Views on the News

A Palestinian Named Jude

March 18, 2011 4:01 PM

Imagine the horror of walking into a home where five brutal murders just took place; where a couple and their three children were butchered while some of their family members slept not ten feet away.

Imagine wading through baby bottles and children’s toys spattered with drying blood, and stumbling over the holy book held lovingly not long before by a murdered and peace-loving Sabbath observer.

Imagine staring at the newborn baby’s stretchy soaked not in live sweat but in dead blood, or at the orphaned slipper of a twelve year old boy cut-up and cut down while innocently immersed in a good read whose end was viciously and prematurely shortened.

Imagine the anger and hate for the killer that might fill and overwhelm you as you run out of that house of horrors and into the literal and figurative darkness of night.

And then imagine what you might do to the enemy if he fell into your hands…

Imagine that you were roused from your spell of gloom by the shrill cries and screeches of an agitated ambulance late to work...And upon glancing into the travelling hospital you saw one of them, a woman of the same ethnicity and look as the Palestinian murderer you have come to know from your nightmares, and whom the murdered came to know in theirs.

Imagine looking into her black and frightened eyes and into those of her half-born baby girl choking on the umbilical cord wrapped as tightly around her neck as were the sweaty cold hands of a terrorist around the neck of an Israeli woman, wife, daughter, sister, teacher and mother just terrifying moments before her throat was slit.

And allow yourself to think freely just this once, without being inhibited by the shackles of political correctness. Would you think what I’m thinking? That this young innocent infant might someday in the not-so-distant future idolize - or worse imitate - her fellow national fanatic who proudly and exuberantly took the life of other young innocent infants? Is it so farfetched to imagine this dark featured newborn growing up to follow in the be-dammed elusive footsteps of the murderer who slipped into obscurity after Allah Akbaring to death some of my people and with them a part of me left unburied and hovering in a forever-changed bloodstained home in Itamar?

And as my imagination hobbles off, emotionally-drained and knocked out of wind, it gets shot with adrenalin as a frightening thought strikes me with lightning force: Is it impossible that the Itamar killer is the same man, or beast, that brought this child into being? Perhaps even, and I’ll admit this is a radical thought, born, in my defense, out of inconsolable grief coupled with disbelieving shock at the western-world’s apathy, the child’s father wasn’t able to make it to his sons birth because he was busy tending to the deaths of other children …?

Finally, indulge me one last imagining: imagine that this was not imagined but real - what would you do in such a situation: step in to save the child or move on and leave mother and baby to fate?

Here’s to what one Israeli did.

The following is an excerpt from a news report published on Ynet1:

“IDF forces and local paramedics helped save the life of a Palestinian woman and her newly born infant Wednesday, at the settlement where Fogel relatives are sitting Shiva for the five Israelis brutally murdered last week.

Just as IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz arrived in Neve Tzuf to offer his condolences, a Palestinian cab raced towards the community's entrance. In it, soldiers and paramedics discovered a Palestinian woman in her 20s in advanced stages of labor and facing a life-threatening situation: The umbilical cord was wrapped around the young baby girl's neck, endangering both her and her mother.

The quick action of settler paramedics and IDF troops deployed in the area saved the mother's and baby's life, prompting great excitement and emotions at the site where residents are still mourning the brutal death of five local family members.

Corporal Haim Levin, 19, an IDF paramedic, was the first medical team member at the scene and recounted the dramatic situation he faced.

"When I arrived, I saw a woman covered by a blanket in a yellow Palestinian van. I moved closer and saw the baby's head and upper body," he told Ynet. "The umbilical cord was around the baby's neck; the baby was grey and didn't move."

"I first removed the cord from the neck and at the same time asked paramedics to prepare the baby resuscitation kit. I pinched her to see if she's responding, and she started to cry," he said. Paramedics also treated the mother, who was in good condition at that point, Levin said.

Meanwhile, ambulance driver Orly Shlomo raced to the scene. "We joined the military paramedic and helped him cut off the umbilical cord…without the medical treatment, the fetus and woman faced genuine life danger," she said.

"It was touching, but I couldn't help but think that a few meters from there, people were sitting Shiva for another baby, who was murdered," she said. "I was touched to see the face of the new baby, but I also thought about the face of the murdered baby."

The paramedic noted that on the day of the Fogel massacre, settlers saw fireworks and celebrations in nearby Palestinian communities, but added that the local medical team is committed to assisting anyone in need.

