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July 7, 2016 7:03 am

A Tale of Two Funerals

avatar by Yishai Fleisher

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13-year-old Hallel Yaffa Ariel, who was stabbed to death in her bedroom by a Palestinian terrorist. Photo: Provided.

13-year-old Hallel Yaffa Ariel, who was stabbed to death in her bedroom by a Palestinian terrorist. Photo: Provided.

In the last two weeks, I had the painful privilege of attending two major funerals.

The first was that of Irving Moskowitz, the wealthy American doctor who, along with his wife, Cherna, became the patron of building in eastern Jerusalem, Hebron, Acre and Ariel, and was involved in countless projects, reclamations, charities and educational institutions. By one unofficial estimation, Moskowitz gave half a billion dollars to these causes — but it might be much more. He was interred on the Mount of Olives facing the Temple Mount, close to the graves of Israel’s first Chief Rabbi Kook, and first IDF Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren, in the heart of eastern Jerusalem. His funeral did not have the atmosphere of a tragedy. It was, rather, a kind of celebration of his mission and success.

Less than two weeks later, I was standing at the funeral of Hallel Yaffa Ariel, a lively 13-year-old girl. Hallel was murdered by a 19-year-old jihadist from the Arab village of Bani Naim. He scaled a wall and jumped through a window of the Ariel family home, set within the vineyards of Kiryat Arba. The murderer found little Hallel sleeping in her bed, defenseless, stabbed her multiple times, and then ran looking for a next victim until a member of the local Rapid Response Team ended his life with a bullet. Hallel was buried in the ancient cemetery of Hebron, where many other Jewish victims of jihadist terror rest along with Jewish luminaries, not far from the Cave of Machpela, the Tomb of the founding patriarchs and matriarchs of the Jewish people. Unlike the Moskowitz funeral, this one was not a celebration of a life well lived, but rather the epitome of tragedy, loss and bitter questions.

The contrast between the two funerals was stark. Irving Moskowitz lived his life fully. He was a loving family man and a rags-to-riches success (his wife, Cherna, told us that at their wedding, the bottom two layers of the cake were faux; only the top tier was real, because that’s all they could afford). Moskowitz  dedicated his life and wealth to increasing Jewish presence and asserting Jewish rights in the Land of Israel. His funeral was attended by a Who’s Who of activists, ministers and mayors who came to honor the successes and contributions of a man who kept pushing the Zionist revolution into the heartland of Israel that was liberated in the Six Day War.

Hallel Yaffa’s contributions were, on the other hand, more modest. She was the oldest girl in the broader family, a natural leader to her siblings and many cousins, and a dance performer — her dance teacher’s eulogy at the funeral was one of the most painful testimonies to her young life. Yet at her funeral, some of the very same activists, ministers and VIPs who had been present at the Moskowitz funeral were in attendance. This time, they came not to celebrate a life well lived, but to commiserate with a salt-of-the-earth family, a victim of a despicable crime perpetrated by people dedicated to eradicating us from our country. And many more came to say goodbye to little Hallel, whose body and potential were destroyed forever. No dancing, no children, no life.

At the Moskowitz shiva, modern-day Zionist heroes streamed in. As I sat next to Cherna, I translated for Yigal Cohen-Orgad, the chancellor of Ariel University who talked about how Moskowitz saved the budding college from going into bankruptcy with a $50,000 donation to cover debt. Then I translated for an Arab man who works with reclamation organizations in Jerusalem. He blessed Cherna with a long life and urged her to continue with strength, saying that though he has been the target of many assassination attempts, he believes his efforts on behalf of Israel protected him. He promised Cherna that he would continue his work, and that his sons after him would, as well, “all the way until the Temple is built in Jerusalem.” Finally, I translated for Zambish, the famous CEO of Amana (the housing organization of Judea and Samaria), who told the story of how Moskowitz gave him money for the first mobile homes for new immigrants from Russia.

Zambish recalled that it took only 10 minutes to convince Moskowitz to do this, and that they reconvened to phone the mobile homes’ factory owner to close the deal that very same evening. Through the stories, we learned that Moskowitz was a quick decision-maker, that he was very hands-on with the legal minutiae, that he saw clearly the importance of acquiring the land of Israel. Moskowitz did not wait for the government to lead. Indeed, I got the impression that he had formed a shadow government of activists around him, who ran ahead, created facts on the ground, and then allowed the government to catch up.

At Hallel Yaffa’s shiva, there was frustration and pain. Important politicians — the prime minister, defense minister, and the president — all came into the family home, but somehow, their proclamations rang hollow and shallow. The greatest questions asked in today’s Israel were right on the surface, but the politicians did not have clear answers to them. What is the nature of this jihadist Jew-hatred and how do we stop it? Do Jews have a right to live in this (part of the) land, and if yes, is it a smart thing to do? What is the Palestinian Authority and how is it that our country awaits it at the peace table while it is the source of the greatest incitement against us?

