“We have totally collapsed and in a bad stage of mind. Please do not leave us alone”
Rebbitzen Miriam Gal
Odell Bennett (Benita) made headlines three weeks ago when an Israeli Arab killed her husband and another Jew in the Old City of Jerusalem. She escaped, but suffered 17 stab wounds, while her toddler son suffered a gunshot wound. The injured woman pleaded for help from Arabs in the Old City, but was mocked, kicked, and spat upon instead, her pleas ignored.
Now, her parents — Rabbi Yosef Gal, a Jerusalem community leader, and his wife Miriam — are facing the aftermath. It is very difficult for the couple to speak these days. Rabbi Gal is a leading Breslover rabbi, and his wife is his “right-hand man.” Until three weeks ago, they were a constantly giving couple. Their door was always open to anyone and everyone, and they were available to listen and offer compassion to one and all.
But on Shabbat of Sukkot, their entire world was upended and almost destroyed. When an Arab terrorist murdered their son-in-law, Aaron Bennett, and seriously injured their daughter Odell and grandson Natan, they felt at a loss. Odell’s story shocked the entire country, particularly the fact that her please for help only brought more brutality. The people who kicked and spat upon her were local Arabs who sipped drinks in the area – the picture of normalcy, until savagery emerged. At her most vulnerable, they compounded her agony.
Anyone who has experienced terrorism knows that, after the physical wounds are healing, only then are the psychological wounds truly felt. “We have not started at all to really grieve for Aaron,” Miriam explains. “We didn’t even have a chance to sit ‘shiva’ for him. We were just dealing with a medical recovery for Odell and Natan. Occasionally, when it hits us, we collapse. We feel again like the moment we received the news. No psychologist has talked to us. We are trying to pick up the pieces.”
Her husband, who strives to be the strong one in the family and to steer them through this ordeal, has become much more subdued. “I am trying to return to study, activities, consultations with other rabbis. It is not easy. It is very difficult – but we must not sink into the horror of what has happened.”
Rabbi Gal continues, “It was a communal tragedy for all of Israel. All the Jewish world felt great pain personally. Everyone felt it internally.” He believes that this shocking murder and assault became a great outcry of God to all the Jewish people.
“After the assassination and funeral, I spoke to my daughter Odell,” the rabbi notes. “I told her that each day, 200-250 people die in this country and no one says anything. But in this instance, a loud boom was felt nationally. The nation responded. Everyone felt it was their tragedy.”
Asked to speak about his son-in-law, Rabbi Gal says, “Aaron was a special man in an unusual way – always alive with the spirit and happy. He went through stressful situations that were not simple at all – their livelihood and all kinds of other things. But he knew how to be strong and not break—how to continue always forward. He was everything to my daughter. From their wedding day to this tragic happening, those were the happiest years of her life. He always, always helped.”
I personally have not been able yet to speak with Odell, as she’s in such pain. Everything I share with you is via her mother and father. Her father’s description of Odell’s medical condition would bring a total stranger to tears: “Today she fainted in the clinic when they took out her stitches from the 17 deep cuts made by the knife blade of the assassin. There is no feeling in her hands, and she should not move her right hand for the next six months because of tendon damage. Even a button she can not close. Meanwhile she lives on morphine. According to Mehta, the strongest pain will be starting now. We are living in madness. Miriam can not care for the children, with all her ordeal. We, her parents and brothers, are on call all the time – 24 hour a day.”
The description of grandson Natan is not good. The toddler was wounded in the leg by gunfire during the attack. “He has a hole in his foot,” his grandfather explains. “Today we received bad news. We need to return to the doctors for more analysis. The foot is wrong. But G-d will help,” he concludes with a heartbreaking sigh.
Grandmother Miriam says, “The doctors says that it was a tremendous miracle with him. The bullet topped the carotid artery and came out the other side. If it had hit the main artery, it could be the end, G-d forbid.”
Natan is a child with pure and innocent eyes that have witnessed a terrible trauma. It rips one’s heart out to see his injury. Each night, his grandfather sleeps at his side. “He constantly wakes up screaming,” Rabbi Gal explains. “That is understandable. He saw his father murdered before his eyes.”
Natan’s brother has not yet gone back to his dorm. The children of the wave have, for the most part, not yet returned to educational institutions. Odell is now in an apartment with her two children, her siblings, and her parents.
“She could not go home, and our house has only two rooms,” Rabbi Gal explains. “She just did not belong there, because she needs privacy. Due to the graciousness of some individual, we have been able to move out of our two-room apartment temporarily, to something larger and better able to accommodate us for the moment. We are now looking for a large apartment – perhaps a duplex or one with two entrances that will allow us to live together but give Odell and her family their privacy.
The couple is grateful for the support of Chabad. Their relationship with Chabad stems from Miriam’s connection with Chabad missionaries in her hometown of Sderot. She met them when she was most distant from keeping the Torah and its commandments.
When asked to elaborate, Miriam explains, “It was a quarter century ago. I was then almost 25, and I was looking for meaning in life. My friends told me that new arrivals to Sderot included a wonderful young couple, Rabbi Zev and Sima Pizem. I had so many questions to ask, and I realized that they were able to provide me with answers. I cam to them, and they welcomed me with great warmth and love. I remember I was very nervous at first, but the rabbi’s unique humor broke the ice.”
Miriam began taking on religious studies through the Chabad Hassidic movement, and her life took on greater meaning under the direction of Rabbi and Rebbitzen Pizem. Her marriage then led her to the Breslov Hassidic movement, of which the couple is a part today.
“Thanks to the Rebbe’s emissaries, I won a husband who is himself a rabbi,” Miriam recalls. “Our house has been open for many guests – couples and singles. I always had a love of Israel. I think it affected me quite a bit in the decision to open the Home Chabad of my own. After all, we all just want to do His will.”
Decades ago, Miriam was fortunate enough to meet Rabbi and Mrs. Pizem in the Negev Desert, where the seeds of Judaism were planted for her. Now these seeds have evolved into a beautiful family, but one now faced with tragedy and crying for help. After this family’s many activities of grace, it is now time for us to support them. The family is in need of urgent financial assistance. “—But not the food,” Rebbetzin Miriam Gal exclaims. “With all the pastas, you can open a dairy restaurant!”
If your heart is touched by this brave family, whose members have both given and lost so much, please reach out to Rebbitzen Miriam Gal at (050) 675-5897 to make a contribution. Join the outpouring of those who cry out against this brutal act, and keep this brave family in your prayers.