I’d vaguely heard of Tal Menashe before, as we approached the town surrounded by beautiful mountains and vineyards, we quickly sensed the nature of the community as we saw a woman walking down the street towards the Horgan’s shiva home balancing a tray of freshly made waffles and fruit for the family walking past a boy out shooting hoops in front of his home. Joined by Sandrin, a member of Moed (my community) and handfuls of cards, we came to convey the devastation and love of our community with the family.
Walking into the home, I was not surprised to find a minister from the Israeli government sitting among those listening to the stories of the family as they recounted the life and character of their wife and mother. During our visit, our nation’s president, another minister, the mayor, a widower who lost his own wife in a terror attack, a delegation of women who serve in municipalities around the country, teachers, friends, neighbors and strangers enveloped every member of the family with the embrace of a nation.
Sitting under a shelf that extends the full length of their home, lined with mugs collected from travels around the world, Esther’s husband Binyamin shared the memory of a business trip to India where Esther accompanied him. One day, as Binyamin set out for meetings, Esther went out to explore the remote village that they were in. Visiting one of the shrines, she met a local woman, with barely a common language shared between them, the woman invited Esther back to her home and the two spent the entire day together. “I’d traveled to this village numerous times, I’d never been invited into anyone’s home!” Binyamin exclaimed.
It was apparent in story after story that Esther’s gift of listening and connecting with people was a part of her constant search for growth. The list of her pursuits and artistic explorations were shared as was Binyamin’s description of how, as a couples’ therapist, Esther saw her role as an active listener to help reflect people’s own selves back to them in a way that would grant them greater appreciation and insight. Esther strove to invest in every ounce of life.
As one visitor inquired about what age Esther came to Israel, Binyamin paused and explained that as a young couple, it dawned on them that as far back as they could trace, each generation of their families was born in yet another country. When they were expecting their first child, they chose to swap their Tel Aviv apartment with friends in order to prepare for this new generation of their family to be born in the eternal city of Jerusalem. As he said referencing Shai Agnon’s poetic speech upon accepting the Nobel prize, “We were both really from Jerusalem, but by the fate of history we were born in Paris.”
The night before our visit, Moed organized teams of women and girls across our region to head out on synchronized walks/runs in nature joining a nationwide effort inspired by Esther z’l. The vibrancy of Esther’s love of life was unleashed through the power of each of our steps connecting to the land and pumping adrenaline into our hearts.
May the pain and heartache of the family and community be blessed by God who, as the Psalmist extols, “gathers in the exiles of Israel, heals their broken hearts, and binds up their wounds.”