After a terror attack, the connections come out. Israel is a small country. You almost always have some sort of connection to the victims.
With the Salomon family of Halamish, a friend I think of as a brother informed me that the young soldier who neutralized the terrorist through the kitchen window, a hero by all accounts, was his wife’s cousin, as is the young hero’s mother.
That was a nice connection, so to speak. One to make me feel pride by association. A comfort in the midst of grave horror.
But then a friend messaged me on Facebook. She wrote:
“Varda. Friday night, after we finished our Shabbat meal, some kids came to pick up our 12-year-old son Micha on their way to the youth gathering. One of those kids was Nitzan Davidi*, the niece of Michal Salomon. The Davidi* family lives not far from us.
“Later we heard there had been a pigua, a terror attack, but there were no details yet. Not until after Shabbat, when my husband came home from the synagogue and announced, “The Davidis have a new widow and her children in their home.”
“Nitzan’s mother is the sister of Michal Salomon.
“I was sick to my stomach, hunched over with terrible stomach cramps all that night. I know it’s not about me but—it came so close. Nitzan in our home while her uncle was being slaughtered.
“I went for a walk with my husband Saturday night, the night after the slaughter, to get some fresh air. We passed the Davidi home. People were milling about. Like a house of mourning. Then I saw the double stroller. I don’t know why that stood out for me, the stroller, but I was thinking: ‘Why a double stroller? Who, in the Davidi family, needs one of THOSE.’
“Later that night I read that the Salomons had one-year-old twins. One-year-old twins! What kind of monster kills a father! Sick. Just SICK.
“The whole thing was just so very close to home. I was consumed with the thought that Nitzan was in our home at the time of the slaughter, completely unaware. Just a normal kid on a Friday night, picking up her friends for a get together.
“I kept imagining Nitzan coming home happy and tired, going to sleep, and then waking up to the phone call and the keening.”
We both contemplated that for a minute. A young girl being woken from her Shabbat sleep with the worst possible news. Her home transformed to one of deep mourning.
My friend’s experience seemed to touch me by association. The murders in Halamish, the plight of the young widow and her children were more real than ever. I began to imagine the kids hearing their father, grandfather, and aunt being slaughtered, the screams. How would they ever be normal?
It was setting in, the horror, in a new way. There was a new association now. I felt like I knew the family. I could picture the Davidi family. The house. The stroller.
On Tuesday my friend had more to tell me. She eased into it with small talk about diet, mine and hers, working her way around to the terror attack.
“Nitzan’s father, the brother in-law of Michal Salomon? We were chatting and got to talking about the massacre, of course. It’s hard to think about anything else. Yaron* said that terrorists dope themselves up with drugs before they do their thing. They have to be high to do it.”
I shrugged, “Everyone knows that.”
“Well, I didn’t,” she said.
“Anyway, Yaron described the attack to me! He said that Elad [Salomon, Michal’s husband] had the terrorist in a bear hug as the terrorist was stabbing him. Thirty times the terrorist stabbed him in the back. Then he went to work on his face.
“I managed to ask Yaron about Nitzan. ‘When did she know?’
“‘Oh, she was already in bed and sound asleep when we got the call,’ he said.”
There was a pause while my friend let that sink in for me. Observant Jews don’t use the phone on Shabbat. There is only one reason a phone rings like that. It was Michal calling, telling them what had happened.
It’s good that Nitzan was able to sleep through that night, I thought. One more night of childhood innocence before learning of the evil that had hit her aunt and uncle, HY”D, may Hashem avenge the blood of the Salomons.
I know that all Jews are related to each other multiple times. We’re a small nation that was forced to marry cousins in the Diaspora. So I knew in theory that I was related to Michal Salomon, to her husband Elad, his father and sister, and to NItzan and Yaron, too.
Now I felt it, as well.
These are the details you don’t see in the news. These are the quiet, intimate, awful details that are whispered, that almost aren’t whispered, so painful are they to speak of.
Most of us have been thinking about the brave soldier, thinking of Michal Salomon, her courage and strength in taking her children upstairs to the bedroom, locking the door, calling the police.
But now I am thinking of something else: there’s a different picture in my mind, the one that explains all that blood on the floor that we saw in the photos. I’m thinking of Elad, holding the terrorist in a bear hug with all his might, trying to keep him from hurting anyone else, taking all that pain, being stabbed thirty times in the back, and then finally, as his strength ebbs away, being stabbed repeatedly in the face, his final memory one of a knife coming much too close, so close, so many times.
And we don’t even know how it went with Elad’s father and sister.
It’s personal, you see. This massacre of a Jewish family. It hurts.
This is my family, even if I never knew them. This terrorist that came to hurt this beautiful family? He acted out of pure evil. His soul is black as tar. A monster, not a human being.
And now there is a new widow who must try to heal children who heard their father, grandfather, and aunt being slaughtered. Michal must try to make their nightmares go away while mourning the love of her life. But the nightmares will never disappear.
That is who they will always be, the Salomon children, from here on in. They and their mother: they will always be those nightmares. The massacre of Halamish.
And it all feels much too close.