I know I had stated my intention to write only good news during Sukkot (and believe me, there is plenty of bad news out there, from Russia’s meddling in Syria, to ISIS, to Iran, to the UN’s hostility, and everything in between) but yesterday disaster struck and I cannot ignore it.
Last night, a young Israeli couple, Naama and Rabbi Eitam Henkin, were shot dead in their car as they drove past the communities of Itamar and Eilon Moreh to their home in Neria. Their four children were sitting in the back seat fo the are and must have witnessed the murder.
An Israeli couple was shot and killed in front of their four children Thursday night in the West Bank, in what appears to have been a drive-by terrorist attack.
According to reports, the family was driving near the Palestinian village of Beit Furik when their vehicle came under heavy gunfire from a moving vehicle.
Magen David Adom paramedics who arrived at the scene found Eitam and Na’ama Henkin from the settlement of Neriya, both approximately 30 years old, with bullet wounds to their torsos.
The children – aged nine, seven, four and a four-month-old baby — were examined by MDA medical personnel near the Itamar junction, not far from the site of the attack on the family’s car. It was determined that they were not injured physically and did not require hospital care.
The IDF said Israeli security forces are searching the area for suspects.
Responding to the attack, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed Palestinian incitement.
“It has been proven again that the wild Palestinian incitement leads to acts of terrorism and murder such as we have seen this evening,” he said from New York, where he addressed the United Nations General Assembly earlier today.
“This is a difficult day for the State of Israel,” he continued. “We are witness to an especially heinous and shocking murder in which parents were murdered, leaving four young orphans. My heart is with the children, all of our hearts are with the children and the family. The killers knew that they were murdering a mother and father, the children were there.”
Netanyahu said he would be speaking shortly with leading Israeli officials and vowed to take steps “not only to apprehend the murderers but also to increase security for all Israeli citizens.”
President Reuven Rivlin released the following statement:
Tonight, bloodthirsty murderers claimed the lives of a mother and a father, leaving their young children orphaned. The heart breaks at the magnitude of such cruelty and hatred.
We will continue in our brave and unwavering fight against this cruel and heinous terrorism — of this our enemies can be sure. This is our duty, and the only way we can ensure the right of the orphans who lost their parents tonight, along with the right of all our children and grandchildren, to live with security and in peace, everywhere in the Land of Israel.
We pray for the speedy recovery of the injured children — our hearts and thoughts are with them.
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog was also quick to respond to the news. “The murder in Samaria is reprehensible and very painful. I share in the family’s grief and in the community’s mourning,” he tweeted.
Ministers Uri Ariel and Naftali Bennett also blamed Palestinian Authority incitement for the attack.
“The Palestinian leadership is responsible for the horrific murder; it’s the killing of Jews because they are Jews,” Bennett said. “It has to be said clearly: This is the end of the era of the Palestinian state.”
“This murderous occurrence which orphaned four little children is the direct result of Abu Mazen’s litany of lies last night at the United Nations,” said Ariel. “The responsibility is his and he must answer for it.”
Tzippi Livni couldn’t resist a stupid political dig:
However, MK Tzipi Livni, the former justice minister who was appointed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to lead the negotiations with the Palestinians, condemned the attack. She said that while the entire country is mourning the couple and devastated for their now-orphaned children, the incident should not be used as a political tool.
And as for Hamas… puke:
Hamas praised the double murder, and called on activists in the West Bank to carry out additional terrorist attacks.
The US condemned the murder. Even the UN Secretary General condemned it:
But not the Palestinians.
Netanyahu slammed the Palestinian “President” for his silence on this awful murder:
“I didn’t hear any condemnation from the Palestinian Authority” on the murders of Naama and Eitam Henkin, Netanyahu said bitterly.
“Note that there was this horrible and pretty unique event of the murder of an Arab family in Kfar Duma,” he continued, referring to a terror attack on July 31, in which three members of the Dawabsha family were killed.
“I, and the entire Israeli leadership, immediately condemned it forcefully,” Netanyahu told Israeli reporters during a briefing in his Manhattan hotel Thursday. “I went to the hospital. We gave any assistance possible. Now compare that to defeating silence, pardon the expression. It’s a deafening silence.”
This deafening silence is all the more disgraceful considering that the Al Aqsa Brigades, a PLO organization associated with Abbas’ Palestinian Authority, took “credit” for the murderous attack and urged more:
Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas’ adviser on NGOs, Gen Sultan Abu Al-Einen, called for more attacks as Fatah claimed responsibility for yesterday’s attack, Ofir Gendelman, Israeli government spokesman for Arabic media, tweeted on Friday.
The Palestinian Authority has been totally silent since Thursday’s murder of an Israeli couple in Samaria while its ruling Fatah party took responsibility for the terrorist attack that orphaned four small children.
Abbas told the United Nations in his speech Wednesday:
The PLO and the Palestinian people adhere to the renouncement of violence and rejection and condemning of terrorism in all its forms, especially State terrorism, and adhere to all agreements signed between the Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel.
Not only have the PLO and Abbas not condemned the drive-by murder, but Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmed also told Hamas’ Al Quds TV:
The attack is a natural response to the crimes of the settlers and every action has a reaction.
The Martyr Abdul-Qader al-Husseini Brigades, associated with Fatah’s Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades said it carried out the “heroic operation.”
The Henkins were a dream couple according to their friends, and came from illustrious families:
“They were a dream couple, who in life and in death were inseparable. Everyone knew that they went everywhere together. They invested a lot in their relationship, in their family, their children, ” a neighbor who was identified by her first name, Shlomit, told Ynet.
“They were something special, good people, very humble,” Shlomit went on, speaking quickly and appearing deeply upset.
