Today, we buried a 20-year-old hero. A woman that was raised in Atlanta but always knew Israel was her home. She wanted to change the world, as much as she changed her hair color. And she did both. Instead of making a difference for decades to come, her life was cut short by a terrorist in my city of Jerusalem on Monday.
Rose, I didn’t know you when I decided to go to your funeral. After I left, it occurred to me, we may never have met, but I know who you are.
As your Rabbi from Atlanta said, you are a hero.
Your brother admitted that you were a bad-ass.
Your commander cried for your strength.
Your parents shared your ability to write.
Your Rabbi told us he remembered your Bat Mitzvah speech, and he didn’t remember most.
Your brother shared that he never heard anyone say anything unkind about you.
Your parents smiled when they said you were on the wrestling team and a cheerleader, a first and quite the achievement.
You had decided early on in life, while most children learned to spell their name, that you would one day move to Israel and defend your people. At 18, just like you had planned, you were on your journey. You started at Kibbutz Sa’ad, with friends and an adopted family that immediately fell in love with you. You stopped changing your hair color and finally wore matching socks. Something your father admitted he was relieved about.
You became a soldier and you were proud to defend your people. Your brother said that he thought perhaps this was a career goal and you would climb the ladder to the top. Or maybe wrestle your way there. Or do some backflip moves. You were capable. You were talented. You were murdered.
I know who you are because thousands of people came to your funeral to be with you one last time before this rose was returned to the soil from which she came. Flowers are supposed to bloom. You were so young. But somehow understood the world beyond the grasp that most of us can ever understand. That is not a reason for your early departure, but gives us hope that you knew where you were going. The rabbi said that sometimes God wants his heroes closer to him. Maybe it’s like an inner circle or VIP, and while we can’t have you here, we hope that you are comforted there.
I went to your funeral to cry for you. I cried for you and I cried again for my friend Marla Bennett z”l, who was murdered in a vicious terror attack in 2002 at Hebrew University. I don’t think you were even born then, and yet I immediately felt her presence as your family and friends described your personality.
I cried for you and all the hostages. I cried for you and all those massacred on October 7th. I cried for you and our children that are continually traumatized. I cried for you and the progressives that are blindly leading the way for terrorists to run the world. I cried for you and the Gazans that lived under a terrorist ruled government for decades, putting their greedy evil concerns before the needs of their own people. I cried for you and the Jews around the world that are being attacked just for being Jewish.
I cried as I watched young police officers cry for you. I cried as I watched your partner, still with his hospital bandages on, standing by your grave and looking in it because it could have been his. I cried when I heard your mother read your bat mitzvah speech (the one the rabbi said he could remember) except instead of the speech saying how excited you, Rose, were to celebrate with friends and family at your bat mitzvah, your mother said how excited you were to celebrate your funeral with us.
And I cry as I write this. Rose, you were buried in Israel’s military cemetery, Har Herzl, surrounded by other heroes. I saw one that fought in the Independence War and another who was born on a boat and died in the Six Day War. And you Rose, on October 7th were celebrating Simchat Torah at Kibbutz Sa’ad, when the terrorists infiltrated Israel and began their massacre. As they headed for the gates of the Kibbutz, you had already stepped up to protect the community. You didn’t hesitate. It seems like you never had. You survived their bloodshed against our people and then headed to Jerusalem to defend me, my family, all Israeli citizens and the Jewish People once more.
You barely lived your life here in this world. And yet in the short amount of time, you somehow managed to make an impact. Your soul is now with us. The Jewish people live on for you and because of you.
As your Rabbi from Atlanta said, you were different.
As your brother told us, you were friends with everyone.
As your commander cried, you did your job until the very end.
As your parents wept, you gave them strength once more.
For all of us in Israel, we all know Rose. She is from the earth, in the soil, of the land in which we came from. She is our friend. She is our soldier. She is our blood. She is the reason we are still here.