This past erev Shabbat, our twenty-two-year-old son Eliyahu Yeshaya asked to borrow the car to attend the funeral of a terror victim. This was when I first heard about the terrorist attack that had occurred the previous day. I asked him for more details. He responded, “Are you sure that you want to know?” Since I have been experiencing emotional overload due to my husband’s life-threatening medical challenge, I replied in the negative. I felt too fragile to hear the details. Despite my wishes, the horrific details of the crime emerged over the next couple of days and a shocked nation recoiled.
In response to the vicious murder, people, many of them religious youth, gathered in Kikar Tzion in Jerusalem. Candles were arranged on the street to spell “Ori” in Hebrew as well as to form a magen David. The crowd, accompanied by a guitar, sang soulful Jewish songs. Rallies were also held in Tekoa, Tel-Aviv and Chevron. On Tuesday evening, hundreds of members of the B’nai Akiva Movement participated in an evening of song in memory of Ori. It was held at the Ein Yael Museum in Jerusalem, not far from where Ori was murdered.
“I have a hard time knowing what to say at a shiva home,” expressed Eliyahu Yeshaya, as we were driving to the eastern Gush Etzion community of Tekoa on Tuesday this week to pay a shiva (condolence) visit to the family of Ori Ansbacher. I responded, “You don’t have to say anything. Just being there and their seeing how many people care, is a comfort.” Eliyahu Yeshaya continued, “I think that only people who have experienced a similar tragedy can know what to say to the family.”
I instantly thought of Rabbi Seth and Sherri Mandell, as well as Ezra and Ruti-Rena Ishran, parents of Koby Mandell and Yosef Ishran. On May 8, 2001, thirteen-year-old Koby and fourteen-year-old Yosef had skipped school to go on a hike in the Judean Desert near their home in Tekoa. At first their parents did not worry about the boys. They thought that the boys had gone to school and then to Jerusalem to participate in a political demonstration. But when the teens did not return home by midnight, their parents called the police. The bodies of the two boys were discovered the next morning in the Haritun Caves. Both of them had been bound, stabbed and beaten to death. “Yes,” I thought to myself, ”their parents could totally relate to Ori’s family.”
I imagined that the Ansbacher house located on a street named Hasnassat Orchim Street, would be so full that we might not get through the door. It was quite crowded, but we managed to make it inside. One of the first things I noticed were the tables in various rooms, laden with food for people who came to pay a shiva visit, many of them traveling from far away to do so.
The only available chair in the room was right next to Noa Ansbacher, Ori’s mother. I took that seat and our knees touched, and I hope that she felt a meeting of hearts as well. I remained silent except for when Noah rose to recite the mourner’s kaddish during mincha, after a Torah shiur, and during ma’ariv. At one point I noticed a small white dog sitting on a chair behind me. The dog remained silent the entire time that I was there. In my mind he, too, is in mourning for the sweet, vivacious, friendly and spiritual Ori.
A teenage girl, her mother by her side, shyly approached Noa, “I don’t know what to say.” I suggested that she give Noa a hug. The girl asked Noa if that was okay, and then she gave Noa a hug. “I was a roommate of Ori during our National Service last year. I have a sister named Ori, and when I called my mother from the apartment I shared with Ori and other National Service volunteers, I excitedly told my mother, ‘Ima, my little sister Ori has followed me!’ With time, I saw that Ori was different from my little sister. Ori was so friendly and helpful to me during my year of service. She was so deep and spiritual.”
Following the murder of her daughter, Noa Ansbacher said, “I ask from those who are listening to us and for whom our words are entering their hearts, to do one small thing to add light to the world—one act of kindness and maybe we will preserve Ori’s [soul] in the world and maybe we will have some comfort by adding light to the world.
“It’s important for us that the world knows who Ori was. Ori was a child of light, adding so much light in the world. She cured broken hearts wherever she went, be it with her girlfriends, the boys and girls she worked with in her national service, even people she did not know…”
Noa said that her daughter had been a poet whose work “brought expression to who she was in the world…She taught us to marvel at the sunrise, the sunset, the blooming, the sun, the rain—the world.” Some of Ori’s friends are putting her poetry to music so that it will spread and inspire more people.
Ori was doing her second year of sherut leumi at a nature therapy center. She had gone out for a walk in the bucolic Ein Yael nature preserve near the Biblical Zoo when she was attacked and murdered. Her friends decided not to succumb to fear or terrorism. They launched a creative initiative on Facebook to commemorate Ori’s legacy. The project calls on hikers throughout Israel to post photos from their various trips with the tag “to be a free people in our country.” Later on, the photos and clips will be gathered into one video.
Ori’s friends wrote on the Facebook page, “Last Thursday we parted with deep pain from our friend Ori Ansbacher, who went walking in nature out of confidence and trust in the goodness of man and was taken by evil and cruelty.” Her friends called on “youth, children and adults to take a walk this week all over our beautiful country. Feel free, safe and strong, and in this way, we will shine a light on Ori’s memory.”
Another creative project is called “Rokemote Or” or “Embroidering Light.” Women worldwide are embroidering patches to be sewn together and be made, after consulting with Ori’s family, into something worthwhile and usable such as a wedding chuppah or a parochet for an Aron Kodesh. Women who are interested in the project can write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chabad printed up posters with candle lighting times for Shabbat Parshat Terumah and put a photo of Ori in the center. The words from Lecha Dodi “hitorari, hitorari ki vo orech, kumi ori” appear on the posters as well.
Following the murder of Ori, our son felt he had to do something, and he sprang into action. Since she was so connected to nature, he decided to plant a grove of trees in her memory. He contacted various people and received permission to plant the trees near the Ein Dubek spring near Bat Ayin in Gush Etzion. He posted the project online and within half a day, the sum of about $900 was reached.
As I write this article, Eliyahu Yeshaya and some of his friends are digging holes and planting trees. So much chesed has been shown. When the owners of the tree nursery, the local photo store and a local woodshop understood that Eliyahu Yeshaya was spearheading a project in memory of Ori, they either gave their product for free, or highly reduced the cost.
P.S. Someone who lost a child, and who knows that I was in the process of writing this article, had these important thoughts and insights. “Ori’s family is still sitting shiva and already people are moving to memorialize her. For the family, memorializing may be a way later stage in the process, and it may even hurt a little that the rest of the world is already ready to move on.
“I am entirely aware that people are wonderful and that their desire to do something comes only from kindness and sympathy. I have absolutely nothing bad to say about people. I just think that people might not be aware of the process the family is undergoing.”
She suggested memorializing Ori at a future date, perhaps on her yahrtzeit. As she wrote, “A year from now, the Nation will have moved on and forgotten Ori, but her family will always be in pain. I think it may be comforting for them to know later that there are people who still remember her and still want to do good in the world in her name/memory.”
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.