doron Shorshan from many years ago when he began studying at Machon Meir in Jerusalem – a yeshiva for “chozrim b’tshuva” – Jews returning to their religious roots. Doron was a teenager – he may still have been in high school. He was always smiling, always doing something, finding it very difficult to sit still. And everyone liked him.
Years later he married Shella and they set up their home in Kfar Darome, a small, isolated community in Gazza. Not too many families were able to settle there for lack of space and homes. But the young families who were fortunate enough to get a house, or in those days, a caravan or small prefab, lived the idealistic life of Israeli pioneers. Doron liked to work with his hands and to work the land. Together with Shella their family began to grow. AviChai, Tal and Hadar. And another child, on the way. A life of ideals on the Land – almost bliss.
Until that winter day when terrorists ambushed Doron on his way home, shooting and killing him as he was driving, not far from Kfar Darome.
Shella later gave birth to their fourth child and second son, who she named Yair-Doron. Yair means “will radiate” or “give forth light.” The connotation is obvious.
Two years later – again, tragedy. Six year old Tal was suddenly stricken with meningitis. After a week in the hospital, she died. It was almost exactly two years to the day when her father was killed. In a children’s book, recommended also to adults, Shella writes, “Tal missed her father,” everyone said. “Now she is with him in heaven so that he won’t be sad.”
What does a woman do in such a situation? Shella Shorshan is a special human being, living in a special neighborhood. Kfar Darome is a very close-knit community. Unfortunately Shella is not the only ‘war widow.’ With support from her friends and family she became a symbol of courage. Over time she became a spokesperson for the Kfar Darome community and for all of Gush Katif. About a month ago, while spending a Shabbat at Kfar Darome with my family, someone told me, “Shella? Shella and Kfar Darome are synonymous. She is not a stationary symbol, rather Shella Shorshan became a full fledged leader, working and representing these brave souls, living in an area that might be described as ‘close to the end of the world.” The community is literally surrounded by thousands of Arabs from Gazza, Arabs who don’t want them there and more then Hebron’s Arabs want us here in Hebron.
But rather than surrender to the aspirations of her husband’s murderers, Shella built a new life for herself and her children, a life centered not around herself, but around Kfar Darome and all of Gush Katif.
This coming Wednesday night Shella is taking a further step to rebuilding her life She is marrying a Jerusalem doctor, and will, with G-d’s help, continue to raise a family – a family dedicated to Am Yisrael, Eretz Yisrael and Torat Yisrael.
Four years ago, one weekday night, Nachum Hoss called his wife Avigial in Hebron and told her that soon he would be home. He was catching the next bus from Jerusalem and would arrive an hour later. An hour came and went, and suddenly rumors started flying. Something had happened – a bus had been shot at – people were hit – some were killed.
That night a Bat Mitzvah party was being celebrated in the Avraham Avinu neighborhood. A family from outside of Hebron decided to celebrate their daughter’s Bat Mitzvah in Hebron. One of the guests was a doctor. In the middle of the party he was requested to step outside. He was told that Avigial’s husband Nachum had been killed in a terrorist attack outside of Hebron, one of the two people murdered. He accompanied some Hebron residents, friends of Avigial and Nachum, to break her the news. She already knew something was wrong, because Nachum should have been home a long time ago. As the group entered her small apartment, with tears in her eyes, she said, “you don’t have to tell me – I already know.”
Avigial Hoss graduated from the Kiryat Arba Ulpana high school for girls and then married Nachum. Nachum was a major activist and was known as Rav Moshe Levinger’s ‘right-hand man.’ After the wedding they so wanted to live in Hebron that they agreed to move into a tiny apartment in the Avraham Avinu neighborhood. Nachum worked in Jerusalem and Avigial, in a Hebron nursery school, as an assistant.
