I'm grateful for the ambassador's sensitivity
The following is a report by Rav Reuven Tradburks, RCA Representative in Israel, about a shivah visit he made, along with Rav Ellis Bloch, to the families of terror victims Ziv Hajbi and Kim Levengrond Yehezkel, HY"D:On behalf of the RCA, I visited the shivahs today of Ziv Hajbi, Hy”d, in Rishon leTzion and Kim Levengrond Yehezekel, Hy”d, in Rosh Ha-’Ayin both murdered by a terrorist in their office at the Barkan Industrial Park. Rabbi Ellis Bloch, officer of the RCA Israel Region, joined me.We arrived at the shiva tent for Ziv at an opportune time to be able to speak personally with his parents and brothers. Ziv, 35, left a wife and 3 children. His mother met us and sat us down with the father and 3 brothers. After bringing tanchumei aveilim on behalf of the rabbis of the RCA, I asked the father to tell us about Ziv. He deferred to the others. One brother could not speak through his tears. The mother spoke of an exemplary man. “I know,” she said, “they speak like this of everyone but with Ziv it was true.” She spoke of him as only the best. Reliable, honest, straight, whatever he wanted to accomplish he achieved. He was an accountant, working at that office for only a few months, filling in for a woman on maternity leave. As she described him as the best father, the best brother, the best husband, the best son, all the others fought back their tears of agreement.Her deeply moving description was interrupted with the arrival of “the shagrir,” David Friedman. We stood as the United States Ambassador to Israel came in and spoke real, honest words of comfort in Hebrew to the father, the mother, spoke to them on behalf of the United States in expressing sorrow on their senseless loss. He then sat, speaking both in Hebrew and in English, listening to them speak of their anger at how this could happen. I remarked to Ellis afterwards that I felt we were witnessing an historic moment in Israeli history. Of course there have been fine ambassadors before, sensitive and Hebrew speaking, but this felt like a member of the family – comfortable, real, and warm.Ziv’s brothers are a reflection of Israel. Ziv, married, father of 3, worked as a highly respected accountant. One brother is studying water science, another is studying agriculture, and the third is living in New Hampshire.The English speaking brother was angry – as were the parents. They only check the work permits, there are too many to check their bags, how could this happen, my brother was murdered and it didn’t have to happen. Friedman responded that it happened davka at a place where Arabs and Jews were working together, trying to live together peacefully.I was sitting between Friedman and his assistant and the other 2 brothers. I translated what Friedman said to Hebrew for the brother next to me. He immediately responded, we can live in peace and work with them. This was one crazy man – it doesn’t define everything. Politics are inescapable even amidst pain.We were fortunate also when we arrived in Rosh Ha’ayin to have private time with Kim’s parents, husband and sister. David Friedman had visited them earlier.Kim’s father told us of his family. His father was a survivor from Poland, came to Israel and fought in ’48. Kim’s mother’s family was also from Poland. As they were speaking, the dominant Rosh Ha’ayin population of Yemenite neighbors were coming through wishing them “tnuchamu min haShamayim”.Kim, 28, was working as the assistant to the CEO of the Alon Group. Her parents, interrupting each other, told us of a young woman with no filter on her generosity and kindness. It was without limit. Kim had 2 credits to go on her law degree. She was 9 months pregnant for the end of term and so was just barely short of completing her degree. She took this job in the meantime.She was kind without limit. As a student, she gave a poor destitute woman the only 200 shekels she had in her pocket. She fed the animals in the neighborhood. Her husband said that when she would cook something she would bring some to her parents or this person or that. Her mother asked her what she would do if she won the lottery. She would give it all away – to people who need, build an animal shelter, but did not mention one thing for herself. If Kim was ever in a disagreement, she would give in, nothing was worth any bad feelings.All this time both Kim’s husband and sister offered brief words, choked through tears.Her father told us that he felt he needed to attend the funeral of Ziv, murdered with Kim, as he knew they were friendly and he wanted to be there. He didn’t know anyone there and stood in the crowd. As he listened to the descriptions of Ziv and heard so much of him, he realized that he was a unique and outstanding person, as was Kim. Why were such unusual souls murdered? Why not some simple people? He understood that G-d takes special people, the best, the most wonderful. The “meyuchadim”. They are the ones He takes.He continued, again with his wife adding her comments: But why did the terrorist tie her up? Terrorists have stabbed people or blown them up. But why did he tie her up? What were her last moments like? What did she endure those last moments? Why did he do that?Kim’s mother continued, it’s 20 years of this terrorism. If you try to stop them for 20 years and it doesn’t work, you have to change. Do something else. Why do we have to have one more orphan here, and Ziv’s 3 children be orphaned and just a few weeks ago those children had their father murdered. How many orphans? We need something different and posed to me, “what do you say? What should be done?”The others rescued me: “why are you asking him? He came to be with us and we appreciate that.”I hope that listening to their very moving description of Kim and their seering and painful questions brought them comfort. Because all we can do is listen – words are petty, responses vacuous.