Monday, March 10, 2003

Death of my teacher

By Elisheva Harrow

"Elisheva, come see what I took me hours, but I finally organized all the hundreds of pictures we've taken over the last couple of years and put together an album...there's some pictures of your graduation, and a great one of you hugging Ha'Mora (the teacher) Dina...”

Regular, every day conversation. Life goes on. Small sentences like a roulette wheel...

Fast forward to the next morning.

On my way into synagogue, I see my brother outside with a friend of his. Serious faces mean bad news. "A pigua (terrorist attack) last night, in Kiryat Arba... an older couple was murdered in their home-apartment 35."

That's all they know. Kiryat Arba is where I went to high school...Quick search through memory...older couples, older couples. No one comes to mind. No point in getting all worried now anyway, there's no way to find out until after Shabbat.

After synagogue. Back at home, playing a game before lunch. Relaxing, fun, laughter… my Mom comes in. "...Do you know a Horowitz, from Kiryat Arba…?" The name sparks in my brain. Cards lowered, I already understand, want to ignore, ignore… "Yes, Dina Horowitz- my teacher." "Dina? Is her husband a Rabbi? " "Yes..." We look at each other, already knowing, denying..."but there are a bunch of Horowitzes there...maybe..." I say the final words:

"They said apartment 35..." My mom goes for the phonebook. flipping through a second we'll know. Cards heart pounding, brain screaming...already knowing, already KNOWING. Feelings familiar, so familiar, too familiar. We already recognize this darkest of shadows; horror and evil left in its wake, greatest destroyer of light and love.

And she looks at me. Her face says it all.

I can't move, can't speak. Words so trite, tears so common. How to grieve in first moments of shock. Why, why them, why like this. Futile questions searing through every heartbeat. It seems that being amazing condemns you to an early grave...

I don't know how many of you have been taught by an amazing person before. How many had the privilege of knowing a real, passionate, gentle, loving teacher. In Hebrew, the word "Morah" means teacher and guide- someone who shows you the way, who gives you love and encouragement, helping you make your own way in this complicated world. A Morah is someone who gives you the tools to deal with whatever should happen along your path. Such a person was Dina. She was my Morah. She loved all her students so very much, always believed in us and in our abilities. She never gave up on us, always tried to listen and to do her best to help...

The Shabbat queen takes her leave. The phone calls start. So many people to tell…our class once again united in grief… and the need- "we have to do something"… A "melaveh malka" (post-Sabbath get together) is quickly organized at someone's house…"bring a guitar"... Girls come, we sit around the table and sing the songs that she loved, the soft melodies put to verses, to psalms. And we talk, comforting each other, expressing how much we all loved her back, each in our own way. Stories...we smile at the small things, cry at the big ones.

She loved the Torah (Bible) with such passion, really reliving, breathing it each time she gave a class on the subject. It was so real and vibrant to her...but her passion was mostly wasted in class; we wanted to just learn the material needed for the next test, not get into torah philosophy. My friend and I kept telling her that she should go teach in a midrasha (yeshiva for girls), because there there are no tests, girls learn for the sake of learning. At the end of 12th grade she announced to my class that that's precisely what she was planning on doing the following year. She thanked my friend and me for all of our support and 'nagging' on the matter... At the Melave Malka tonight a friend told me she had just spoken to Dina a few weeks ago, and Dina had said that she was so happy, so happy to be teaching in a midrasha. She mentioned me and my friend, expressing her gratitude at our insistence once again. So strange. One of my greatest teachers thanking me for helping her along her way..

A friend and I recalled a D'var Torah (sermon) we heard Dina say once, about the greatness of women. It was at the beginning of this whole intifada, people were being killed every day, we were feeling so helpless, we didn't want to be sitting in class, studying as usual, we were scared, confused, hurting.. Dina listened, smiled in that gentle way she had and told us the following: It says in the book of Shmot (Exodus) that after the miracle of the splitting of the sea Miriam (Moshe’s sister) led the women of Israel in song and dance, in God's honor. I quote: "And Miriam...took the timbrel in her hand and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances..." Shmot, 15,20. But where did they get the musical instruments from? Rashi (a known commentator) answers: "The righteous women in that generation were confident that God would perform miracles for them and they accordingly had brought timbrels with them from Egypt." Here you see the immense strength of these women- they could see past all the horror and slavery to a better time, a time of peace, when our enemies would be vanquished and we could walk as a free people without fear. A vision they had no recollection of, but were so sure in their faith that they knew the ending would be great. (Note: until today the tambourine is called a "tof miriam" in Hebrew- literally meaning "Miriam's timbrel").

Today, again, we are facing hardships. We, our families, friends, neighbours, relatives, are being targeted and killed. Young and old, armed or unarmed, it makes no difference to our enemy. We're scared, we're angry, we're frustrated. We try, but many times it's very hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Yet we have to learn from those amazing women, from our ancestors whose blood flows in our veins and whose stubbornness and tenacity has kept us going for almost 4,000 years... This was so very much Dina's way of comforting- getting us to focus on the bigger picture, identify with our predecessors, strengthen our faith in the master plan. And so we were comforted, so much so that today, a day after her death- "al Kiddush Hashem" (in sanctifying Gods' name), these powerful words of hers are what we call upon to comfort us once again. Dina died for what she so strongly believed in, for Israel and the whole Jewish people. I could go on and on about the Zionism that lived in the core of her very being, about her personal sacrifices for the whole including making aliyah from the US and taking an active part in the horrible "Yamit" evacuation in the early 80s. (Yamit was a beautiful Jewish town in the Sinai desert that was dismantled by force when we gave the entire Sinai over to Egypt).

But how do you really explain a person? How do you capture an essence, an entire being on a blank screen? Her kindness, her gentleness, her dedication...She will live forever in the minds and hearts of those who knew and loved her.

Dina, The light you were, you still are...but now you've just moved to the end of the tunnel, accumulating with the millions of lights already there. You're now burning ever more brightly for us- the ones still down here, the ones trying to catch a glimpse.

I'll start working on my "tof Miriam", Dina. With the memory of your words, cited from the book you so loved and lived by I'll see past all this horror, envision the better time that you taught me to look for, a time of true peace.

In closing, I want to share with all of you a beautiful vision from the book of Isaiah. The prophet writes about the future, of days yet to come: "…And Death will be abolished forever, and the Lord God will wipe every tear from every face, and the humiliation of his people will be eliminated from this earth, for God has spoken." (Isaiah, 25,8)

And in the meantime, life goes on.

I love you, my Morah Dina. Shalom.


Elisheva Harrow, age 21, is a resident of Efrat. She wrote the following after hearing of the murder of Rabbi Eli and Dina Horowitz at their Shabbat table Friday night in Kiryat Arba. After graduating the Ulpana High School in Kiryat Arba 2 years ago, Elisheva studied for a year in Midreshet Nov, and is now completing the first of 2 years of her National Service with Livnot Ve'Lehibanot, based in Tzfat and Jerusalem.

This article was originally posted by The Israel Resource Center.

Naomi Ragen
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