Dafna Meir, 39, who was stabbed to death on Sunday outside her family home as she tried to prevent the terrorist from reaching her children inside, was not only a victim – she was a heroine, say close friends and family.
Parents of four biological children, ages 11 to 17, Dafna and her husband also opened their hearts to two non-biological children. The family fostered two other youngsters, six and four years old, one of whom has special needs.
The Summit Institute, the organization through which the Meirs fostered their two children, issued a statement following the murder. “The entire Summit Institute family is deeply saddened to share that Dafna Meir, murdered last night, was a foster mother at Summit. Dafna and her husband provided a warm and loving home to two children, one of whom is a special-needs child.
“Dafna dedicated her life to saving lives, both as a nurse and as a foster mother. May her memory be a blessing and an inspiration to us all.”
— Tovah Lazaroff (@tovahlazaroff) January 18, 2016
Dafna’s friends, neighbors and colleagues all spoke of her dedication to others, painting a picture of a woman who made her life meaningful through helping those around her.
Rabbi Yehudah Glick of the Temple Mount Heritage Foundation, a fellow Otniel resident, was a neighbor and close friend of the Meir family. He spoke of Dafna’s strong connection to God.
“She wrote several different [prayers] for everything she was doing…she wrote a [prayer] for when she adopted the two boys…She was in a permanent dialogue with [God],” he told Breaking Israel News.
He explained Dafna’s strong desire to foster children, which was rooted in her own childhood. “She herself was adopted. She came from a weak family background — first she was in an institution, then she grew up in a foster family,” he said.
According to Glick, who himself fosters two girls, the Meirs spent hours consulting the Glick family about the pros and cons of fostering children. Ultimately, the Meirs took in two small boys.
Orit Amiel, director of the Summit Institute’s foster care services, spoke highly of the Meir family, telling Breaking Israel News that Dafna’s loss is felt especially keenly. The Meirs were “a family which took on itself to raise children until their parents are rehabilitated,” said Amiel. “They are a very special family and therefore this day is very, very difficult for the Summit Institute.”
Amiel related that Dafna had made her husband-to-be promise they would one day foster children before she agreed to marry him. It was very important to her to give back to the community which had done so much good for her.
The Summit Institute rescues and provides critical care to children who have been severely abused and abandoned in over 100 towns throughout Israel, from Jerusalem to Eilat. The institute also provides counseling and financial support for foster families.
The Meirs are one of over 600 foster families across the country. According to Amiel, they were particularly treasured for their willingness to take in hard-to-place children.
“Israel lacks many foster families,” she said, “especially those willing, like the Meirs, to take special needs children, older children or siblings.” She also noted that not all foster children in need of placement in Israel today are Jewish, which makes it harder to find homes for them.
According to Mira Werker, the Summit Institute’s foster family recruitment coordinator, the first thing Dafna’s husband Nathan did after his wife’s murder was contact the children’s caseworker, proving once again the family’s incredible commitment to these two children and their well-being.
Amiel expressed her hope that Dafna’s story might encourage others in Israel to open their hearts and homes to children in need.