My Daddy is in Heaven
August 4, 1999
A little while ago I was sitting in a small hospital room together with
Baruch and Miriam ben Ya’akov and Ephraim and Anna Rosenstein. Baruch and
Ephraim were on their way into Hebron from Kiryat Arba last night when they
were shot at by Arab terrorists who ambushed them. Making their way down
the hilly, curvy road into the city, they made a right turn, only meters
from the Tomb of the Patriarchs – Ma’arat HaMachpela. As they turned, an
Arab terrorist armed with an M-16 rifle opened fire. Over a period of a few
seconds, seconds which sounded like an eternity, some 24 bullets were
discharged, in their direction, from almost point-blank range. Two
terrorists, hiding in a small gully on the side of the road, concluded
shooting and fled in the direction of the Arafat controlled section of
The car, driven by Baruch, stopped at the side of the road. Ephraim jumped
out, took cover behind the car, drew his gun and attempted to load it.
However he was unable to because two of his fingers had been ripped off by
the gunfire. He jumped back into the car and the two men continued a few
more meters, arriving at an army checkpoint in front of Ma’arat HaMachpela.
They were sped by jeep to a military base where they received first aid.
>>From there they were taken by ambulance to Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem.
Ephraim lost part of two fingers on his right hand and was splattered by
shrapnel in his eyes, hands and forehead. Baruch’s wounds were lesser. He
has shrapnel in his left shoulder.
I found the two men, together with their wives, in high spirits. Ephraim
answered phone calls from friends, calming them down, explaining to them
that he really is OK. He will probably he released from the hospital by the
end of this week or early next week, as will Baruch. Both couples,
realizing the tremendous miracle that had occurred, were almost joyous.
Twenty four bullets from an M-16 at point-blank range are not easy to
survive. Not only did they both survive, but their wounds can be described
as relatively mild, considering the alternatives.
Both of these men are no strangers to adversity. Ephraim Rosenstein came to
Israel from Russia. There he was chased around the country by people
attempting to kill him due to his Israel-Zionist activities. Anna
Rosenstein’s father too was a major figure in the struggle against Soviet
oppression of Jews and Israel activists. Ephraim finally escaped, arrived
in the United States, and moved to Israel. A few years ago the couple
moved from their apartment in Kiryat Arba to a small ‘caravan’ home in the
Tel Hebron (Rumeida) neighborhood, in Hebron.
Baruch ben Ya’akov came to Israel from the United States many years ago. He
married a Russian woman and has lived both in Hebron and Kiryat Arba. About
six years ago, walking down the street in Hebron on a Friday morning, he
was stabbed in the neck. Fortunately the wound was superficial, and
required only a few stitches. He has a radiant personality, always
grinning, singing, and happy. Tonight he was no different.
Earlier this afternoon I visited one of Hebron’s nursery schools. As I
arrived I found a group of happy little children scampering around on the
lawn. The woman watching them smiled at me and said hello. Every time I see
her at the nursery school I cannot help but think back to a cold January
morning, less than a year ago. Flori Hofi, together another nursery school
teacher, was shot by Arab terrorists at almost the exact spot where the
attack took place last night. Flori’s wounds weren’t critical. A bullet
entered one leg and exited from the other leg. She was back at the nursery
school after a few months. Today she was at work, as usual.
As I was standing there, suddenly one of the children caught my eye. A
little blond boy in a red shirt, pranced around with the others – one of
Ephraim and Anna Rosenstein’s children, Elchanan.
Two people, a small boy and a middle-aged woman, with something very unique
in common. Elchanan’s father was almost killed last night at the very site
where his nursery school teacher was almost murdered just seven months ago.
At the hospital the two men gave accounts of the attack and we spoke about
their medical condition. I told them that I had been talking to a friend in
the Avraham Avinu neighborhood when the shots were fired. Hearing the long
burst of automatic fire, we both waited a minute for the sound of sirens, a
sure confirmation that ‘something had happened.’ When there were no sirens,
we went our separate ways. As I arrived home a couple of minutes later, all
hell broke loose. Jeeps speeding by, soldiers running every which way, and
walkie-talkies squawking endlessly.
I also recounted to Ephraim and Anna that I had met their little son
Elchanan earlier in the day, at his nursery school. Anna Rosenstein looked
at me and said, “You know, this morning Elchanan went to nursery school and
told all his friends that his Daddy is now in heaven.”
Tonight I printed out some pictures of Ephraim that I photographed at his
hospital bedside in an attempt to convince little Elchanan that his father
is not in heaven, but is alive and recovering. Elchanan was already asleep
when I arrived at his house. But the babysitter assured me that Ephraim
had spoken to Elchanan earlier on the phone, thereby relieving the little
boy’s anxieties about his father’s death. I left the pictures for him to
see in the morning, hoping that they will quell any lingering doubts he
may still have. A picture of Mommy and Daddy together, ever if Daddy is
missing a couple of fingers, should do the trick until Daddy comes home in
a couple of days.
With that, we have no choice but to remember, and remember we will, that
Elchanan’s daddy really was very very close to heaven last night.