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What do we tell the children?

21 years to the day after my son's murder, I am hiding from terrorists in the darkened bedroom with my daughter and her children
Police special forces at the scene of terror attack, at the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem's Old City, May 8, 2022.(Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Police special forces at the scene of terror attack, at the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem's Old City, May 8, 2022.(Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Last night, May 8, 2022, I bought sushi in Jerusalem to bring to my daughter who lives near me. On my way home to Tekoa, I listened to a podcast, On Being. Two American experts spoke about Buddhism. A show called “Love your Enemy.” What a nice idea I thought. And how utterly useless in the Middle East.

Fifteen minutes later, at 8:15 at my daughter’s house, I got a warning from the Home Front Command on my phone: A terrorist has infiltrated Tekoa, this is a real event, lock your houses and windows and find a protected room in which to take shelter.  

My three small grandchildren were asleep. My daughter ran to the front door to lock it and then the back door. “Do the tris,” she said and I pushed the button for the blinds in the living room to come down. We ran from room to room closing the windows and the blinds. We turned out all the lights. She got the kids and we put them in her bed.

“A weapon,” I said.

She ran to the kitchen and got a large knife.

We locked the bedroom door, turned off the light, and waited.

She lives on the edge of the community. Nothing between her and the wadi, the canyon.

A few minutes later, my daughter’s husband arrived. He’d been at a yoga class and drove home quickly.

»Related: While sipping tea with his wife: Tekoa resident recounts confronting terrorist

About ten minutes later we got a message: The terrorist has been neutralized. Killed. But there may be other terrorists at large.

The baby woke up crying. We brought him into the living room. He didn’t like the dark. We lit a candle.

My 4-year-old grandson woke up. “What happened?”

“There was a bad Arab and he tried to hurt people, but he was killed by soldiers. Everybody is safe now,” my son-in-law told him.

My grandson nodded.

He’d had a hard day because he’d fallen when he was playing tag in school.

What do you tell the kids, people asked on our community WhatsApp groups?

I asked my daughter what she thought. “Tell the kids the truth. Tell them that there are people who want to hurt us. But that the army is here, and God is protecting us, and we are safe now.”

Only we aren’t always safe.

Twenty-one years ago on May 8, the very same day as the infiltration, Koby and Yosef, two eighth grade boys, cut school and went for a hike in the wadi in Tekoa and were beaten to death with rocks. My 13-year-old son and his 14-year-old friend. My daughter was 10 then.

And now, in my daughter’s home, there was a knock on the door. Soldiers going from house to house. Making sure there were no other terrorists trying to murder us. That we were safe.

About the Author
Sherri Mandell is co-director of the Koby Mandell Foundation which runs programs for bereaved families in Israel. She is the author of the book "The Road to Resilience: From Chaos to Celebration." Her book, "The Blessing of a Broken Heart," won a National Jewish Book Award in 2004. She can be reached at sherri@kobymandell.org
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