Change of Plans

Le-zecher nishmat Ari Yoel Fuld, HY”D

You know that tomorrow, you will wake up, get ready, go to work. You know what errands you will run after, and how harried you may feel with so much to do right before Yom Kippur, with Sukkot around the corner. You have your lists written, what to buy, who is coming to which meal, what needs to be cooked when. You know this.

You got up this morning and went to work. You were running out in the middle of the day for a quick thing, and on your way out of work you hear that there was a pigua, a terrorist attack at Tzomet Hagush, which you will have to drive past in two minutes. You here, but you don’t hear. At first, all you think about is how much more traffic there will be, making your quick thing take longer. You go anyway, driving past the place it happened. There isn’t traffic; there is the opposite of traffic; it is eerily almost empty. There are, however, police cars and soldiers, army vehicles and lights. And there are still people waiting at the bus stops, like everything is normal. And you keep going, like everything is normal.

You have to take a different route, because of course the tunnels to Jerusalem are blocked. NOW they are checking everyone, you think. Like it will make a difference to the person who was attacked, hurt. You don’t know anything else and try to focus on your plans, because of course, what you planned will happen. Suddenly there is some traffic on your route. But slowing down allows you to think, allows your brain to process.  You don’t know yet who it was, how bad it was, but you start shaking. You start to feel numb, but you know you are driving. Take deep breaths, try to calm down. Yet you still go through with your plans, then turn around to go home, wondering again how much traffic there will be…but there isn’t. You go through the tunnels and see that there are practically no cars in either direction at the checkpoint. You get back to work, realize you have 5 minutes to warm up food and maybe eat. Then you hear. You hear a name, you hear the matzav (condition). For a minute, maybe two, you still think you can continue work, while your brain has yet to process. Sure, you can go work, and do more errands, and take your child to the doctor, and see a friend. All the plans you had for the afternoon. Sure, because everything is normal.

Until suddenly it hits you. Ari Fuld. It’s not real. It’s still not real, even now. You saw him, spoke to him yesterday on the way to shul. He told you, rifle hanging off his back, that he was just coming back from checking out a security situation. He talks again about the need for stronger security, for dealing harshly with terrorists. He goes off to speak to the local security guys. You say, Shabbat Shalom, see you later. You see him later, wrapped in his tallis, standing near the bima. As always, shuckling, because he can’t stop moving. Full of energy, passion, drive to stand up for his nation, for our nation. Ari speaks everywhere about the need to help the soldiers, to bolster security, to take care of his people, our people. No, he spoke. No. No. He is, he is, he is.

He was our son’s karate teacher for years, he was my niece’s rebbe in her post-high school program in Israel, he was a friend. My principal, who lost his own brother in yet another terrorist attack, came to talk to me, to offer me a quiet place to sit. He even offered for someone to go fill up my car, because I mentioned to him, crying and  laughing, that it was it was on empty and he understood that the only place to fill up was the gas station right in the area where Ari was just murdered, where his brother lost his life. I said I would wait and see. I sat in his office, having to call my children, my niece, waiting for funeral information, still not believing. I waited until someone was available to drive with me, and then I did what Ari would do, what he would have done. I went to fill up the gas myself.

Yes, I was more aware, more vigilant. But I was there, doing what was normal, because they will not take that away from me, from us. Why do we keep going as if everything is normal? Because we have a choice. Do that, live, or leave, give up. But Ari would not give up. He went everywhere to tell people the truth of our lives, to stand up for Israel, with the organizations Stand With Us and Standing Together 24/7 IDF. He posted photos of our beautiful land, and said what he thought. He didn’t try to win people over, or try to be nice. He argued, he got you mad, he got you thinking. He tried to get you involved. He was not about Jews only, he was about making real peace. Read this if you think otherwise. He was Ari, straight up.

Not much time had gone by when I got back to Efrat, and I still couldn’t absorb it. I went on Facebook to get funeral information. Some people had already posted reactions, shocked, sad, and yet beautiful.  Abby Friedman: “…I don’t understand this world, but I pray to a GD who does.” I agree strongly, that we may not understand *anything* about God’s plans, but we can still talk to Him, even if sometimes the answer is no. I saw a post that there is a blood drive tonight, and instead of my awful thought when I saw the sign, that Ari has at last donated his all to the land, David Cohen wrote that we should all go donate in Ari’s name. I understand it is very busy there already.