Yossi Dermer, the head of the security team of the West Bank settlement of Neria, where the family lives, said the community and others like it are “unfortunately well versed” in such tragedies and were finding their strength in each other.
“Right now, there are four small children that need care; we need to see how we proceed in the morning,” said Dermer.
He indicated that the children were with relatives in the West Bank settlement of Pedu’el, where Naama Henkin was from.
The Hebrew daily Maariv reported that in a Facebook post on a “mommy forum” last year, Naama had asked about purchasing life insurance and possibly, drafting a will “in light of recent events and in general,” in reference to tensions and violence in the West Bank.
Eitam Henkin is the son of Rabbi Yehuda and Chana Henkin, who moved to Israel from the United States in the 1970s. His mother, Chana, runs the Nishmat institute, a Jewish learning institution that was one of the first to teach women Talmud and Jewish law.
Rabbi Henkin, a noted Torah scholar and author of several volumes of responsa, also serves as the school’s Jewish law authority.
Naama Henkin was a graphic artist who owned a design studio. According to Arutz 7, she is the daughter of a former member of the elite Sayeret Matkal unit. Her father reportedly took part in the failed 1994 rescue attempt of IDF soldier Nachshon Waxman from a Palestinian village north of Jerusalem. Waxman was killed by his Hamas kidnappers as the IDF sought to free him; one of the rescue team was also killed.
What a huge loss to their families and to the whole of Am Yisrael! May their memories be for a blessing and may their families be comforted amongst the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.
How do we continue to celebrate Sukkot in the midst of such mourning? A friend of the family, Rabbi Eizman, talked about the couple and tried to explain:
“Eitam and Naama died as holy people, but they also lived their lives in holiness. Not only in their deaths were they holy, but rather they were holy their entire lives,” he emphasized.
“Eitam grew up in (Jerusalem’s) Kiryat Moshe, he was talented, righteous, humble. He was currently in the middle of exams to become a municipal rabbi, and amid his study for the exams he also wrote books, some on halakhic (Jewish legal) issues, some on other issues.”
“This very difficult and complicated reality is now before us,” said Rabbi Eizman. Turning his attention the funeral on Friday morning, he said it “will be a family funeral, apparently private but the president has already announced he will come and also the defense minister will apparently arrive.”
“The pain is a great and awful pain, how the family is bereaved of both heads of the family, leaving orphans who will grow up – all over their desire to live in the land of Israel.”
When asked how it is possible to continue rejoicing in the Sukkot holiday after the murder, Rabbi Eizman said, “it’s very difficult, one of the most difficult things, that halakha requires us to continue as normal and to start the shiva (seven-day period of intense mourning – ed.) only after Simchat Torah.”
“But there’s no doubt that holy people like these leave upon us (the obligation) to keep great strength.”
“Those who see the wonderful parents Rabbi Yehuda Hertzl and rabbanit Chana in their courage and pain know that the main and greatest message is to continue the momentum of the settling of the land of Israel, to continue the momentum of life in the land of Israel, and G-d willing, also to overcome this awful pain.”
The funeral for the couple began at 11 a.m. this morning (about an hour ago as I write) and is still ongoing. Arutz Sheva has reports.
An article that puts the murder into its own awful perspective is worth reading: Paula Stern talks about “layers of tragedy”:
The children in the car range in age from nine years old to four months old. The nine year old, at least, will remember the moment her/his parents were murdered. And still worse, a tragedy by itself, the four month old will never remember, never know the parents that were lost.
And the layers of tragedy go deeper and deeper. Perhaps minor compared to the other tragedies, but still one that came to mind. While not all infants are breastfed, statistics say that as many as 87% of all babies in Israel are. And so I thought about who would feed this baby…if it cried for food before and after the children were found.
Four months old…who will nurse this 4-month-old child? Yes, yes, there is formula so we all know the child will not starve, and hopefully grandparents, uncles and aunts and, of course, five traumatized but loving siblings. But the wonder of breastfeeding a child, of holding it in your arms…and for the child, that close bond…tragically cut short.
And more…in just a couple of days, Israel will celebrate the most joyous of holidays – Simchat Torah. Last year, Rabbi Henkin danced with his children to celebrate as we read the final chapter of the Torah…and then immediately begin it again. Will his children dance this year? Who will dance with them in the years to come? Fathers all over Israel lift their children onto their shoulders and dance with them…on whose shoulders will these children sit now?
Forever, they will be orphans, no matter who steps in to take care of them in the coming years. One of the greatest blessing God can give to a parent is to see them all married; to see them all have children. I see my parents – with three married children, eleven grandchildren, and now four great-grandchildren. That is life.
Eitam and Na’ama Henkin never lived to see their children grown, will never see them marry. They will never know their grandchildren, never know the blessing of great-grandchildren. There are so many layers of tragedy here; and as each one comes to mind, the heart breaks that much more.
The tears are coming to my eyes too easily at the moment. This murder has become personal to me because Naama Hy’d was a friend of my daughter. She has gone to the funeral even though it is Friday, nearly Shabbat, she has a house-full of children and another large family as guests over Shabbat too. And the newly-orphaned children have been taken to their mourning grandparents who live in Peduel – which is wehre we are heading for Shabbat to be with our son and his family.
As Paula writes, layers of tragedy. This precious country of ours is so small despite its larger-than-life footprint in the international media and diplomacy. Everyone knows everyone else, if only at a remove of one or maximum two people. No six degrees of separation here. The people of Israel are mourning. And angry. The government had better take concrete steps to curb this growing wave of Palestinian violence before anarchy takes over.
יהי זכרם של הרב איתם ונעמה הנקין הי”ד ברוך.