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Back Through Death’s Doors

Sarah Pardes

The last thing he remembers is looking the murderer in the eye before the axe came down on his head, and when the medics evacuated him, they assumed he’d be on the casualty list within a few hours at most. But Har Nof massacre victim Rabbi Eitan Mualmi — who’s been in our prayers as Eitan ben Sarah — has defied all medical predictions and is standing up again. On his first visit back to the shul where it happened, he finally faced the nightmare head-on.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Bloodstained talleisim lay alongside open siddurim. Tefillin were strewn on the ground next to overturned shtenders and benches. Outside the beis medrash and in the middle of the room lay scattered the bodies of four G-d-fearing Jews — Rav Moshe Twersky, Rav Kalman Levine, Rabbis Aryeh Kupinsky and Avraham Goldberg Hy”d — holy martyrs who had been murdered during their early morning avodah. That’s how the morning Shacharis service ended at Kehillas Bnei Torah in Har Nof six months ago on Tuesday, the 25th of Cheshvan. The horrendous bloodbath will forever be seared into the collective heart of this generally tranquil Jerusalem neighborhood, and yet, that blood-soaked Tuesday was also a day of tremendous Heavenly mercy for all those who were saved from its horrors: those in the shul who were miraculously spared from the murderers’ axes, as well as those who were critically injured yet ultimately wound up on the road to recovery. Rabbi Eitan Mualmi (Eitan ben Sarah), 49, belongs to the second category. He is a resident of Har Nof, father of nine and a grandfather of eight, and a melamed at Talmud Torah Ohr Chodosh in Har Nof. When Reb Eitan was brought to the hospital, the emergency medical staff who received him was certain that his name would be added to the list of fatalities within hours. Askanim and family support chesed organizations, as well, were solemnly waiting for word of his death. The people who took him out of the shul would later relate that his return to life was nothing short of a miracle.  Reb Eitan suffered an extended period of pain and struggle, enduring operations and protracted hospital stays that were accompanied by open miracles and endless Heavenly kindness. This week, five and a half months after the massacre, he returned for the first time to Kehillas Bnei Torah. He hasn’t fully recovered and is still in need of extensive rehabilitation and copious amounts of Divine mercy. But he’s walking on both feet, and his heart is filled with gratitude for everything — both his extensive suffering and surprising recovery.

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