Terror and the Tale of Two Widows

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This is a picture of three women, three mothers, two recently-widowed. The face of the woman on the right became a victim of terror yesterday, when her husband was brutally stabbed by a 19-year-old Arab. He was buried just hours ago. The woman on the left is also a victim of terror. Her husband was murdered a month ago; the terrorist who murdered him was eliminated just hours before yesterday’s attack.

This picture defies words. Two young women whose lives, just a few weeks ago, were as normal as any young mother’s life could be. Both were busy raising their young children. One has six; the other has four. A few weeks ago, they both had husbands who made their family whole, who sang to them and made them smile.

Wives of Terror Victims
Credit: Va’ad HaYishuv Har Bracha

The killer of Rav Raziel Shevach has been brought to eternal justice. The murderer of Rav Itamar Ben-Gal, only 29, is being hunted even at this moment. I could make this post about Abed al-Karim Adel Assi, a young murderer so filled with hatred he would take the life of an unarmed man standing waiting for a ride to a family celebration.

But there is little use writing about Assi; I’m pretty sure he’ll be dead in the coming days. If we are lucky, when the soldiers come to arrest him, he will resist. If we are blessed, he will think himself one of Allah’s martyrs and choose to die. I understand his mother has called for him to turn himself in. I understand that. That’s what mothers are supposed to do – love their sons and raise them to do the right thing, to choose life. It’s just a shame she failed to impart the other half of the equation – that the lives of others have value as well, that you have no right to take another’s life, that death is not honorable, that murder is something that cannot be forgiven.

I know that Rav Shevach’s mother loved him; I know that Rav Ben-Gal’s mother loved him. Unlike Assi’s mother, The Shevach and Ben-Gal families raised their sons to cherish, to nurture, to love, to marry. Both of these young widows are in mourning. I hope Assi’s mother will be in mourning shortly. I know that sounds cruel but there is a limit to how much compassion we owe to the murderer of an unarmed father of four children, the youngest only 6 months old.

So rather than waste your time reading about an all-but-dead terrorist, I would like to write of two women and their husbands. One is named Yael. Her husband was murdered just a month ago. What widow, what mother with six young, recently orphaned children could find the time to think of anything but the suddenly-changed life she now leads? There are people who have experienced such tragedy in their lives that I wonder how they manage to breathe, how they find the strength to rise out of bed, say even a few words. Sometimes, I wonder how they have the courage to open their mouths, to speak, without hesitation, to share a smile. Some days, I wonder how they even manage to put one foot in front of the other. What strength they have, though they would be the first to deny that they are doing anything extraordinary.

Yael Shevach’s world crashed just a month ago when she learned her husband would never return. By all accounts, her husband was such a special person. He sang and danced with his children; he lived his life to the fullest, learned and did so much to enrich the lives of others. I cannot comprehend the pain that Yael Shevach awakens to each morning. And yet yesterday, she went to Miriam Ben-Gal because she knows that there are very few people in the world who could possibly understand what Miriam is feeling at this moment more than she does. She went there, it would seem, to hold Miriam’s hand; to silently tell Miriam that she too will find the strength to breathe, to walk, and one day to smile.

Yael and Miriam will raise their children in love, because that is what we do. That is what their husbands would want them to do. They will raise them with neighbors who will surround them with love, help them with simple things like meals, cleaning, whatever it takes. Whole communities will draw on the strength of these women, even as the women would tell you that it is they who are taking strength from the love that surrounds them in these difficult hours. That is what my country does, we surround the victims of terror. From all over Israel, in the next few days, people will come to Miriam’s home. For those that met Itamar, they will come with stories, pictures. Others will just come to say how sorry they are.

Love will surround these women, these families. This is a love that the terrorist, Abed al-Karim Adel Assi, will never know. Never, because he grew up in a society that has never understood the simplest of truths…that love is what you should crave, not death. The sad smiles on the faces of these women, and the laughing and smiling pictures of their families before these horrible tragedies, show all that is right about Israel…and all that is wrong in the villages and homes of those like Abed al-Karim Adel Assi.

Update

Both murderers have been brought to eternal justice and now face the Supreme Judge. At last report, there were not any virgins in the High Court and the defendants are expecting a very hot welcome when they reach their final destinations.

 

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