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Angels of Perfect Faith

Avi Friedman

Even the birds stopped chirping, so as not to disturb the silence as the morbid events were about to begin. The bodies of the Fogels from Itamar — Udi (36) and Ruth (35), and their children Yoav (11), Elad (4), and three-month-old Hadas were to about to find their final resting place in Jerusalem. For me, and the 10,000 plus mourners, the pained cries of anguish said more than eulogies — or political promises — ever could.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The silence at Har Hamenuchos is broken only by the occasional bird, but the chirping stops quickly. It is almost as if they understand that today is not a day for song. The same cannot be said for the news helicopter flying overhead, violating the silence waiting for the morbid events to begin. It is an hour before the bodies of Ehud, Ruth, Yoav, Elad and Hadas Fogel are due to be laid to rest.

Waiting for the distressful funeral of five terror victims, killed in cold blood while they slept in their home on Leil Shabbos in Itamar, a small yishuv in the Shomron near Schechem, where Yaakov Avinu and his family settled when they returned from the house of Lavan, I am reminded of the day my own mother died on a sunny day in 1988. I felt repulsed at the sunshine on such a day. Today, there is no such revulsion. The sun pokes in and out of the sky, but for the most part it is cloudy and grey. A funeral is definitely in the air.

Of course one can never say that eulogies are secondary at a funeral, but today the pained cries of anguish say more than verbal remarks ever could. Teenage girls who babysat the Fogel children sit on the floor, hugging each other and crying. The Yeshivas Machon Meir colleagues of Rabbi Yehuda Ben-Yishai, the father of the murdered mother, alternate between ashen-faced disbelief and unabashed sobbing.

It would be an omission to say there is no anger in the air. Several youths hold signs reading: “The government uproots settlements, The Arabs kill children.”

Gershon Mesika, head of the Shomron Regional Council, pointed a finger at Defense Minister Ehud Barak, saying the government’s decision to reduce security forces in the area, was one factor that contributed to the murders. He was also critical of the IDF’s use of rubber bullets against Jewish residents during their evacuation two weeks ago of the Havat Gilad settlement outpost a short drive from Itamar. Finally, Mesika says by preventing Jewish residents in the area from uprooting olive trees that interfered with community security fences in deference to Palestinian quality of life concerns, security forces had to work with an obscured field of vision.

But the anger is overcome mostly by sadness and pain, and by messages of strength. Family members had to assist Ehud Fogel’s mother from the car to her chair to listen to the eulogies. When speeches by public figures give way to the heartbroken hespedim of parents and grandparents of the victims, there is little to say. How does one eulogize a baby? How does one adequately describe the purity and sanctity of a little boy? The image of two-and-a-half year old Yishai Fogel trying to wake his dead father on Friday night sends a shriek through the crowd.


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