Following Nachum’s murder Avigial stayed in Hebron, finished post-high school studies, and became a nursery school teacher. Not having any children of her own, Avigial became an ‘Ema’ – mother to dozens of Hebron children, filling them with love and happiness every day. I know how much the children love her – I see it in my four year old son, who is in Avigial’s class – I see how, every morning, he can’t wait to get to nursery school – to his friends, and to Avigial.
Earlier this week, one morning, a Hebron woman approached me with a special request. “We need you to design a wedding invitation, fast.” When I asked why the hurry I was told, “Avigial just got engaged, and they are getting married next week, before Passover, and they want to send out invitations before the end of this week.”
A week and a half ago, with many of us, Avigial stood by Nachum’s grave, on the fourth anniversary of his murder. Next Thursday night we will all participate in Avigial and Yigal’s simcha – their wedding, next to the walls of Ma’arat HaMachpela in Hebron.
These two women – Shella Shorshan and Avigial Hoss – are living examples of heroism- authentic heroism. They are heroes because, in spite of their tragic losses, they did not succumb to the terrorists who murdered their husbands. The terrorists who shot at Doron Shorshan and Nachum Hoss wanted not only to kill their victims, but also to destroy the fabric of all normal life, thereby causing families and friends to despair, to pick up and leave – be it from Hebron or Kfar Darome. These two women did, as have others like them, the opposite. They struggled on, overcoming the pain, overcoming the anguish, and continued forward, reestablishing lives of value, lives of purpose – selflessly giving to others, defeating the terrorist’s goals.
Now, next week, these two women will begin new lives, with G-d’s help lives of happiness, full family lives that they so richly deserve. Shella and Avigial are different kinds of heroes – because their heroism is a continuance of normalcy in a sea of seeming insanity. They have proven that, as hard as they will try, the terrorists cannot, and will not win.
To Shella and to Avigial – Mazal Tov – may you be blessed with health and happiness all the days of your lives, together with your old friends and new families – HaShem Yivarch etchen b’Shalom – May G-d bless you with true peace.
Surrender to TerrorMarch 9, 1999
A few months ago, after years of waiting, and following the brutal stabbing murder of 63 year old Rabbi Shlomo Ra’anan, Hebron’s Jewish Community received building permits allowing construction of a new apartment building – Beit Ha Shisha. This building is named after six men: Hanan Krauthammer, Gershon Klein, Ya’akov Zimmerman, Zvi Glatt, Shmuel Marmelstein, and Eli HaZe’ev, all of whom were killed in a terror attack in front of Beit Hadassah in the early spring of 1980. Despite continued requests, previous administrations refused to OK the construction. Until the murder of Rabbi Ra’anan late last summer.
As construction began The Jewish Community of Hebron discovered that the road in front of Beit Hadassah, which had been closed to all Arab traffic, both vehicular and pedestrian since the murder, was about to be reopened to Arab pedestrians.
This stretch of road, at most a hundred meters, literally touches apartment buildings Beit Hadassah and Beit Shneerson, a children’s playground and a daycare – nursery school complex. In the past Arabs found their way into the courtyard and stole children’s bicycles and other toys. One day a Hebron resident living in Beit Shneerson came home to find an Arab in his kitchen.
Intelligence reports constantly warn of Arab plans to harm Hebron’s Jewish population. From this street, into a Jewish residence, is a matter or seconds. The likelihood of a hand grenade being tossed into a house is far from wild imagination. Unfortunately, it is too real a possibility. For these reasons the community objected to the street’s reopening. Arabs were able to easily reach their destination by walking a few meters out the their way. They were delayed, perhaps, two or three minutes.
Our objections reached deaf ears. The street was reopened.
However, it was not chance coincidence that the road was reopened when work began on Beit HaShisha. Arab leaders in Hebron and in the Palestinian Authority, utilizing their connections with the US State Department, issued a warning to Israeli military leaders: Hebron’s Arab population is liable to violently object to the new construction by the Jews in Hebron unless they are appropriately appeased. Steady US pressure on Netanyahu and then Defense Minister Mordechai, together with the Arab threats achieved the goal – the reopening of the street.
