We, as a society, are inured to numbers as they relate to casualties of war and terror. The Syrian death count now estimated at 93,000, the fifteen thousand Gazan rocket attacks on Southern Israel since 2001,the 82 Arab terrorists to be released by Israel as a precondition to restart the peace talks, all just numbers and more numbers.
I want to make numbers real for people, make them meaningful. So I tell them things like, “This prisoner release is comparable to releasing 82 Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s for the sake of peace.”
I tell them anything to get the point across, to make things real for a public whose senses have been dulled by an overdose of terror, numbers, and media.
But for me, keeping it real is easy. I have Rivkah.
Rivkah Moriah is my friend. Her teenage son was murdered. While learning Torah.
He was gunned down in the library of the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva.
This cruel act, the murder of Avraham David Moses (HY”D), Rivkah’s blond and blue-eyed child has informed Rivkah’s hours, minutes, and seconds ever since. I cannot see her without thinking of him and of what happened and what it must be like to be her, though of course, it isn’t even remotely possible.
Last week Rivkah told me something obscene.
Hamas Did This
She said that most of the families whose children were murdered in the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva Massacre were filing suit against the Bank of China. The bank handled the accounts of senior leaders of Hamas despite repeated requests that the bank desist in doing so, with full knowledge that the funds would be used to bankroll terror.
It was Hamas that claimed responsibility for the Mercaz HaRav Massacre.
The lawsuit against the bank is part of a campaign to force terror enablers, such as the Bank of China, to take responsibility for their role in the perpetration of terrorist acts. The campaign, so far successful, is spearheaded by Shurat HaDin, the Israel Law Center. The idea of the legal campaign is to disable the infrastructure required by terror, so that fewer innocent people will be murdered.
Rivkah contacted me because one of her fellow litigants reported thatNetanyahu, during his recent visit to China, had been asked by officials to block the lawsuit. In order for the lawsuit to proceed, there must be testimony from military officials. Netanyahu is withholding permission from Israeli army representatives to give testimony in the lawsuit despite pressure from U.S. officials and from Michael Oren, outgoing Israeli ambassador to the U.S.
The litigants sent off a letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu, urging him to give permission to military officials to offer testimony. Meantime, Rivkah sent her own eloquent letter to the Prime Minister and sent me a copy. As she put it, “Some things write themselves.”
Sent three days ago by fax to the Prime Minister’s office and copied to the Prime Minister’s Facebook page inbox, the letter has, as yet, received no response. Here is Rivkah’s letter:
July 21, 2013
The Prime Minister of Israel
Mr. Binyamin Netanyahu
Re: Testimony against the Bank of China
Dear Mr. Prime Minister,
It is with a very heavy heart that I turn to you personally, as the Prime Minister of Israel and as an individual. I have great respect for your position, and I do not envy the burden you carry, nor the decisions you must make. Nevertheless, today I reach out to you with a request.
My oldest son was murdered by a terrorist just over five years ago, in the heart of Jerusalem, along with seven other boys and young men, while learning Torah in Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav. He was only sixteen. Since then, my family has felt the pain that is known only by those who themselves have had great loss. My boys, like you, lost their beloved older brother, who had helped to nurture them, brought them confidence, and most of all, loved them.
Every person is precious in the eyes of his loved ones, yet in the case of my son, I must honor the profound mercy that so exemplifies the Jewish Nation, for he himself was a delicate boy, of fine scholarship and manners. We are a People for which rising above and finding the next good deed – and doing it – is the way, and we say that revenge is for G-d.
It seems almost contrary to our nature to demand justice. In the case of my son, true justice cannot be served. Our boys will not come back, and no settlement will assuage the pain of our loss. However, there is a reason why we must demand justice. The I.D.F. and all of Israel’s security forces do a tremendous job preventing and minimizing terror, for which I honor them. However, holding a financial body responsible for its complicity to support terror, will dry up terror at its source, and will save lives.