The shiva was dominated by the haunting sounds of Rena, the vocal, loving mother, grasping a poster-size photo of her child, Hallel, whose sweetness came right through. Rena kept asking aloud about the Palestinian mother who lauded her son for committing the heinous murder. “I raised my daughter to love, and you raised your son to hate – why?” She also said: “The minute I get up from mourning, I will already have to go console others,” referring to Rabbi Michael (Miki) Mark, the father-of-ten who was murdered in a shooting attack on Friday — the day after Hallel was killed — not far away. And the question on everyone’s mind was: When will this terror stop, and will the government, which is in charge of Israel’s security, act?

But the politicians had seemed more culpable than capable. The government response to the murders seemed tepid at best: restricting Arab work permits for a limited time, and announcing the approval of 42 housing units in Kiryat Araba, which were already approved once before. Local Arab jihadists recently murdered Abraham Chasno, two members of the Litman family, Gennady Kaufman, and now Hallel Yaffa and Rabbi Mark — but there was no sense of rage or urgency in the government’s actions in the Hebron region. At the shiva house, the prime minister and president were received warmly and respectfully, but not with confidence that they will bring real change in response to these crimes and these times.

Yet, overtly, what was common to both funerals and shiva houses was an abiding faith in the rights of the Jewish people to live in freedom and security anywhere in this great, but tiny land. Irving Moskowitz and Hallel Yaffa Ariel both exemplified the struggle to actualize Jewish life in the Jewish ancestral homeland. Both Irving Moskowitz and Hallel Yaffa Ariel stood for Jewish courage that will not succumb to bullying from outside forces, or yield to sloth from within.

May their memory be a blessing and an inspiration to all of us.

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  • Luis

    IT IS TIME TO STOP DISCUSSING THE MOHAMMEDAN PROBLEM IN THE POLITICAL TERMS USED UNTIL NOW. The mohammedan ideology is a perversion–no, it is not a perversion of any existing, legitimate philosophy; rather it is a sickness, and really almost unbelievable if its effects were not witnessed every day. The mohammedan ideology is a sickness which must, and can, be eradicated very, very soon. Israel is a very direct, and immediate, victim of this vicious ideology, but the whole world will suffer if we do not dedicate ourselves to the eradication of this sick mohammedan ideology.

  • Ben Weiss

    Ths gut wrenching sadness imposed upon us by the warped hatred of the Palestinians should not be allowed to continue without dire consequences for the supporters of such violent acts against innocent people.
    Israel is a land of Law and Order. We see the Law, but where is the Order?
    There should be covert operations if not overt operations against Abbas, his family, and against all upper officials who support such Jihadist murder. Perhaps then they would stop promoting the knife stabbings and the other insane attacks on innocent people.

  • Nanette Rayman

    Of Blessed Memory – Hallel Yaffa Ariel

    Is anyone out there?
    Is there anyone who will flow out of the darkening waters?

    Dream against narrative—here is a people of milk, earth, Torah
    and honey. I want to speak about beauty. I will not be silenced.

    Eretz Y’Israel—
    Her face a cloud of adagio grace,
    Her eyes orchids as gorgeous as ballerinas
    But now oh! so brisé, broken,
    her holiday exhaled, her life—our light—ends.

    America and Eretz Y’Israel—
    Is there a courtyard, café, railway station a home, a girl
    can go and still keep her head, her delicate body; I doubt it,
    and if you don’t doubt it, your sense has been strangled
    by political correctness, a medicine worse than any disease.

    Beauty overrules jihad and beauty will journey along
    provoked into summer because resistance begins in the heart.
    Let us then take the boulevard again and call it final
    leading to our rise, our shore, our Dead

    Sea, our very own kingdom of tribes and beauty.
    Hallel, my beauty, my orchid, my ballerina entrelacé
    You live where only we are allowed entry.

    From America to Eretz Y’Israel—
    And here, in japonica-laced mountains, American Jews are no longer able to capture the blush from the sun—we are warriors ready and the remembrance of too many ovens and eyes—We will place ourselves at the window. We will follow the moon.

    And the boundless question: who do you think you are,
    World, after all, we were first. Do you hear the far-away
    bootstraps being pulled up? The push off leg naturally
    ends in arabesque.

    Baruch Dayan HaEmet.

    ** On June 30, 2016, a nineteen-year-old Palestinian boy stabbed Hallel Yaffa Ariel, a thirteen-year-old Jewish girl to death in her bed, in Kiryat Arba, Israel. He was on his way to his next victim when the Rapid Response Team shot him dead.

  • Thank you for your beautiful exposition that gave me a taste of being there. Eicha – why indeed. In London this week, the Arabs had their yearly march for their “day of hate.” Instead of wondering – why do they hate us – let us instead emulate Irving Moskowitz who exemplified loving his fellow Jew. Let us work on not hating each other – for that is our job and in our control – especially as we begin to approach the Three Weeks.

  • The nature of jihadist Jew-hatred is evil to the core. Stopping Jew-hatred would take uncommon courage where a credible use of force is used against jihadists. Yes, Jews have the right to live in Hevron, and it’s the brave thing to do. The PLO terrorist entity was given authority it never deserved, and it has no intention to sit at the peace table. PLO-inspired incitement and terror will continue until the PLO is discontinued.