Dei'ah veDibur - Information & 

A Window into the Chareidi World

17 Ellul 5761 - September 5, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Kiddush Hashem Throughout the Ages: Singing a New Song
By Ben-Zion Nemett

Ben-Zion Nemett's daughter Shira, 15 1/2 years old, was seriously wounded in the suicide bombing attack in the Sbarro restaurant on August 9 (20 Av).

Shira was standing in the row behind Family Schijveschuurder. Ben- Zion Nemett wrote a very moving and powerful article about his reaction to this personal and national tragedy. Below is the English translation.

Friday night, Sabbath evening, after evening services, my daughter and I were discussing the weekly Torah portion. What does the commentator Rashi say at the beginning of the portion, I asked? And Shira (Hebrew for "song") answered me, paraphrasing Rashi. I breathed a contented sigh. When people change the phrasing, it is sometimes a sign that they have thought about its meaning.

And why would I burden you with a description of the situation that is so familiar in our circles? It is such a common sight: a father discussing the weekly Torah portion with his son or daughter. Except that everything is new here -- the person, the time and the place.

The place: the Recovery Room, Intensive Care Unit, Shaare Zedek Medical Center, Jerusalem.

The time: 24 hours after the suicide bomber terrorist attack at the Sbarro pizza restaurant in central Jerusalem.

The person is my daughter. Her body is bruised, battered and broken after a long surgery that bestowed upon her the gift of life. A new Shira, a new song.

Sabbath evening, the Recovery Room, Shaare Zedek Medical Center Jerusalem. The color white dominates every corner, so different from the Sabbath white that we are used to. The white of the operating room feels nerve-wracking and threatening compared to the familiar white of the Sabbath with its soothing aura of splendor and sanctity. Until then I had no idea that there was such different significance to the color white depending on where you are.

Shira is alternately asleep and awake. She is drowsy from the many pain-killers she has been given. At one point she wants to ask me something. I lean down to listen. "Daddy, what about that family that was right in front of us in line for pizza? What happened to them?"

I know the family she is talking about. Both parents and three children were killed. In a choked voice I tell her that, G-d willing, the A-mighty will help them. That way, I thought I could protect my child from the bitter news until a later stage. Fortunately, the humming of the machines around her drowns out the emotional storm that encompasses me.

But after several minutes Shira asks again, "Daddy, how is that family?"

I ask her why she is asking specifically about them.

Shira tells me that when the terrible explosion occurred, the children were seriously injured. "They were actually burning. Then one of the small ones cried, `Daddy, Daddy save me!' and the father yelled back to him, `Don't worry. Say with me: Shema Yisroel Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echod.' And suddenly there was quiet Daddy."

She stares at me, "What happened to them?"

And I, the son of my father, almost the sole survivor of his family that was destroyed in the Holocaust, who grew up on the "Shema Yisroel" that Jews said before they were murdered and knew well the spine-chilling stories of the Jews led to slaughter, losing their lives at the end of that phrase, "Hashem Echod!"

And here, now, I hear from my little girl the same story. And the Treblinka death camp and Sbarro join and become one.

Grandfather, granddaughter, and I, the father, in between. A genetic code -- mysterious, painful, deep -- connects the holy victims of the Holocaust and the holy victims of Sbarro, holy victims whose only sin was being a part of the Jewish people.

Children were murdered then and are being murdered now for being Jews. The father, mother and three children standing in front of Shira were killed for being Jews. Images merge of the child of then and now that wanted his father to save him, and the father who knows where they are going, cries to our Father in heaven the phrase "Shema Yisroel" together with his dying son. "Shema Yisroel" from within the flames. There and here; then and now.

I can hardly choke back the tears, and the heart refuses to believe. And I hear Shira's voice, bringing me back to the present, "Daddy, I will never forget those voices. Never."

And then a difficult thought passes through my head. Maybe I myself forgot? Maybe I fell asleep while on guard? Maybe my father remembers that "in every generation enemies rise up to destroy us," because he was there and felt the Holocaust. But, my friends and I, the generation of Israel's revival, have already sensed the light at the end of the tunnel, the vision of peace and humanity at our doorstep.

And I understand now that the images of flames and smoke, the voices crying out "Shema Yisroel," were heard by two generations in my family: my father's and my daughter's.

Shira, I want you to be able to forget the horrible images. I want you to have peace of mind. But I don't want you to forget the significance of those voices. Because faith from within the flames is refined, pure, unrestrained, firm and burning. But how can I ask you not to forget, when I myself lapsed into forgetfulness and allowed myself to be led astray by illusions of a new Middle East?

A day earlier, when a doctor showed me the pre-operation X- rays, I saw nails, bolts and screws that were part of the bomb and were intended to increase the magnitude of injuries and deaths. Now they were all in your small body. You had become a veritable hardware store. Materials used by people to build and construct are used by savage murderers to wreak havoc and destruction.

Then I recognized one of the screws. I recognized it at once. It was mine. "Hey!" my friends and I used to tease each other. "You've got a screw loose?" I saw the screw in the x-ray and recognized it at once. It was the screw that had become loose in my head.

And I thought that maybe I could prevent the excruciating pain and unbearable suffering from others in my generation. Maybe others could tighten their loose screws in order to better comprehend who we are dealing with. And I thought, in the pantheon of horrors that will be remembered for all time, there is a place reserved for those terrorists and their handlers in the center of Gehennom, together with their Nazi predecessors.

"Shema Yisroel" is heard. Blood flows into blood. And we here in the Land of Israel will continue to raise a generation with a healthy soul and with faith, a generation that can live its life without fear.

A generation that remembers it all.


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