Two nights ago I sat in a restaurant with my family. The singing from the table behind us signified that it was not just my birthday.
Grandparents were sitting at the center of a long table. The grandmother holding a newborn baby, her husband next to her, surrounded by their five married children, each with two kids. They were celebrating the grandmother’s birthday and that of the newest baby. Both had been born on the same day.
A family, gathered in joy.
Just like the Salomon family in Halamish (Neve Tzuf). A family gathered in joy, they had a double reason to celebrate. It was the eve of the Sabbath and they had invited their friends to come later that evening for a celebration to mark the birth of a grandson.
Daughter in law Michal didn’t understand why the man burst into the Salomon home. When he shouted in Arabic, raising a knife, she realized what was happening. She grabbed her three children and raced with them up the stairs, passing right behind the terrorist.
Michal shut herself and the children in the room where her two smaller children were sleeping. She couldn’t find the key to lock the door so she braced it shut with her own body. She instructed the children to remain quiet while she struggled not to hear the voice of her mother in law shouting her husband’s name.
It was a neighbor, an IDF soldier, who ended the terror attack with a precision shot through the kitchen window. Seeing the terrorist drop to the ground, he ran inside and bound the wounds of the grandmother, enabling her to be taken to the hospital and saved.
It was too late for grandfather Yosef Salomon, his daughter Haya and son Elad (Michal’s husband).
The nightmare doesn’t end when the attack ends.
3 dead. So many sum up a terror attack with statistics, as if discussing the final score of a baseball game. Reuters (and numerous additional media channels that repeated their wording) went so far as to equate the three murdered Jews to the 3 Arabs who were killed rioting and attacking police.
The Salomon family members were not killed in “clashes”, they were butchered sitting down to dinner. Reuters did not find it necessary to point out that the additional three people mentioned were Arabs, violently rioting, attacking police. One died when the Molotov cocktail he was going to throw exploded on him but to Reuters, this is equal to the grandfather who wanted to celebrate the birth of a new grandson.
Statistics. Who bothers to see the people behind the numbers?
Who bothers to think about a grandmother who had to bury her husband and two children before she could even heal from her wounds?
Who bothers to think of a wife and mother of a newborn having to learn to live without her husband? How many times will her children ask “Where’s daddy? I want daddy!” before they stop asking? Who considers the haunting doubt, the guilt, the grief, that Michal couldn’t warn her husband in time. Maybe, if he had turned in time, realized even a split second earlier, he could have been saved too.
How many people consider how hard it is to live with maybes?
How many consider the witnesses to the attack? The survivors who were not physically hurt but saw and will never be able to forget?
Or the people who cleaned up afterwards? Each of them volunteers, willing to do this difficult task because they believe in the sanctity of life.
According to Jewish belief, life is sacred, thus when a person dies their remains must be buried with dignity and respect. When a person is violently murdered, it is the pieces of their body, including every drop of blood that must be cleaned up and brought to the best burial possible.
Will they ever forget what their hands touched? How many other scenes like this have they seen before? How many more will there be?
Life’s blood splashed across the floor, splattered on the refrigerator, the cabinets… Could you walk across these floors, use this kitchen, without seeing in your mind’s eye the blood that was spilled here?
Could you go on living in the home where the sanctity of your family had been violated?
If you lived in Halamish, what would you think of every time you walked past the Salomon home?
When the media considers a family butchered in their home equal to terrorists and bullies rioting violently, it is no surprise that others, even good, kind, decent people, have difficulty seeing beyond the statistics.
When Renana Meir opened the newspaper, she thought she was looking at images of her mother’s blood pooled on the floor of their home. It took her a few moments to realize that the images she was seeing were not of the attack that stole her mother from her but a new attack that ripped apart a different family.
Hallel’s mother said she felt her daughter was murdered all over again.
The Fogel family were thrown back to the attack (in 2011) where terrorists massacred mother, father and three of their six children.
One of the survivors of the attack on the Shabo family (2002) said the images of his dead brothers next to him came washing back over him: “There are some things you never forget.”
No. The nightmare doesn’t end when the terror attack ends.
But it’s much easier not to think about what happens after the attack.