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It was a typical Tuesday morning in Jerusalem’s Har Nof neighborhood. Inside the Kehillas Bnei Torah shul, a small group of men swayed in quiet devotion. A sudden shout, and the scene transmogrified into an image out of Gehinnom, as two terrorists violated the sanctity of the shul and unleashed a torrent of murderous hatred. When it was finally over, four of the community’s most pristine souls had been cut down, 24 children were left orphaned, and the once-calm neighborhood struggled with a new reality.
When you hear about the raging passions of the Middle East conflict, you don’t envision Har Nof. Har Nof is the neighborhood where seminary girls meet for frozen yogurt, where minivans fill the neat parking lots, where every Israeli storekeeper knows English. It’s the neighborhood where Rav Ovadiah’s followers harmoniously coexist with a mix of yeshivos and seminaries, several chassidish communities, and a strong dati-leumi community down at the bottom.
If you only had one month, one week, or one day left to live, what would you do differently? For the four kedoshim of the Har Nof massacre, the answer would likely be “nothing.” These men lived their ideals — using their every moment on earth to achieve greater heights of Torah, avodah, and chesed. Four portraits.
After last Tuesday’s massacre, a neighborhood in mourning searched for meaning amid scenes of carnage and brutality. Life is forever altered — but life goes on — and as the days go by, residents draw strength from bereaved heroes who just a few days earlier were ordinary neighbors.
How to tell a family that their husband and father was butchered by terrorists in the middle of davening? How to internally recharge after working for hours on the scene of a grisly terror attack? While these dedicated volunteers will do whatever it takes to ensure the honor of the dead, even the veterans admit that it never gets easier.
Soon after Rav Boruch Ber Leibowitz was buried in 1939, the Jewish community of Vilna was destroyed and his unmarked grave forgotten. But 70 years later, a little girl’s sudden deformity led to a series of seemingly unrelated events that resulted in the discovery of his resting place. This week, on Rav Boruch Ber’s 75th yahrtzeit, the Torah world will finally gather to honor his memory.