During the week following Rabbi Ra’anan’s murder Prime Minister Netanyahu visited the Admot Ishai neighborhood, paying his condolences to the Rabbi’s widow and family. Upon witnessing the housing conditions in the neighborhood he immediately promised government approval to rectify the deplorable situation. Seven families live in this neighborhood in the equivalent of mobile homes – caravans 45 square meters. One family has two caravans – 90 meters – because they have twelve children. This is the way people have had to live for the past fourteen years.
Before permanent housing can be constructed, archeological excavations are required in the area, due to the antiquity of the site. Some four thousand years ago Abraham and Sarah resided here, as did King David almost a thousand years later. In order to commence with the archeological digs two of the caravans must be removed. The families living in them are supposed to move into a ‘double-decker’ caravan, to be placed on top of two other remaining caravans. Those two new caravans were supposed to be moved into the neighborhood today. Sometime next week the other two caravans were to be removed.
Last week we learned that the road leading to the Tel Rumeida-Admot Ishaineighborhood, closed to Arab vehicular traffic for over eight months, wasto be reopened on the same day that the new caravans were to be broughtinto Hebron. It was closed when tourists from Ranana, celebrating their son’s Bar Mitzvah, were shot at while walking down the road. The mother of the Bar Mitzvah boy, Esther Hizmi, was hit in the leg.
A couple of days ago we learned that, again, Arab threats were responsible for Israeli relinquishment. Again, they warned of massive riots in Hebron, should two new caravans be moved into Tel Rumeida. They promised to maintain quiet if….the road was reopened to Arab traffic.
This road, a narrow steep winding hill, is our only route into the Tel Rumeida neighborhood, without having to travel through the section of Hebron controlled by Arafat. Reopening it to Arab traffic will pose a grave threat to the Jews who daily walk and drive up and down this road. In the past a man was stabbed on this road. It has also been the site of firebomb and rock attacks.
Again, American pressure is being applied. Sources close to the community revealed that the State Department is again twisting the screws, demanding that Israel reopen the road, despite the dangers involved. And again, Israel acquiesced and the deal was made. When the caravans were to be brought into Hebron, the road would be reopened.
This morning Hebron’s Jewish leadership notified the appropriate authorities of cancellation of the new caravans. We refuse to play into Arab-American hands, playing chit for chat, thereby allowing the Arabs to use threat of force to gain Israeli concessions, concessions which endanger our lives. We refuse to cooperate with cowards in the Israeli administration who are bowing down to Arab threats.
A few days ago I participated in a conference in Jerusalem sponsored by the Victims of Arab Terror (VAT), founded and led by Mrs. Shifra Hoffman. There I heard Mrs. Joyce Baum, mother of David, who would shortly have celebrated his 20th birthday had he not been murdered outside Beit El a few years ago. She told how she was almost killed by the same terrorist who murdered her son, due the failure Israeli and PA forces to apprehend him. I heard Mr. Nisim Gudai of Kiryat Arba describe how Arabs stabbed him in the back in Hebron, and how, miraculously, the knife did not hit any vital organs. I heard the sister of Esther Ochana, a woman soldier killed by a rock, speak of her family’s experiences. I too spoke, of two nursery school teachers shot by terrorists in Hebron a few months ago, and of Hebron’s Nachum Hoss and Yehuda Partush, killed exactly four years ago that day.
And I ask now, as I did then, why does Israel continue to submit to Arab threats and American pressure? Why should Israelis have to pay the price of Arab-American blackmail?
Earlier today I was visited by a representative of the American consulate in Jerusalem. When she asked me why we had cancelled the caravans, I answered quite simply: “We refuse to acquiesce to Arab terror!” If need be we will force the Israeli government to relearn what we all know and what, in the past, Israel practiced – the ABCs of independence and sovereignty: Do not surrender to threats – do not surrender to terror!
Different Kinds of HeroesMarch 19, 1999