A stone’s throw from the bus stop where Naftali Frankel, Ayal Yifrach and Gilad Shaar, may HaShem avenge their murders, unknowingly got into a car with two Arab terrorists, stands the bus stop where 26 year-old Dalia Lemkus was brutally murdered. Following the murder, the bus stop was draped initially with Israeli flags and home-made signs declaring Am Yisrael Chai (the Nation of Israel lives) and Al Tira Mahem Ke Hashem Elokaicha Imach do not fear them because G-d, your G-d is with you). On a pole near the bus stop someone had hung up a sign with a black background and large red letters in Hebrew which stated, “And I said to you, in your blood live! And I said to you, in your blood live.” (Yechezkel 16:6) Those signs are no longer there but in their stead stands a very tall menorah. Perhaps it was erected to symbolize the great light that one Jewish soul had spread during her brief, but meaningful life.
There have been so many terrorist attacks since the brutal murder of Dalia, that it is extremely difficult to remember each victim, but it is important that we remember as many as we can. Behind each terrorist victim there is usually an immediate family, relatives and friends who still mourn and who still ache from the gaping hole left in their hearts.
At about 4:30 pm on Monday, November 10th, 2014, thirty year-old Maher al-Hashlamun from Chevron tried to run over people at the bus stop outside of the town of Alon Shevut. He hit Dalia as well as several cement posts placed there to prevent such attacks.
The terrorist then stepped out of the car and stabbed Dalia, who lay wounded on the ground, repeatedly in the neck. He proceeded to stab a local young man, Yeshaya from the community of Bat Ayin who came to help Dalia. An acquaintance of mine in his 50s, Yishai Katz, stopped his car and got out to bravely face the terrorist with his bare hands. Yishai was stabbed in his jaw and later taken to Sharei Tzedek. The terrorist then ran back across the road to make sure that Dalia was dead.
Meanwhile a yeshiva high school girl ran up to the guard station at the entrance to Alon Shevut and alerted the guard, Eshbal Am Shalem a friend and neighbor of ours from Rosh Tzurim. The girl was so traumatized that she couldn’t even talk; she just motioned with her hands. Eshbal ran to the scene of the terrorist attack. Before he shot his pistol he had to distinguish between who was the terrorist and the person being attacked. The guard shot the terrorist three times in his chest.
Resuscitation efforts by a passerby on Dalia failed. On the other hand, the terrorist lived and was taken to Hadassah Hospital where he underwent surgery. Ironically he was hospitalized in a room next to Yeshaya, one of his stabbing victims. The terrorist is a member of Islamic Jihad. He was jailed in Israel from 2000-2005 after he was convicted of throwing Molotov cocktails at an IDF patrol.
Who was murder victim Dalia? She was one of six children of Nahum and Brenda Lemkus. Her parents made aliyah thirty-one years ago from South Africa. For the past sixteen years they have been living in the town of Tekoah in Gush Etzion. Nahum is an optometrist and he also volunteers for Magen Dovid Adom. Brenda works with the elderly.
Dalia loved to bake cakes with her mother. Dalia also liked to help brides, and she would do their makeup for free before their weddings. She had just finished a degree in occupational therapy. She volunteered in Yad Sarah, which opened a branch in Tekoa two and a half years ago. She was looking forward to marriage and raising a family.
Dalia had been wounded in a previous stabbing attack in February of 2006. She was standing at a bus stop at the Gush Etzion junction, when she and another man were stabbed by a 28 year-old Chevron resident. An off-duty policeman noticed the attack. He got out of his vehicle and cocked his gun at the terrorist. The terrorist fled.
At Dalia’s funeral her sister Michal recounted a conversation she had had with Dalia. “After the stabbing attack in 2006, I asked you how you could continue to hitchhike and stand at the intersection where you had been stabbed at, and you nobly strengthened me. ‘You think I’ll let them beat me?’”
