As new olim and residents of Jerusalem, Israel, we went out one night for a couple of hours to a wedding. Upon returning, we found that our home had been burglarized. The bars on the back door were ripped out and thieves not only took irreplaceable, sentimental items and valuables, but trashed the place and took away our sense of security.
There were so many robberies that night that it took hours for the overworked and underpaid policemen to arrive. But we learned two lessons: (1) Those bars on the doors and windows do nothing to keep out the bad guys, and (2) no matter how upsetting such an incident is in Israel, you may not use the word “terror.”
Victims of terror are a very select group, a group to which no one wants to belong and whose next member no one can predict. 2012 was the first year since 2000 that no Israelis were killed in Judea and Samaria by terrorists.
But on December 24, 2009, Rabbi Meir Avshalom Chai z”l was murdered by terrorists near his home in Shavei Shomron. He was shot 10 times in the head as he drove home after teaching that night. Not only a beloved educator, he was a husband and father of seven children, aged 16 years to 4 months.
So why am I telling you this story now?
This week, his widow Elisheva Chai got married again. After the crushing blow of her husband’s tragic death, she got her life and her children’s lives slowly back together with the help of OneFamily, an organization established to help victims of terror.
Elisheva smiled and posed for photos with her beautiful family before the ceremony.
Meanwhile, the groom, Gil Efrati, was interviewed by the press. It was quite an overwhelming experience for this quiet 50-year-old social worker, never married, who quit his job in Jerusalem to move to Shavei Shomron to be with his new wife and family.
Hundreds of family and friends gathered at the Ramat Rachel banquet hall to celebrate.
Elisheva‘s students sang and danced.
Her sons were so thrilled to once again see Chantal Belzberg, a founder of OneFamily, that they asked for this photo to be taken.
But with the smiles there were also tears of pain and joy and thoughts of the tragic past, along with the promise of hope for the future.
Smiles and shtreimels and extended families,
dressed very differently on the outside, but all coming together as one.
In the dark, Gil Efrati stood under the chupah waiting for his bride. I thought of how earlier, while I was on my way to the wedding, a stranger on the street asked where I was going with my camera. I told him the story about this special wedding. Only in Israel. The old man smiled broadly and said “mazel tov.” Bad times and good times do bring people together.
One family coming together, triumphing over terror and tragedy,
to build a new home together in Israel. What could more inspiring?
Since 2001, the OneFamily fund has supported over 1,300 injured families, 1,340 bereaved families and 983 bereaved or injured children. Wouldn’t it be great if there were no more? But, the day after this wedding a young Israeli man was stabbed and injured in a terrorist attack in the Shomron.
Thank you, Elisheva Chai Efrati for sharing your inspiring story, one of turning a nightmare into what we all hope is a new beginning with a very happy ending.
It is so wonderful when we can all celebrate as one family together.
So from everyone, mazel tov! And l’chaim to Elisheva and Gil.