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Whenterrorstrikestheheartandhearthofyourson'sbelovedsixth-gradeteacher

Ruth Ebenstein
Ruth Ebenstein Writer. historian. health/peace activist. Mom/stepmom who loves to laugh heartily & often. Turns bad things into good, bringing fearlessness & fun.
9mo Jerusalem, Israel and Ann Arbor, Michigan Story
When terror strikes the heart and hearth of your son's beloved sixth-grade teacher

Teachers are everything.

They role-model for our kids. They stretch their minds, challenge their psyches, cajole them into growing and learning and believing in themselves. They see pearl drops of magic in our offspring, and remind us the value of embracing our children’s quirks and personalities. Being a good teacher means growing your empathy muscles tenfold. Day in, day out. C’mon, be your best self, they ask of their students. We know you can do it.

Demanding is the job, especially in Israel. You get paid little in the way of money. But you are rich in fashioning minds. You do it because you believe in it. The majesty of education pulses through your heart.

And what to do when terror strikes our teacher’s hearth? (or heart?)

Where does that leave us as parents? Where does that leave our children?

****

I got the bad news the way many of us do today: via text message.

My cell phone beeped while my 8-year-old and I were practicing his speech for a school presentation about his grandfather.

“Sorry to report that the man killed today was Yisca’s brother.”

Then I googled.

Rabbi Itamar Ben-Gal, z”l, a father of four, and a teacher (pictured above) was stabbed to death yesterday standing at a bus stop at the northern West Bank’s Ariel junction.

I did not know this man.
But I know — and LOVE — his sister.

His sister, Yisca, is my 11-year-old son’s sixth-grade teacher. And she is fabulous. She is the kind of teacher who excels both at educating and at loving. You just know that she has pockets in her heart for every child in her class, and it numbers 35! During vacation, she sends emails that say, “I miss your kids.” And she means it. She embraced my son after a sabbatical year with heart, patience, and support.

In general, I shield my young children from terrorist attacks. Why do they need to know about stabbings, car rammings, and the like? But this one was too close to home.

What is it about Yisca that makes her so special?

My son and I put our heads together.

She’s so tender, I volunteered.

Yes, that’s it, he said. She is TENDER!

Not the most common quality.

News agencies are reporting that it was Abed al-Karim Assi, 19, who fatally stabbed Itamar, and that he had received social services assistance in Israel, including at a home for at-risk youth.

Murdering a man at a bus stop doesn’t liberate Palestine or prove x and y and z.
What it does do is rip hearts in families. A woman lost her husband. Four tiny orphans!

I am not going to understand this. I’m just going to weep into the dirty clothes as I load the washing machine while my kids aren’t home.

I’m not going to talk about politics. Just want to express that someone I love and cherish and respect and feel grateful for every day lost her brother. That another family has been destroyed.

A family that produces teachers — well, those are parents that were doing something right.

May we all know brighter days.


3 replies

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  • Bethany Heinrich
    Bethany Heinrich Mogul Influencer
    9mo ago New York, NY, United States

    @Ruth Ebenstein I'm so sorry for your loss. This is awful. Are you doing okay?

    @Ruth Ebenstein I'm so sorry for your loss. This is awful. Are you doing okay?

    • Ruth Ebenstein
      Ruth Ebenstein Writer. historian. health/peace activist. Mom/stepmom who loves to laugh heartily & often. Turns bad things into good, bringing fearlessness & fun.
      9mo ago Jerusalem, Israel and Ann Arbor, Michigan

      Thank you. It is awful. We're going to visit the teacher tomorrow. This is her brother - look at those little orphans. Heartbreaking. A pointless, tragic loss. May we know brighter days, all of us!

      Thank you. It is awful. We're going to visit the teacher tomorrow. This is her brother - look at those little orphans. Heartbreaking. A pointless, tragic loss. May we know brighter days, all of us!


Ruth Ebenstein
Writer. historian. health/peace activist. Mom/stepmom who loves to laugh heartily & often. Turns bad things into good, bringing fearlessness & fun.

An American-Israeli Jewish writer/historian/peace & health activist, Ruth has written and spoken about how an unexpected close friendship with a Muslim Palestinian emerged out of breast cancer. She is penning a memoir about her experience, tentatively titled Ibtisam and I: How breast cancer [...]

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