“I want to scream to everyone, to my nation, and especially to myself, ‘Don’t stop hitchhiking! Don’t give them the pleasure of successfully stopping us from living our lives, simply do not stop your life,’” said Michal.
My neighbor Ori Shacter was the last person to have spoken to Dalia on that fateful day. He was on his way back from a meeting when he saw a young woman standing at the Shimshon junction with a sign that read “Gush Etzion.” Ori stopped to give her a ride.
As she got into the car Ori saw that the sign said “Kiryat Gat” on the other side. With a smile he asked her if she needed to get to Gush Etzion or Kiryat Gat. She answered him that she lives in Tekoa in Gush Etzion and she works in Kiryat Gat as an occupational therapist in nursery schools. She expressed to Ori how much she loves working with little children.
“We continued speaking on the way home to Gush Etzion. I stopped to let her off at the Alon Shevut junction. The young woman got out of my car and thanked me. I wished her a safe trip. I turned left towards my home in Rosh Tzurim. I never imagined that a few minutes later a despicable terrorist would murder her.”
Following the murder, soldiers have been stationed at a number of bus stops in our area. The mayor of the local city of Efrat, Oded Revivi who holds the rank of Lt. Col, says that security will only be achieved when incitement is stopped. “The security forces are trying to create a sense of security, but we know that it’s only producing a false sensation… Everyone understands that we have ruthless enemies who want to destroy us. There is no justification for the murder of a young woman or for three teenagers to be kidnapped and murdered at a bus stop.
“Leaders have the responsibility of acting responsibly, and I know that security services do much to soothe the area. On the other hand, Abbas decides if things will escalate or be calm. Now, though, he may understand that we too can be incited, so he is trying to calm the flames. We’ll see whether he can succeed.”
During Nahum’s eulogy for his daughter he said, “The terrorist murdered her because she was Jewish, because she is carrying on the tradition of the Nation of Israel. The terrorist did not understand that through the murder, he will not succeed in breaking us and our bond to the land of Israel.
“With your radiant face, your beauty and kindness of heart, you followed the path of Sara the Matriarch. You helped us and the entire nation of Israel. You have merited to die for the sanctity of HaShem and for the sanctity of the land. Beloved Dalia, you join our holy matriarchs. May you sit in the shadow of the Shechina.”
One long, painful, upsetting and heart aching year has passed since then. Several months ago I watched a news video which showed Brenda and Nahum in the court room in Camp Ofer, north of Jerusalem, which houses the largest Israeli detention prison for Arab terrorists. (It brought back memories of the times that I had attended the trial of the murderers of Asher Palmer and his infant son Yonaton who had been murdered by Arabs when they were on their way to Jerusalem on erev Shabbat, September 23, 2011, to meet Asher’s pregnant wife.) It was the same military court, albeit with different players. Dalia’s mother demanded the death penalty for the smiling terrorist, but the court, which never imposes the death penalty on terrorists, settled for two life sentences, and awarded the Lemkus family with NIS 4 million compensation to be paid by Hashlamoun.
Recently I made a condolence call to a neighbor’s mother. When a seat on the sofa become available, I moved to the sofa and sat next to another woman. From the conversation between the mourner and the woman next to me, I immediately understood that she was Brenda Lemkus.
I introduced myself to Brenda and she said, “Oh yes, I remember the (condolence) letter that you had sent me.” Then she asked me, “How is your father?” Brenda had responded to an email that I had sent out this past winter to several lists when I was searching for a caretaker for my father. Despite her own troubles she had reached out to me over the phone and made some recommendations. With such a caring mother, it’s no wonder that Dalia continued the tradition of so many acts of chesed. May her memory be for a blessing.
P.S. On Tuesday, October 20th, IDF soldiers finally demolished the home of the terrorist who murdered Dalia. The demolition of the home was carried out at the instruction of Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon
(This article originally appeared on Aish.com.)
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.