"They thanked us and told us they named the girl Jude," Corporal Levin said. “It was an amazing feeling, to hold the girl that was just born in my arms, and to know that in this complex place we did something good."

This story displays the extraordinary inability of the Jewish-Israeli nation to be passive when life – any life – is at risk of being lost.

To me it is the ultimate testament of our people’s celebration of life, even the life of those who might possibly subscribe to the ghastly motto, “We desire death like you desire life.”

Samuel the Prophet put it well when he said: “And who is like your nation Israel, one people on earth…?2

Come to think of it Jude is an appropriate name.

From yellow Star of David to a yellow Palestinian van; from hunted to rescuer.

Very appropriate, indeed.


From an article dated 3/17/2011


Samuel 2, 7:23

Songs Across the Border

Two radically different sounds

March 16, 2011 2:40 PM
Yoav Fogel
Yoav Fogel

I woke up last night around 3:30. Turned down the heat a few degrees, got a drink, checked the time.

Tried to get settled. But sleep eluded me. My thoughts turned to a twelve-year old girl in Israel, and what she found in the middle of the night.

True, one never knows what life will bring, but here in Cincinnati, I can go to sleep pretty darn sure that I will not wake up and find my children with their throats slit, lying in pools of their blood, G‑d forbid.

Tamar Fogel came home this Friday night from a Shabbat youth gathering to find her mother and father, her eleven and four year-old brothers Yoav and Eldad, and her darling baby sister Hadas, all of four months, brutally murdered. On the Shabbat, after dinner.

Their crime? These young innocents, and their parents, teachers of youth? They love the Land of Israel and take it seriously enough, to actually walk the talk, to try to carve out lives upon it.

True, the media usually paints people like them as interlopers. (As if even that would make their cold-blooded barbaric murder justifiable.)

When I looked at the victims’ pictures, I didn’t see foaming mouths, anger and hatred, or horns. I saw a happy family; heartbreakingly happy.

This summer, my son married a lovely girl from Kedumim, a neighborhood near the Fogel’s home in Itamar. We spent Shabbat there. I did not hear incitement, anger, radicalism. I saw simple family homes. I saw hard working, normal families working in technology, education, social work, therapies, positive people living good lives. I heard melodious prayers. My new in-laws are a computer programmer and occupational therapist. My daughter in-law is studying biology and doing research at Weitzman Institute, home of many innovative medical breakthroughs that benefit all of humanity.

While at the synagogue, I closed my eyes and imagined myself in Cincinnati. They sang the same songs, for blessing, for peace.


Last time I was in Israel was in 2003, in the height of the second intifada. Buses were being blown up with impunity. A visit to a café could be deadly. In the middle of this terror, I went to the Klezmer festival in the Galilean town of Safed. Under a full moon, in the middle of the night, so high in the mountains one could almost touch the stars, thousands of Jews of every persuasion sang passionately together. They did not sing for blood or revenge. Voices rose together to sing for peace and for unity, with a wholesome and innocent sweetness that took my breath away.

A short drive away, however, children are being taught different songs. They are being raised on a steady diet of hatred, incitement and blood-lust. On state-sponsored TV, in their textbooks, in every form of media. Mickey and Minnie Mouse sing about rivers of Jewish blood. Suicide bombers, brutal sadistic murderers of innocents such as the Fogels, have plazas named after them, and become national heroes.

This is not pleasant to talk about. It is not politically correct to dwell upon. But words are very powerful. As the Torah teaches, “Life and death is in the power of the tongue.”

The murderous incitement has been going on for many years and is largely ignored or pooh-poohed by the West. Shocking videos of little children dressed as future suicide bombers, singing cute children’s songs about rifles and bombs, can be found on the site of the Palestinian Media Watch. After a lifetime of this “education,” from children’s ditties on through adult incitement such as Thursday’s call by a Palestinian official calling for unity in his own ranks, so they can together “turn all weapons towards the main enemy, Israel,” a dutiful boy or girl grows up to fulfill his society’s highest calling. The horrific, unfathomable result now calls out to us from fresh graves.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed this issue in the aftermath of Friday night’s barbaric blood bath.

There can be no peace while generations are raised in a culture saturated with virulent hatred, every bit as virulent and deadly as Nazism. We are every bit as guilty as those who turned a blind eye and tried to appease Hitler, if we ignore this harsh reality. With all the Holocaust education that prevails, we must learn not only to be tolerant, but to take an uncompromising stand against all those who teach and revel in tolerance’s polar opposite.

