Since the Itamar massacre, my youngest daughter has been afraid. With each passing day, the fear was growing. Because this coincided with a long school vacation, I haven’t had the chance to speak to her teacher and experts at the school. I’ve been debating what to do and if this is something that we can handle at home or if she needs more intervention.
First, she was afraid to sleep in her room, afraid of the window. The terrorists in Itamar came through the window to attack and murder five members of the Fogel family. We closed the heavy shutters; it wasn’t enough.
She was supposed to switch rooms because her older brother was getting married and I thought she’d be better in her new room. The new room is on the second floor whereas the first one was at ground level and it frightened her to look out on the darkness. She was a bit better – but she insisted on locking the door when she slept. In Itamar, the door was left unlocked and when Tamar Fogel returned, the first sign that there was trouble was the fact that the front door to her home was locked.
Aliza insists on leaving a light on in her room at night – something she has never done before. Before she would go to bed, she made sure we locked the bars on the patio doors and wanted to see the door to the front door locked as well. We tried to explain to her that we have a dog – and a big one at that. The Fogel family didn’t have a dog and we hoped this difference would comfort her. It wasn’t enough. We bought her a cheap window alarm; it helped add a bit of security, but overall wasn’t enough either.
We’ve listened to her, explained, talked. Only once did I tell her that we would protect her. My heart broke as she explained that Ruthi and Udi Fogel had not protected their children so how could I say we would protect her? We’ve talked about it, discussed it, hinted at ways she could cope. Differences in where we live, the landscape and surrounding security. Everything, anything.
A few days ago, the murderers were caught and as is the way in Israel, the children are exposed to the news. It was my daughter who told me the ages of the murderers, and that they were from the village of Awarta, as expected. She told me who they murdered first – and in a strange way, the knowledge brings her peace. I haven’t verified her narration, and it doesn’t matter, as the end is still the same. She says the two boys were killed and then the parents. She said that Ruthi blocked the room where her two small sons were sleeping and so managed to protect them. They were not discovered.
Aliza doesn’t know the killers expressed only one bit of regret – regret that they missed killing the boys too. This I will keep from her; this she does not need to know. She told me only that the murderers did not know there were more children in the house.
Aliza knows they killed little 3-month-old Hadas because she cried out and that had she been silent, they might not have killed her. My daughter says her friend’s father is a policeman and has been telling his daughter, who then tells her.
Yesterday, we had our first easing of the trauma; the first hint that things will get better. Aliza came to me, proud of herself. For the first time, she had slept with the window open. For her, this is a milestone. She is still afraid to be upstairs alone and assures me she is not ready to be in the house alone at all. I have no intention of leaving her alone, and I told her this many times and still she reminds me she is scared.
Her aunt and uncle are visiting from the States; she is sharing her room with her aunt. It isn’t clear whether she wasn’t scared because my sister-in-law was in the room with her or because she is on the down side of the trauma she and all of Israel suffered but I’ll take it as a sign of hope.
She knows that I don’t want her to read the newspaper and then apologizes because she saw the picture of the family and couldn’t leave it alone. She is loving and kind and yet I don’t know if she has faith again that we can protect her. I tried telling her she has two brothers who are/were soldiers – but this too does not help – after all, Udi was a soldier and he was killed. I can’t argue with her; I can only listen and wait.
I can’t ask how she feels but I can reassure her again and again. I can only sit back and hope that she will continue to heal slowly. It is the nature of the child, I think, when she is given love and understanding. She will heal, I now believe, and she will return to what she was before. It is the way of the human.
And with that knowledge comes the truth that Tamar Fogel will never return – that thought haunts me. She and so many other Israeli children – victims of terror, relatives of lost ones. Tamar Fogel will, for the rest of her life, deal with what was done to her family in Itamar by those who love death over life and those who were capable of doing something that is so evil, so wrong, so inhumane. I have trouble understanding how they can even live with themselves.
The trauma my daughter experienced is slowly fading, as I believed it would. As it fades, there is a feeling of guilt in letting it go, knowing that others continue to suffer. My daughter is, hopefully, too young to feel that guilt, to know that there others who continue to suffer, or even to realize that there was a trauma.
For now, I wait, I watch, I hope. For now, Aliza heals – as all Israeli children do – hoping again to believe in the goodness of this world and forget, just a little, the agonies.