Fogel Murders in Itamar - A Year Later
By Paula Stern
2/29/2012, 1:02 PM
Paula SternPaula R. Stern is CEO and founder of WritePoint Ltd., a leading technical...
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It's been a year since the horrible attack on the Fogel home in Itamar. Rabbi Udi Fogel, his wife Ruti, and three of their six children were murdered. It was an attack that shocked a nation that didn't believe it could be shocked. It brought us to our knees with its depravity, its barbarity. We are not strangers to blood, to death, to murder. It has been done to us before and long ago, we accepted that it would continue - until the Arabs want it to stop.
But this was so much worse. This was just beyond unthinkable. How, how in God's name does a human being slit the throat of a three-month-old infant? Why, why couldn't they have left her there, alive and crying, but at least alive? Why did they have to kill Hadas too?
How, how in God's name does a human being stab a three-year-old in the heart? Couldn't little Elad have been spared? Why did they have to kill him too? And Yoav, 11-year-old Yoav?
And a mother who stood in front of the door where her two young sons were asleep - they killed her too. And a father, unarmed and at home with his family. Too much for the mind, too much for the heart and the soul. A year has passed. How are the Fogel children coping? If you can stand the pain it will cause (and even if you can't), read this A Visit with the Fogel Children.
And since life is about our own experiences and what touches us up close, I'll tell you of another effect, nothing compared to the Fogel children and yet a factor in our lives). Our youngest daughter, Aliza, is doing well a year later. Friday nights - the night the Fogel family was attacked - she still locks the room to her door. She was frightened again when she heard that there had been some robberies in our neighborhood recently. In one case, Arabs were caught; in another, the family came back to find some of their possessions gone. It scared Aliza - happening so close to us, but it didn't shake the foundations of her world. It didn't happen now, but it did happen last year.
As details of the horrible murders came out, Aliza found some comfort when she heard that Ruti Fogel had protected her two sons as they slept. At one point she asked me why I was saying we would protect her when Ruti and Udi weren't able to protect their children. What answer could I give her? What comfort could I bring to ease her trauma? With her body, Ruti blocked the door, and this is where her body was found. Sickening though it is, this was one point their killers chose to mention - that their only regret was in not finding and murdering the two little boys that thankfully managed to sleep through the nightmare taking place just outside their room. And that attempt, knowing she'd tried and perhaps succeeded because the two boys were alive, helped Aliza.
Sometimes, you can see something happen and think it is interesting, even as you are so involved in the details you know that later you'll want to look at it all again. This is what happened with Aliza. I was fascinated at the process of a child coping with unspeakable horrors and tragedies even as I was focusing on trying to help her. I felt completely out of my depth - completely unsure of what I was doing. I was afraid I would make it worse, increase her trauma rather than ease it.
I spoke to parents of her friends - all seemed very upset, but not to the same degree as Aliza. At first, I gave in to her every fear - she wanted the doors locked - I made sure they were. Not just the house - but her room too. I agreed. She wanted to sleep with the light on, I let her. She wanted the windows locked and the thick plastic shutters closed day and night - and I didn't argue. Elie bought her an alarm that fit on her window and I watched as he carefully "installed" it. On and on, she asked and I gave in. After a few weeks, maybe it was longer - I just don't remember the timing anymore, she started having nightmares and I began to think that I was wrong to have thought I could handle this.
I spoke to her teacher and the school counselor and to a psychologist. I thought the nightmares were a bad sign and even as I took her into my bed some nights or sat with her on other nights, it turns out that the nightmares were a good sign. She's learning to cope with it, explained the school counselor. Already her mind has brought it to a level that she could cope - before she dreamed, it was so traumatic, said the counselor, she couldn't even dream. Her subconscious was finding paths to acceptance or perhaps acceptance is too great a word - maybe a truce with reality?
A year later, Tamar Fogel and her brothers are still in such pain and it is hard to believe the time will ever come when they won't be. A month ago, Ruti's mother asked one of her grandsons, "What do you say, Roee, are we going to overcome this?’ and he answered, ‘Yes, Grandma, we will overcome.’ Then she asked, ‘Is this world good or bad?’ And this special child of Ruti and Udi Fogel answered, ‘Despite everything that happened to us, Grandma, the world is good." They are learning to cope, learning to smile, learning to live. I am awed by their strength and I know it was planted in them by parents who loved them and protected them.
A year later, in my little world, Aliza has learned to cope. It has been an unbelievable year - one of her brothers got married; another got engaged. She became an aunt, and an adult according to Jewish law with the celebration of her bat mitzvah. It's been a year of growth - our family has added Shmulik's beautiful wife, Na'ama, Amira's amazing son, and soon, Elie's so-special Lauren. It's been a year of celebration as we danced and laughed at weddings and parties and through it all, we remember the Fogels and worry about their orphans.
It's been a year without five members of the Fogel family...and many others who have been murdered in the name of a war we did not choose. Often those who wish to argue against my beliefs speak to me of occupation and my response is always the same...and never addressed - if the so-called occupation is the only reason why we are at war today and the occupation began in 1967, why then was the Palestine Liberation Organization founded in 1964? One responded that the occupation began in 1948 when we attacked the Arabs...no one could accuse this person of having learned history.
You cannot stop or start history when you want. It did not begin in 1967, nor did it begin in 1948. But beyond history is today's realities and we must all learn to cope with them. At the start, I asked what kind of human being could have murdered little Hadas, Elad and Yoav. I have yet to receive an answer to that question.
A year later...and we are all no wiser. Several months ago, a father and his baby son were murdered by rock-throwing attackers. This past week, a young mother was attacked but thankfully managed to escape.
It's been a year since the Itamar murders. May God avenge their blood and continue to bless us all with their memories.