And, while we must try to fight evil talk and incitement, perhaps an even more powerful weapon lies in our own… children’s songs. Yes, the song of children.

Faced with critical situations of impending danger, the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory, often called for Jewish children to gather and pray, recite verses from the Torah and give charity together. Not just for educational and formative value. But because the Torah of innocent children is our people’s real time, timeless, most powerful weapon.

In fact, concerning the story of the holiday of Purim the midrash relates that the Jewish people were saved due to the 22,000 children Mordechai gathered to pray to G‑d for salvation.

Three young children have lost their ability to sing and pray and learn Torah in this world. We need to fill that gaping void.

Let’s make sure our children’s mouths and minds and hearts are filled with holy, sweet and good songs, and let their purity heal and protect us.

My Neighbors Were Murdered . . .

The Fogels of Itamar

March 13, 2011

We were nearing the end of our Shabbat meal this past Friday night. Filled with the warmth of the pleasant family atmosphere, our younger children are preparing for bed. Binah, who recently became bat mitzvah, asks for permission to go to her friend’s house for a Shabbat gathering.

“Yes, sweetheart, you can go,” I say. “Just make sure you’re back by 10:15.”

My murdered neighbors.
My murdered neighbors.

Unusually for me, I am too tired to wait for Binah and her older brother, who went to a friend’s house for the entire Shabbat meal, to return home. After clearing the table, I retire to my room and sink into a deep sleep.

At 2 AM, my husband jumps out of bed. My oldest daughter is calling him. Soldiers are at the door. “Is everything O.K.?” I call out sleepily. At 2 AM, my husband jumps out of bed. My oldest daughter is calling him. Soldiers are at the door.

“Is everything O.K.?” I call out sleepily.

My husband checks on all the children; they’re all safely at home. He reports back to the soldiers.

“What’s going on?” I ask.

“Some kind of security incident,” he replies. “They’re checking up on all the families to make sure that everything is okay. I think we’d better say Psalms.”

I get up and join my husband in prayer, concentrating on the positive verses and mentally blocking out all the verses that seem to insinuate evil tidings. “Think good and it will be good,” I tell myself.

From time to time I look out of my bedroom window. To the side, I can see military vehicles driving up in the direction of the newly built houses at the other side of the village—an unusual sight on Shabbat for the religious community of Itamar. This is obviously a case when profaning the sanctity of Shabbat is permitted: lives are clearly in danger . . .

From time to time I look out of my bedroom window. I can see military vehicles driving up in the direction of the newly built houses at the other side of the village—an unusual sight on Shabbat Military flares are exploding in the dark night sky above, illuminating the hills around us, a sure sign that the army is searching for somebody or something ominous out there. I continue saying Psalms, trying to fathom from the familiar, calming words whether all is good, or not; but I am no prophetess.

I see a group of soldiers walk across the synagogue courtyard just beneath my window, wearing helmets and bullet-proof vests, guns at their sides.

The flow of vehicles continues. Military jeeps and ambulances are now rolling out of the village. I notice civilians walking quickly to the village offices, which are also in view from my window. During times of danger the offices serve as headquarters for the emergency task force which collects and relays information to us citizens.

Seeing the civilians walking freely outside, I realize that the incident has come to its end. Maybe now we can learn what happened. I am still optimistic.

My husband spots a friend and walks down to greet him. Through the window I watch them embrace in a bear hug. I try to discern from their motions whether all is well. An hour has passed since we awoke.

Exhausted, I crawl back into bed, waiting for my husband’s return with news.

Itamar, Israel
Itamar, Israel

At long last he comes in but stands there in silence. Something is clearly not right.

“Is anyone injured?”

“Yes,” he replies quietly, and adds no more. I recognize that if he could, he would ensure me that nobody had been killed. I am dumbfounded.

“Terrorists infiltrated the village and broke into one of the houses,” he tells me slowly, and is silent once more. Unfortunately, in the twelve years that we have lived here, Itamar has known too many similar incidents.

“Was anyone saved?” I ask him haltingly, well-versed in the ramifications of such an occurrence, but wishing only to hear good to the same extent that he wishes to refrain from telling me of the evil.

“Three of the six children were saved.” I instantly derive that the parents, too, were not spared.

Not wishing to leave me groping for questions any longer, he adds, “There were five killed altogether, the Fogels . . .”

A chill grips my heart.

It’s Shabbat, I tell myself. Try not to cry on Shabbat.

