It was around midnight in June 2015, when I received one of the most dreaded phone calls. I was in bed waiting for my husband to return home from another one of his Binyamin League basketball games, when a neighbor called: “There’s been another shooting on the road, your husband is OK, but his cell has no service,” she said.
My mind starts racing and my heart starts pounding.
There were two full cars of guys simply driving home from a basketball game that night. My husband, Benji, born and raised in New York, was one of the drivers. His car was less than one kilometer behind the car that was shot at by terrorists.
Nineteen deadly bullets pierced the first car that night and all four passengers were hit.
This all happened right near the Baal Hatzor Mountain, where Yehuda the Maccabee fought the last battle against the Greeks in the first century BCE – the Hanukkah story – and where God told Abraham, “Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art, northward and southward and eastward and westward, for all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever” (Genesis 13:14-15).
Security volunteers from the nearby settlements raced over and started treating the wounded, including A.Y. Katsof, the director of The Heart of Israel.
Katsof recalled looking for the terrorist with his flashlight mounted on his M16, his heart beating fast, knowing that at any minute he could be the next one to be shot.
He then heard people by a car screaming that there was a drive-by shooting, they shot and drove away. He ran toward the injured people and tried to stop the bleeding. A military ambulance came and a few minutes later a helicopter flew overhead. But they had not yet received permission to land because they were worried that the terrorists were still in the area and would shoot at the helicopter.
Malachi Rosenfeld, 25, was among the severely wounded. When the medics finally got him into the ambulance, it took a long hour for the ambulance to get to the nearest hospital. By that time, he had already lost too much blood. Rosenfeld died in the hospital.
“We can’t know what would have happened if things were different,” Katsof said. “But we know that if we had an emergency trauma room closer by, Malachi would have had a better chance. In a lot of similar cases, we know this is the case, too.”
Miraculously, my husband came home to me with a bag of bloody jerseys. Sara and Eliezer Rosenfeld, Malachi’s parents, left their home and ran to the hospital hoping for the miracle they never received.
Thousands of people came to Rosenfeld’s funeral in Kochav Hashachar, a community in the heart of Israel where the Rosenfelds live. Everyone spoke about how their son was always helping other people and how much he loved to play basketball.
No one could hold back tears as Eliezer Rosenfeld gripped his two remaining sons and began to sing.
Through his tears and choked voice, we all heard him sing the soulful song written by Rabbi Nachman of Breslov (1772-1810), “V’afilu B’hastara.” The translation of the song is, “Even in the most concealed of concealed places, certainly He of the Blessed name is also found there. I stand with you, even through the hard times that befall upon you.”
Family and friends began to join in. We all felt their painful loss, but even there at the funeral we could see this powerful, unbreakable family embodying the full essence of true and pure faith.
That song is exactly what the holiday of Hanukkah comes to teach us: That even when God seems to be hidden, in those tragic times, He is still there with us, always.
This week, we light candles to commemorate the victory of the war between the Maccabees and the Greeks, and the miracle of finding one tiny, unopened jar of pure oil that miraculously lasted for eight days. In both cases, all seemed hopeless and lost. The holy Temple had been desecrated, but the Maccabees did not give up hope.
The Rosenfelds are modern-day Maccabees, with their unbreakable spirit and unwavering faith, even in the dark times. Rather than wallow in pain, they are taking action to prevent a tragedy like the one that befell their precious son and family to befall others. The Rosenfelds are at the forefront of a new project to build an emergency trauma room in the biblical heartland.