We, who know the pain so intimately, implore you, who knows it, too, to make it clear to China that, although Israel is strong, and a strong nation does not fear compromise or diplomacy, a line must be drawn. Please clarify to the Chinese government that diplomacy does not include the obstruction of justice that would occur if important witnesses are blocked from their testimony against the Bank of China, certainly not for a nation with such integrity as ours.
With blessings and great respect,
Mother of Avraham David Moses, Hy”d
Just in case Rivkah’s story, the story of her son, and the story of the Prime Minister’s dealings with China are not yet real to you, I give you Rivkah herself, in her own words, responding to my question:
“What is it like to live with this?”
This is long, but I think Rivkah deserves a hearing. I think she deserves a chance for her son’s murder, just one among many, to be made real to you, the reader.
Please read and share and send your own letters of protest to the Prime Minister. Maybe it will help. I hope so.
“What is it like to live with this?”
- Your kids eat cornflakes and what the neighbors bring, for a year. Cornflakes if you’re lucky, more probably Froot Loops, because you are desperate for every little thing that could give them some more happiness.
- You lose some of your friends, and discover a few new ones. But first you kind of just need a babysitter. For yourself, and your family.
- Your kids are terrified they are going to drop dead any second, and you are the one who has to assure them everything will be okay.
- You realize how important love is, and you try to have an open heart, all the time. It’s not like it’s not broken already.
- You are in your own little bubble of pain, but you also see the network of humanity reaching out all around you. You realize how amazing your friends’ kids are, and how amazing your kids’ friends are.
- You finally manage to sort your dead child’s clothes, you didn’t fall apart, and then you find his glasses.
- You don’t worry that something might happen to your other kids, you worry when and how the next one will die, and how you will tell the others, and how you will stay alive to raise them, then you feel guilty for thinking such horrible thoughts.
- You’re afraid to take photos of the kids, because that’s what you’ll look at when they’re dead.
- You have to relearn what the word dangerous means—after a murder in a library while learning Torah, nothing looks safe, but then again nothing looks relatively dangerous, either. You have to make sure you don’t chain up your adolescent in a closet so that nothing will happen to him, and you also have to get used to the fact that some things really are more dangerous, and help your kids regain perspective, too. For example, if your child gets into extreme bicycling, you have to let them know that a quality helmet makes a difference.
- Every milestone is a trigger—end-of-year parties, parent-teacher meetings, buying new clothes because your kids grew, and maybe you won’t even start crying.
- You learn to recognize the physical grief—the shortness of breath, the nausea, the anger—and learn to ride it till you make it back safely.
- You can’t ever – ever – have another family simcha without someone being painfully absent.
- You finally start to feel “normal” again – supper’s on the table and the laundry is washed, if not folded—and then all of a sudden you get thrown a curve ball: a Yahrtzeit, an unexpected form to fill out, a school devastated by a shooting or a tornado, and all of a sudden you’re on your knees again. Dealing with testimony for this case is like that, and the PM blocking testimony is like that, too.
- You want to write to your late child more, you want to visit his grave more, you want to pray more, you want to cry more, but you want to be there for yourself, too, and for your other kids, and you have to figure out the balance yourself, and it probably won’t ever be “enough.”
- You feel lucky to have emunah —you can’t imagine how anyone would cope without it—but it doesn’t stop the pain, it just gets you through it.
- You learn to reach out, because even though you wish you could handle it alone, you really can’t, and you learn to give, because if you can finally give something back to the world, you feel just that little bit more alive, especially if you can remember your precious, dead child, and do it because of your love for him.
- You keep living, because you decide to, and remember that the only holiness in this world is the holiness we can bring to it and release herein.
- You know that your precious son has been received in a place so profound that no being can stand in his presence, and you just hope, that when you finally reach your own judgment day, you will be close enough to wave.
- And mostly, you thank Hashem for each of your children, and remember how much He must love you to have bestowed on you, the title “Ima.”
Varda Epstein is a communications writer at Kars4Kids, a car donation program that funds educational initiatives for children. The views expressed here are the writer’s own, and not necessarily those of the organization.