Rose Lubin excelled at anything she put her mind to. She left a comfortable life in the suburbs of Atlanta because she knew where she had to be. After literally saving hundreds of lives on Simchat Torah, she was killed at her post, while preventing a larger terrorist attack in the Old City of Jerusalem. She died doing what she loved, protecting the Land of Israel and the Jewish people. Few of us will be called on to make the sacrifice that Rose and her family did. But all of us have a responsibility to sacrifice something in this time of existential crisis.
I did not really know Rose. Our acquaintance consisted of waving hello to each other as I passed her post on the route from the exit of the Kotel Tunnel Tours to the starting point. But from attending her funeral and hearing from members of her family at the shiva, I can put together a portrait of a truly extraordinary woman.
The first impression many people would have gotten of Rose Lubin was that she was weird. Her hair was either down to her waist dyed in all colors of the rainbow or her head was completely shaven. Her clothes were in bright colors that always seemed to clash, and she did not wear a pair of socks that matched until she was 18. She took mud baths and climbed into a cupboard claiming to be a cat.
But if people thought Rose was a flake, they were badly mistaken. At a very young age she would engage in conversations with other children about G-d and eternity. If you have an issue you could talk to her. She had a talent for helping people find their way through problems. If you were wrong, she would let you know in a way that would help you to get things right and feel good about yourself. It was no surprise when a psychologist came to try and help Rose talk through the trauma that she experienced on Simchat Torah and Rose wound up comforting the psychologist. While she enjoyed chatting with friends she would sometimes walk out on conversations because lashon hara was an absolute taboo. She chose friends who she thought would make her a better person and wound up making them better people.
Torah was central to her life. Her singing and divrei Torah brightened many a Shabbat table. Her Bat Mitzvah speech would have been impressive coming from a Rabbi. From a 12-year-old it was incredible. Citing the story of Joseph and his brothers she said we “should work hard not to let anger and jealousy rule over us. There were many times where the Jews worshipped idols, but G-d forgave us because we are his children. The human race will never be perfect, but we can all let go of things and forgive. Let’s make the world a better place one apology at a time.” Material things meant nothing to her.
In her father, David’s words, “Rose was creative and passionate.” She wrote award winning compositions and created impressive works of art. On her high school wrestling team, she made it all the way to the state finals. She sang, acted, and danced. At high school graduation, Rose was at the top of her class academically and was the only graduate to letter in both wrestling and cheerleading.
Rose challenged herself both mentally and physically. At the age of 12 her father started taking her to the gym. She was tough as nails. Bullies in the area would sometimes pick on weaker children. That soon stopped as many a bully learned to their regret that a 5-foot-tall girl was the toughest kid in the hood. It was a lesson would be terrorists would later learn in Jerusalem’s Old City.
The Bat Torah, the artist, the wrestler, the girl in funny clothes, the friend and confidante were all one and the same person. A woman who walked with G-d while marching to the beat of her own drum. Who saw the world as a place “with no boundaries, only endless opportunity.”
Rose was steeped in love for Israel and the Jewish people. She walked proudly as a Jew with her head held high and was always the first to stand up against anti-Semitism. From the age of 5 she knew what she wanted to be. She told friends in the playground that they could be friends now, but that when she turned 18, she would move to Israel and join the Israel Defense Forces. Not many children go on to fulfill their dreams from the time they were 5, but Rose stuck with it.
Immediately after graduating from high school, Rose came to Israel to live her dream. At a Friends of the IDF dinner in her native Atlanta, she said that the true heroes were her parents, Robin and David, who supported her every step of the way. They did so knowing full well what the consequences might be. They ended up making a sacrifice greater than the one made by Abraham.
Rose became a lone soldier in the Israel Border Police. She would wake up in the morning as goofy Rose but as soon as the uniform came on, she was focused on what she had to do. Her station, at a critical junction between the Muslim and Christian Quarters of the Old City of Jerusalem was a potential flash point. Rose had a smile for almost everyone. She would cheerfully give directions to tourists headed to the Muslim and Christian holy sites. She worked hard to establish friendly relations with the Muslim and Christian businesspeople and residents in the area and was able to defuse many a tense situation. But when a terrorist threat developed, the smile turned to a scowl, as would-be terrorists found themselves under arrest learning too late that it was not a good idea to mess with Rose.
Her colleagues speak of how she would never let things stand in the way of challenges. She was always smiling. While others understandably complained about conditions, Rose would only speak about how great everything was. She was having the time of her life living her dream.
Like all lone soldiers, Rose was assigned to a family. In her case it was, Iran and Tamar James, at Saad, a religious kibbutz, near the Gaza border. Rose was on leave, visiting Saad on Simchat Torah. Rose was on leave and did not have to fight. But she put on her uniform and grabbed her gun because she knew what she had to do. She was stationed, often alone, at the kibbutz gate for 14 hours non-stop. The gate was so heavy that it usually took three men to open or close it. Rose single handedly opened it to allow in people fleeing from the music festival and other villages, while closing it to keep out terrorists. Her courage, at times alone, in keeping the terrorists at bay, saved Saad and made it possible for the kibbutz to be used as a landing pad for helicopters bringing in IDF reinforcements and evacuating the wounded. She directly and indirectly saved hundreds and possibly even thousands of lives on the darkest day in Israel’s history. Saad will forever remember her as “Hero Rose.”
Once the area was secured by the IDF, Rose sought to return to her Border Police unit in Jerusalem. Her commander told her to get some rest, but she would not hear of it. In a conversation with her father, she said that she was not frightened for herself but was terribly distraught by the destruction she had seen. Her father told her that she had to put that behind her and focus on the next mission.
The next mission had her patrolling near Herod’s Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem. She was stabbed to death by a 16-year-old Palestinian boy, while preventing a larger terrorist attack. Even after suffering what would be a fatal wound, she kept on fighting to her last breath. She died in the arms of people who loved her, doing what she loved, defending the land and people she loved. In the words of her commander “generations of Jews dreamt of returning to Jerusalem, you had the merit to defend it.”
Rose would often say that she didn’t worry about the things she couldn’t change. She was focused on what she could do to make things better. That spirit is the story of Israel. Others sit and nurse grievances and demand redress for past injustices both real and imagined. We realize that we cannot undo our tragic past. What we can do is build something even more spectacular than what we lost.
Very few of us in America, would have the courage to do what Rose did. But we can all do something. Don’t sit back and complain about what other people are or are not doing. Do what you can do. Pray, attend rallies, post on social media, contact your elected officials. All of us have a role to play in fighting and winning the war for Jewish survival.