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'Today I Realize How Cruel They Were'

Daniel Mandell, brother of Koby who was killed with his friend by terrorists in 2001, read a heartbreaking letter at his brother's grave site.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 5/23/2011, 3:53 AM / Last Update: 5/23/2011, 4:15 AM

Koby Mandell Foundation

Ten years have passed since the shocking and brutal murder of Koby Mandell and Yosef Ishran, aged 13 and 14, who were killed by Arab terrorists in Wadi Tekoa in May of 2001. This past Thursday, a memorial service for Mandell was held at his gravesite, during which his brother, 22-year-old Daniel Mandell read the following:

Who wants to write a brother who was murdered?

It’s difficult to write to you,

It’s been years since we spoke.

I want to tell you about our recent thoughts.

On Friday night we stood, Eliana and I, over the magnificent wadi, lit by a moon and some hanging stars. We mainly asked questions.

Your physical absence has been replaced with an empty space in our lives. In another month you could have been 24.

You could have been married with a child or two, you could have been religious or secular, you could be traveling in South America, you could have been studying at university, you could have been a computer expert, you could have been a stand-up comedian, you could have been so many things.

I grew into a family where the parents are amazing people, who managed to continue to live, with laughter and joy, and even with healthy and pure sadness.

It took me years to understand what mom and dad gave up. What was taken from them, what a huge sacrifice they made, although they did not have to be here in Israel. How they gave up a life of comfort, of wealth, for a life of Jewish power for which they paid dearly.

How did they not give up? How did they not close the doors on the country and say: “No thanks, we had enough”?

I remember how I would whisper to you at night, asking you where you are, asking you to look out over us, to find a way to make mom and dad happy. I begged you to come back, to make everything the same as it was before.

I remember how I used to think that it’s all just a big joke, or a nightmare from which I will wake up, that I’ll just get up in the morning and you’ll be there...and everything would continue as it was.

But today I know it won’t be that way. I do not whisper to you any longer. I’m not asking you to come back. Not even asking you to make mom and dad happy.

Today I remember you differently. The pain is not only the pain of death, but also the pain of loss. Not a burning pain, but like a hand that grabs the inside of your stomach and turns it.

Today I realize how small you were, how really cruel they were.

Koby, son of Seth and Sherri Mandell was born in Jerusalem on the 17th of Sivan 5747. When he was a child his family moved to the United States, and in August of 1996 they returned to Israel and settled in the Jewish community of Tekoa in Judea.

Koby loved taking hikes and playing sports, was a very popular boy and was always surrounded by friends. An intelligent boy, he loved to help others and was loved by anyone who knew him.

On the 15th of Iyar 5761, Koby, along with his friend Yosef Ishran, went for a walk in Wadi Tekoa. Terrorists bound the boys and beat them to death with stones.

When the two did not return home until evening, an all-night search began for them, but the two bodies were only found the next day, hidden under a pile of stones three feet high. Koby was murdered at the age of 13. He is survived by his parents, two brothers and a sister.