Friday, August 12, 2016

How hard memories are turned into constructive deeds

At last year's Ramot bazaar
This past week included the fifteenth anniversary of the date of the murderous Hamas attack on the Jerusalem Sbarro pizzeria which took the lives of fifteen innocent people. One of them was that of Malki Roth, in memory of whose life the Malki Foundation does its work.

It's hardly a secret that what we do with tragedy, with failure and set-back is an indicator of where our lives are heading. That's as true of individuals as it is of societies. (There's a startling example of how that works in a major essay in last week's edition of the influential British news weekly, The Economist: "Arab youth: Look forward in anger".)

As we wrote here a year ago ["Giving as remembering: Lessons from teenagers'] the graduating group at the youth organization, EZRA, where Malki was a young leader organizes an annual fun fair and bazaar for the general public, and especially - of course - for children of all ages. Now about to be held for the fourteenth consecutive year, it runs from mid afternoon until late at night in a small and pleasant public park just near where Malki lived, and where her family still lives, on Jerusalem’s north side. That Jerusalem park happens to abut the building that serves as the local clubhouse for EZRA. A second version takes place in Maale Adumim, a desert community on Jerusalem's eastern margin where Malki served as a group leader in the last year of her short life.

Here's how, a year ago, we described what happened:
On that fateful night of August 9, 2001, in the hours after the massive explosion in the center of Jerusalem, the same building was filled with hundreds of youngsters from the community. They had spontaneously arranged a prayer vigil while a search went on for the two girls - for Malki and for her friend Michal Raziel. The girls had been spending a summer vacation day together right up until contact with them was lost when the bomb went off. Almost all the youngsters in that crowd knew one or both of the girls personally. 
By the mid-afternoon hours of that hot Thursday in August 2001, the families of the two girls knew that Malki and Michal had been inside the Sbarro pizzeria when the terrorists attacked at two o'clock. In the chaos, what had happened to them was not immediately known and remained a mystery for some time. Michal's death became public knowledge by early evening. For the Roths, it was not until 2 o'clock the following morning before they learned the fate of their daughter and sister. 
In the very same spot, that same park, on a warm September 2001 night exactly a month after the Sbarro massacre, a public memorial event was arranged by the community. This was an azkara (a memorial event) to allow friends, neighbours, families in the surrounding community to come together and express their grief, collectively and privately, at the loss of two such beautiful, innocent, good lives. 
The agony of that evening remains etched in many memories because of what else had been happening during the afternoon and evening leading up to it. This was the night of September 11, 2001. Today we call it 9/11.
The evening concert at the 2015 Ramot charity bazaar
The EZRA bazaars and fun days [photos of the 2004 and 2007 bazaars] are busy, well-run events organized by youngsters of 16 or 17 with the proceeds going to charity:
  • In Jerusalem, on Monday August 15, 2016 at the Ramot EZRA branch and the adjoining amphitheatre and community park located at the corner of Harry Truman and Abba Hillel Silver Streets. Egged bus routes 31, 37 and 71 stop nearby. The fun begins at 4:00 pm, and goes on until 10:00 pm. Along the way there are performances by Yudele Moodele at 5:30 pm, Ilai Avidani at 7:00 pm and Uri Shaviv and his band at 8:30 pm. Further details at 052-665-5761.
  • In Maale Adumim on Sunday August 28, 2016 starting at 4:30 pm. Further details here.
Why do Israeli children who have lost parents, siblings, friends to acts of overt hatred, respond by doing acts of charity and declarations of brotherly and sisterly love? Arnold Roth, Malki's father and honorary chair of the Malki Foundation, offered an opinion in a 2014 essay ["5-Aug-14: Summer time and the livin' is not so easy"].

Frimet Roth, Malki's mother, shared some of her feelings this past week in a widely-read essay at her personal blog: "Fifteen years on, there's no relief from the grief".

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