When I got home, my son was already there. I hugged him, because I could. How will Ari’s children go unhugged by him, unblessed in two days when they have to get up from a cut-short shiva, like Ari’s cut-short life, to go sit and fast in shul. An overriding thought has also been, who is with Miriam, my seatmate every Shabbat? I asked and found that someone is with her. We have been looking down at our growing families for almost 12 years now. It is almost hard to keep track of who is in which grade, because they are growing so quickly. But Ari will never see his 12th grader graduate high school, or his youngest become bar mitzvah. I have no words to offer, because I’m sorry for your loss doesn’t cut it. I told my son some of the little I know, because I haven’t watched the video, cannot bear to see for myself the ending of such a fiery soul. I told my son that even after he was stabbed, and clearly from the results it was a horrific stabbing, yet Ari ran after the terrorist and shot him, so that others would not get hurt. He was protecting his nation, he was 100 percent Ari until the end.

This time of year is always a rough patch for me, already worse this year and now, I don’t even know. When Elul/September rolls around next year, I am sure I will only want it to end. My father’s birthdays, both English and Hebrew (the second day of Rosh Hashanah), were last week, and tomorrow night is his yahrzeit. It is also the yahrzeit for Moty Hornstein, a young man cut down far too young, at age 19, in an unbelievable accident. When my father was close to the end, I was visiting him in America, but I had to take my children home, to start the new school year. I started, but I waited for the phone call, which finally came two days before Rosh Hashanah. I like to write things down, to list my errands or ‘to-do’ for the day. When they said come now, or it will be to late, I didn’t hear it. My brain looked at my list and said, ‘but you have to do this this and this, you were planning…’ But no. I put down my list, got on a plane, and was blessed to spend one last Rosh Hashanah with my father. When he passed on Erev Yom Kippur, I thought of Moty, so many years before, taken from his family both suddenly and slowly. When I got home and had a shiva cut off by chag, by Sukkot, I knew that no matter what the Torah tells you, you mourn for as long as you need to, even if only in your heart. I didn’t write another list for a long time.

Last week was Rosh Hashanah. Erev Rosh Hashanah was the yahrzeit for a very special person, my husband’s grandfather, whom I was privileged to have known. He was 96. Even then, we felt it was too soon. When someone special is taken from us, we know only one thing. We ask why. We read on Rosh Hashanah “Who by…” listing all the ways and times a person may go. This, to me, is the scariest part of the Day of Judgement. We don’t know how, we don’t know when. We don’t know if it will be our time at 19, or 74, or 96, or 40. We don’t know if we have minutes or hours left on our cheshbon. We plan, we make to do lists, but all we have is now.

One other part of the tefilla spoke to me, something people say to someone who has lost someone close. May they be a Melitz Yosher, an Advocate for the Jewish people when the Satan is arguing with God about who deserves what from the checklist of ways we could die, why we deserve it. People said this to me about my parents, I heard this about Gilad, and saw it today about Ari. It upset me when I read it last week, because with all of the attacks and wars, with all those like Naomi, an amazing neshama and a young mother who was niftar this year, how could the Jewish Nation possibly be lacking a Melitz Yosher? There is no question in my mind that Ari lived as a Melitz Yosher, fighting for his people. He died Al Kiddush Hashem, trying to save others. He is now with Hashem, and I know that God is just getting an earful. Ari, tell Him enough. Tell Him we have lost enough, suffered enough, cried enough. Tell Him we need no more representatives, no more shlichim taken from us. We needed you here, we need you here! We need no more orphans, widows, empty seats in shul.

I have written all this, but inside I still feel there aren’t enough words to tell this Nation what it has lost. We go to say goodbye tonight, and to pray for ourselves in two days. May Ari’s family find peace, find comfort, and may our nation stop having to ask why. This is my prayer, my hope. Peace for Am Yisrael and an end to our sorrows.

Ari Fuld, blowing the shofar.
Photo credit: David Cohen
About the Author
Mori Sokal is an ELEVEN year veteran of Aliyah, mother of three wonderful children (with her wonderful husband) and is an English teacher in both elementary and high school in the Gush Etzion-Jerusalem area. She has a Masters’ degree in teaching, and has published articles in Building Blocks, the Jewish Press magazine.
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