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Op-Ed: They Murdered Sara

As I rode on the bulletproof bus from Jerusalem to Efrat I could not contain my disbelief that only in Israel must a Jew travel in his own country in a bulletproof vehicle. Why are we so foolish to allow this? Why is world opinion more important than human life?
Published: Wednesday, June 06, 2001 11:12 AM


This past week, Arafat's terrorists murdered our dear friend, Sara Blaustein. Norman and Sara Blaustein had spoken many times of their dream to settle in Israel. I recall how happy they were, just several short months ago, when they finally achieved their dream and moved to Efrat to join other family members in Israel. Sara integrated so quickly into the social and religious fabric of Efrat that few realized that she was a new immigrant. Sara loved the many Torah classes and the proximity to her beloved Jerusalem.

Wherever Sara lived, Staten Island, Lawrence or Efrat, her home was always open to everyone. She really knew how to make guests feel welcome. She worked tirelessly for the community and for Israel. As Norm cried in his eulogy, Sara's hand was always open to give charity and to help others.

One of Sara's favorite projects was her weekly trip to Rachel's Tomb. "We must never allow the Arabs to gain control because we are afraid to travel there." Tuesday was her day and she had fulfilled her "Mitzvah" on the day of her murder. Norm and Sara were also very active supporters of the Jerusalem Reclamation Project, the organization working so hard to buy back property in the old city of Jerusalem. Sara had, in the past, served as the executive director of the project.

For both Norm and Sara, this eighteen-year marriage was a second marriage made in heaven and they deeply loved each other. Their daughter, Atara, was the beautiful product of this love. At the funeral, Atara was silent with grief. Who will guide her during her difficult teenage years? How does a thirteen year old absorb the concept that her mother was murdered just because she was Jew in Israel? Atara had written a few words of farewell to her mother but could not force herself to say the words. Her sister, Adina Mark, read Atara's words at the gravesite.

Each day, Norm and Sara had made it a practice to study the writings of the Jewish Prophets together. During their trip to pray at the Wailing Wall, Norman and Sara were discussing what they had recently studied. Just then, a car with several of Arafat's terrorists sped past and sprayed the Blaustein vehicle with murderous gunfire. As they lay there waiting for help to come, Norman cried out to Sara many times, but to no avail. Sara and a hitchhiker were dead, Sara's son, Sammy Berg, had a bullet in his back and another in his side, and Norm's face, eyes and nose were badly cut up by glass.

The funeral was held the following evening so that Sara's son, Yoni, her daughter, Adina, and other family members from the USA could arrive. Sara's son, Sammy, honored his mother by insisting on attending the funeral despite his two bullet wounds.

As I rode on the bulletproof bus from Jerusalem to Efrat I could not contain my disbelief that only in Israel must a Jew travel in his own country in a bulletproof vehicle. Why are we so foolish to allow this? Why is world opinion more important than human life? I cannot believe that President Bush thinks Israel should restrain itself. The USA plans to inject lethal material into the vein of the terrorist who bombed an American Federal building, and to televise the execution to all of the relatives of the victims. That is how America treats a terrorist. WHY DOESN'T ISRAEL DO THE SAME? If Sara had been murdered in the USA, soldiers and police units would have gone in to wipe out the terror nests.

Prime Minister Sharon continues to honor his one-sided cease-fire. Arafat smirks and signals increased violence while Sharon continues to fear American pressure and world public opinion. Rabbi Riskin, in his eulogy, declared that military response is not vengence but rather justice. The one-sided cease-fire is really surrender.

Sara's brother, David Zev Unterberg, in the name of the family, requested that an Israel government representative not attend the funeral as long as the policy of "restraint" is continued. David did request that the American Ambassador, Martin Indyk, attend the funeral but Indyk refused based on the technicality that Efrat is the jurisdiction of the Consul in Jerusalem, rather than the ambassador (maybe it is time to change this policy). The Jerusalem consul, according to David, also refused to attend.

After the initial eulogies in Efrat, we boarded our buses and cars to travel to the Gush Etzion cemetery. As we watched from the lead bus, there were more than one hundred cars and buses winding their way out of Efrat in a huge procession. As we passed each Jewish community, people, holding Israeli flags, lined the road with bowed heads. This beautiful silent tribute to Sara was overwhelming.

As we reached the cemetery, the family waited for half an hour until all of the buses and cars were able to park. They had a few moments to be alone with Sara's remains and they tearfully said goodbye to the wonderful wife, mother, grandmother, sister, daughter and friend. Those of us who knew and loved Sara realize what a great loss this was. May G-d revenge her blood and may her memory be blessed.