I try to defeat the tears that threaten to overwhelm me with the power of my mind, by regulating my breathing to the rhythm of a chassidic meditation. I toss and turn in bed. Sleep evades me for the next few hours. Towards dawn I finally fall into a short, fitful sleep, dreaming strange dreams.

I wake up at 7 o’clock to the sound of my children’s voices, hoping ever so briefly that last night was nothing more than a horrific nightmare. Alas.

My husband is already in synagogue, praying in the early service, as he does every day. I must get up to tell the children before they run down, too, and hear the shocking news from other sources.

“The Shabbat gathering I went to last night was at the Fogels!” Binah tells me through her tears, as I sit with her on her bed. “We all left there together and Tamar [Fogel] was with us!”

“That’s why she was saved,” I reply, gently caressing her.

Throughout Shabbat everything centers on the terrorist attack that left Tamar and two of her younger brothers so dreadfully orphaned at such an early age.

“Mrs. Fogel was helping to organize the celebrations for the Talmud Torah [boys’ school]’s twentieth anniversary,” my fourteen-year-old son tells us with tears in his eyes. This year, until baby Hadas was born, Ruth Fogel had been working as the secretary for the school while the regular secretary was on maternity leave.

The funeral. (Meir Alfasi)
The funeral. (Meir Alfasi)

“Last year she was form tutor for the other ninth-grade class,” my now tenth-grade daughter tells us. “She taught us, too . . .”—and, I remember now, Mrs. Fogel would often give my daughter a lift to school.

After the morning prayers each of the children goes off to a specially arranged meeting with their familiar educational figures from the village and professionals in trauma treatment. There they hear the whole story in a way that is supposedly suited to their age (is there really a way to tell young children that their schoolmates and their parents have been brutally murdered in cold blood?!)

Although I hardly knew the family myself, that doesn’t help ease the shock, horror and pain that I share with my children, with my community, with my people. And, I remind myself, G‑d says He shares our pain with us, too: “In all their troubles, He is troubled” (Isaiah 63:9; Talmud, Taanit 16a).

The names of the victims have not yet been released to the general public. After Shabbat is over, I call my seventeen-year-old son in yeshiva high school in JerusalemMercaz Harav. Was it only three years ago that we were at our wits’ end with worry over what was going on there? He was only in ninth grade at the time and, by Divine Providence, was out of the yeshiva when the gunman shot at the boys learning there in the library, injuring one of my son’s roommates and killing one of his classmates along with seven other pupils . . .

I can’t make a call out of my cell phone—the cell network is busy, probably overloaded with callers who have just heard the horrific tidings after Shabbat. I call again from our land line and my son answers immediately.

“Have you heard the news?” I ask him gently.

“Sure. My friends told me something was going on in Itamar and I was just checking it up on the Internet. I was worried about you.” I didn’t ask him why he didn’t call us to find out.

My heart is torn to pieces. Why do my children have to know such suffering at such a tender age?

Unlike my heart, my faith is whole, as is the faith of our community and all those who build their homes in every part of the Land of Israel. We are aware that by living where we live we are protecting Jerusalem from more such vicious attacks; and Tel-Aviv, Haifa, Netanya, Ashdod . . . No matter how much we suffer, our faith grows ever stronger. We channel our pain into positive actions, standing solidly by our resolve never to succumb to the use of violence against the brutality that smacks us in the face again and again. For every Jew murdered, more orchards, more fields, more greenhouses will be planted; another house, another neighborhood, another village will be built, with the compassion and benevolence that we learn from the Torah and will continue to teach to our children.

We share the legacy of faith that the Fogels, Ehud and Ruth and their three innocent children, have left us. They set up their lives together in Netzarim, in Gush Katif, only to be cast out of their home, their lives uprooted, for our enemies to trample upon its ruins in a fantasy of peace that has never been realized. Undaunted, they relocated to the town of Ariel, and then finally to Itamar—just two short years ago. Rabbi Ehud found his place as one of the rabbis in the school here and Ruth continued to build their beautiful family in their new home. Together, they planted an olive orchard and taught their children to love the people of Israel, to love the Torah and to love the Land of Israel. Together they were snatched away from us by the brutal hands of bloodthirsty terrorists.

May the Fogels’ souls be bound in the bundle of life.

It is no longer Shabbat, we are allowed to cry.

What's the latest news? For that information, check your local or national news outlet. In this blog we will discuss the "why?"

Not "why did this event occur?" but "why did I find out about it?" There must be a reason. It must contain a lesson I can use to better myself and my surroundings. Together we will find the lessons...
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