Thursday, August 2, 2018

At the grave-side: How things can come full circle

Malki's grave
At the very end of Wednesday's azkara memorial service beside the graves in Jerusalem of best friends Malki Roth הי"ד and Michal Raziel הי"ד, a young man, Itamar Hevroni, asked to be allowed to speak. Itamar and the girls grew up in the same neighborhood. All were members of the same age-group that worked its way up from elementary school to the end of high school through the ranks of the EZRA youth movement which is especially active in Jerusalem. Here, translated by us from the Hebrew original [posted by Itamar on his Facebook page], is what he said.
When I was growing up, I lived near Malki and the Roth family. Neighbors have a special kind of relationship. You pass each other, you say “good morning” or “good evening” and so on. And generally that’s it.

But, actually, it's something a lot larger. You get to see your neighbors at every stage of their lives and of your own. From leaving for work in the mornings, to the nightly walk with the dog when eyes are clouded over with the burdens of the day. 

You notice them leaving for vacation with their heavy bags and coming back home from doing the shopping, laden with groceries and packages. But you also see other things - like children growing up. Moving from school bags to the backpacks for soldiers and for national service. It’s so natural that you don’t even really notice. 

But when you stop and pay attention, the idea of "neighborhood" becomes deeper and far more special.

Living alongside the Roth family, I had the privilege of seeing another aspect – how they cared for their daughter Haya at home.

Many images enter my mind – Arnold carrying Haya up the stairs; Frimet taking Haya in the stroller and making adjustments to help her sit more comfortably. And Malki z"l taking Haya out together with her two other younger sisters Pesi and Rivki. 

Malki, her parents, and five of her six siblings (obscured)
at a family celebration a few weeks before she was murdered
What I saw there was optimism and, even more than that, determination to have Haya continue to live with them at home, to be with the family always. And to provide her with everything that she needed.

Then seventeen years ago, the disaster. 

The devastating terrorist attack at Sbarro that took the lives of fifteen shining souls, among them Michal Raziel and Malki Roth. Two members of my Ezra youth group in Ramot whose lives and deaths I have never forgotten. 

My memories of them are alive and vital in my mind and have resurfaced in my life over the years. But the last thing I imagined was that I would meet with Malki again, in a very personal way and at an important juncture of my life.

Let me explain that.

In the wake of the horrifying tragedy, Frimet and Arnold nobly founded the Malki Foundation - Keren Malki (in Hebrew). It was designed to encourage and support parents of children with special needs who raise their children at home in the family setting. 

I got to somewhat know the organization in its early stages. So how did it all come full circle?

Our daughter, Shaked, is now three and a half. She was born with a rare muscular disease that affects her motor abilities. As part of her treatment, just two weeks ago, I found myself at the lending center of the Yad Sarah Organization in Jerusalem. I came there in order to borrow a child's walker that would make it easier for Shaked to her develop her walking skills. 

Itamar posted this picture of his daughter
on his Facebook page
The walker is defined as ‘special equipment’ so the people there sent me to a warehouse on another floor which operates as a separate unit within Yad Sarah. Only after completing the formalities for borrowing the item did I notice that the unit had a name: the Keren Malki Equipment Lending Unit…  

It’s hard to describe the shiver that went down my spine at that moment. That and the intensity of feeling that engulfed me. I remembered that in another two weeks I would be standing by your graves – Michal and Malki – as I have done every year for the past seventeen years on this date, the 20th day of Av.

I knew right away I would tell this story there.

Now I’m here and I’ve told the story: a story about a meeting. 

Thank you Malki for another meeting in this cycle of life that keeps going round. And for the honor to be at the receiving end of a gift from you. You – whose entire life was about kindness and giving. And here, even after your death, in a Kiddush Hashem (sanctification of the name of G-d) you continue to do chesed (acts of loving-kindness).

Thank you, Frimet and Arnold, for perpetuating Malki’s memory here and everywhere. For continuing Malki’s work in this world.

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