JWR Wandering Jews

Jewish World Review March 10, 2003 / 6 Adar II, 5763


The murder scene: Blood stained floors
and a bullet-riddled refrigerator

It seems that being amazing condemns you to an early grave

http://www.jewishworldreview.com | "Elisheva, come see what I did ... It took me hours, but I finally organized all of 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 HaMora (the teacher) Dina..."

Regular, everyday conversation. Life goes on. Small sentences move like a roulette wheel.

Fast forward to the next morning.

On my way to synagogue, I see my brother outside with a friend. Here, serious faces always mean bad news.

I'm informed that "there was a pigua (terrorist attack) last night, in Kiryat Arba ... An older couple was murdered in their home --- apartment 35" just as they finished their Friday night Sabbath meal.

That's all that is known.

Kiryat Arba, near Hebron, is where I went to high school. A quick search through my memory: Older couples, older couples. No one immediately comes to mind. I tell myself that there is no point in getting all worried now, anyway --- there's no way of finding out until after the Sabbath.

It's now after synagogue. I'm back at home, playing a game -- relaxing, laughing, having fun -- before Sabbath lunch. My mom enters the room.

"Do you know a Horowitz, from Kiryat Arba?"

The name sparks in my brain. The game is put on the floor. I already understand, but I want to ignore, ignore.

"Yes, Dina Horowitz --- my teacher."

"Dina? Is her husband a rabbi?"


We look at each other, already knowing, but denying.

"But there are a bunch of Horowitzes there. Maybe ..." I say the final words: "They said apartment 35."

My mom goes to get the phonebook. She is now flipping through pages. In a second, we'll know for certain.

The game is forgotten. My heart is pounding, my brain is 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, the greatest destroyer of light and love.

And my mother 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 the 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 of you 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, helps 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 Sabbath Queen takes her leave. The phone calls start. So many people to tell … Our class once again unites in grief. And the need --- "we have to do something." A "melaveh malka" (escorting of the Sabbath Queen gathering) is quickly organized at someone's home.

Girls come. We sit around a 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, each in our own way. Stories ... We smile at the small things, cry at the big ones.

Dina 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 just wanted to 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, Dina announced to my class that was 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 tells me she had just spoken to Dina a few weeks ago. Dina 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 recall a D'var Torah (Bible lesson) Dina once taught us 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 her gentle way. She told us the following: It says in the book of Exodus that after the miracle of the splitting of the sea Miriam (Moses' sister) led the women of Israel in song and dance, in G-d's honor.

"And Miriam ... took the timbrel in her hand and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances." (Exodus 15:20). But where did they get the musical instruments from? Rashi (the foremost biblical and Talmudic commentator) answers: "The righteous women in that generation were confident that G-d 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. It was 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 in Hebrew a "tof miriam" --- 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" (as a martyr), 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 L-rd G-d will wipe every tear from every face, and the humiliation of his people will be eliminated from this earth, for G-d has spoken." (Isaiah, 25:8)

And in the meantime, life goes on.

I love you, my Morah Dina. Shalom.

  —   Elisheva Harow

Editor's note: Yesterday, thousands attended the funeral of Dina and her husband, Rabbi Eli Horowitz, both originially of Silver Spring, Maryland. Their funeral began in Hebron and slowly moved toward Jerusalem, where the couple is buried. They leave four children and five grandchildren.

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