On Israel’s Day of Remembrance for fallen soldiers and terror victims, Amichai and Rina Ariel, parents of 12-year-old Hallel who was killed by a terrorist less than two years ago, have chosen a path fitting their daughter’s memory: strengthening Israel’s connection to the Temple Mount and the Torah.
On June 30, 2016, Hallel was murdered by a Palestinian terrorist as she lay sleeping in her bed in Kiryat Arba, a Jewish community adjacent to the ancient city of Hebron.
“This is our second year without our Hallel and it is even harder than when we first lost her,” Amichai Ariel told Breaking Israel News. “Of course, it is impossible to leave such a loss behind and move on. But we have been very busy with projects in her memory that focus on her light and not on our sadness.”
“God sometimes gives you a blow that leaves you reeling but it is clear that He expects us to move forward in positive ways,” Amichai said.
One of the first projects launched in her memory was a ceremony held on the Temple Mount commemorating the end of the shiva (period of 7 days), the intense week-long period of mourning in which bereaved family members do not leave their house. In a prelude to the ceremony held at the Mughrabi Gate, the only entrance to the Temple Mount Jews are permitted to access, Hallel’s parents called on the public to rename the gate, “the Hallel Gate.” Though not officially recognized, the name is especially fitting since Hallel is a collection of Psalms of thanksgiving that was recited by Jews in the Temple on festivals.
Although the pain of loss has grown for Hallel Ariel’s parents almost two years after she was murdered, they are comforted to see more and more Jews passing through the gate to the Temple Mount they requested to be named in her memory.
“The Temple was always a part of our family life, and something that Hallel personally connected to,” Rina said to Breaking Israel News at the time, explaining their motives for remembering Hallel in this fashion.
“Hallel longed for the redemption. From an early age, she ascended the Temple Mount. When we build the Holy Temple and it serves as a light to the nations, there will be no more murder.”
This Temple-focused motive remains strong in her heart, and each month since Hallel’s death, Rina ascends the Temple Mount in Hallel’s memory along with members of the Women for the Temple movement, a women’s group advocating for Jewish rights at the site. She also holds weekly Torah study sessions for women in various locations around Israel, focusing on subjects concerning the Temple.
At the time of Hallel’s death, the Israeli government restricted Jewish access to the Temple Mount citing security concerns and increasing Muslim violence in Jerusalem. After a personal appeal to the government, the Ariels and 200 others were permitted to ascend.
This prohibition of Jews on the Temple Mount a mere year and a half ago stands in stark contrast to the current situation. Over the recent seven-day holiday of Passover, more than 2,000 Jews ascended the Temple Mount during Chol Hamoed (the intermediary days between the first and last days of Passover).
While on the Temple Mount, Amichai, who is a Kohen (male descended from Aaron, the first Biblical high-priest) performed the priestly blessing. Jewish rituals and prayer on the Temple Mount are expressly forbidden according to an agreement between the Israeli and Jordanian governments. Despite Israeli police and the Waqf (Islamic Religious Trust over the Temple Mount) guards standing just a few feet away, Amichai succeeded in performing this ritual.
The ceremony in Hallel’s memory, including the priestly blessing, was recreated one year later.
Another project that illustrates this remarkably positive reaction to their tragic loss was a book Rina published this past January in Hallel’s memory. Titled “Pirkei Hallel” (chapters of Hallel, i.e. thanks-giving), the book is intended to be a guide for mothers and daughters to read together prior to the young woman’s Bat Mitzvah (coming of age ceremony when a Jewish girl at age 12 becomes an adult). The text is presented in comic book format and includes learning projects for mother and daughter to do together in order to strengthen their connection to each other and to the Torah.