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Yesterday, a year ago
By Carrie Devorah © 2005
I will always know where I was yesterday a year ago. 2:30 pm, I was touring DC’s Woodrow Wilson Museum looking for God. He found me in the Museum’s gift shop. My cell phone was ringing. I answered. The Museum’s curator, the gift shop’s attendant and a Washington tourist stood by helplessly as I collapsed.
My middle son, alone in LA, was sobbing. “Mom, Scotty was killed in the Jerusalem bombing this morning.” He was the last in my family to see his uncle alive.
The detonated bus I saw on international news 7:30 am had my name on it. Literally. Goldberg. My youngest brother, Yechezkel Chezi Scotty. Age 41. Father of 7. “Oh my God, Chezi, no. The kids.” My brother’s children ages 2 through 17 were his world. He was their universe. Engulfed in a horror I’ve yet to understand, I headed home afraid to take my cell phone down from my ear, stifling sobs absorbing the tragedy befallen my brother.
Chezi was buried that night. Day funerals in Israel are discouraged, fearing second strike bomb murderers may mingle amidst mourners. Bomb murderers read obituaries too. I was not there. I was in DC, alone. I heard Chezi’s candlelit processional up the mountainside the dusk of his murder was mystical.
Our family reunion, planned in September for Chezi’s son’s bar mitzvah, was eight months earlier in January at section Lamed Daled, thirty four, Jerusalem’s cemetery, Har Hamenuhoth, Mountain of the Resting where shrouded corpses are buried unless like my brother, they die in pieces, they are boxed in traditional pine. Chezi arrived to his final resting spot, atop shoulders, surrounded by rabbinical scholars and everyday men like himself who do extraordinary things.
Shivah was in Beitar Ilit, Chezi’s home. The Mayor of Beitar came. The Mayor of Jerusalem came. The obstacle stopping Embassies from honoring our murdered brother was politics. American and Canadian Consular offices stated our mourning was over the Green line. Chezi’s 17 year old daughter clarifies “My father was murdered in Jerusalem, within the Green Line.”
The morning of his murder, Chezi took to his youngest daughter Shoshana’s school a sandwich his wife thought Shoshanah forgot. Chezi thanked Shifra for giving him a second chance to tell their daughter he loved her. Within the hour, my brother’s commuter bus neared Prime Minister Sharon’s residence where Sharon was greeting America’s envoy on Carter’s Roadmap to Peace. Chezi was reading his beloved Song of The Creation. My brother’s murderer stood up directly in front of him, 6 minutes after Chezi and his wife spoke their last “I love you,” by cell phone. 24 year old PNA officer Ali Jaara knocked my brother’s prayer book to the floor. The murderer laughed. His white teeth shone. There was a high pitched whine, a searing white flash seconds after Jaraa detonated himself.
The Rabbi’s tell me Hashgachah prati, God’s grand plan leaves nothing to chance including death in the form of a terrorist commuting on an Egged bus along with dads, grandmothers, students, wives, going to work. God’s plan I’m told includes my facing each day knowing my brother saw what was to hit him. God plan includes my knowing what Chezi looked murdered on Bus 19.
My nieces and nephews face their future without a dad who overwhelmed them with bear hugs, who lay on the floor all seven kids on him with room to spare. They now walk alone to morning prayer, school, synagogue, the market. Me, not Chezi, was teaching his eight year old to bunny ear shoelaces and tie sailing knots; his 6 year old how to photograph cars; his thirteen year old how to buy dress shirts. I cannot forgive the shoe vendor who sold narrow shoes to a boy I tease has a regel shamen, a fat foot, needing a wider style or the shirt vendor who knowingly sold the fatherless boy a shirt to wear on his bar mitzvah day with a neck large enough to loop a boat and sleeves so long they had to be folded back, twice.
Before I left Beitar, I made sure my nephew got the English right for his next solo shopping, “Or else my Auntie Carrie from America will sort you out.”
My sister-in-law’s eyes express the tragic loss of a lifetime love. “I feel him slipping away,” she said, each day more distance from the last day of her husband’s life. My mom standing graveside of the marker bearing his name Yechezkel Isser Shore Goldberg son of Reb Yaakov Moshe said, “I just wanted to put my arms around him.” Always the Virgo, she tidied memorial stones placed by mourners atop Chezi’s new concrete home. “I want the letters to show, Carrie,” she said. I knew better. This was, at long last, my Mom’s goodbye.
Mother Ruth Goldberg lighting Candle at the Place of the Suicide Murder
Har Noff’s Rabbi David Orlovsky spoke last week at my brother’s anniversary Yartzeit addressing Chezi’s goodness, sharing the advice Chezi gave when booking him to speak at the 2004 February yartzeit for our father. “No downers, David, Inspire.” Rabbi Orlovsky instead spoke thirty days after my brother’s murder, Chezi’s shloshim, for the loss of his friend of 22 years, almost half their lifetimes. The rabbi, a smaller version of Chezi who God supersized, moved us forward one memory at a time, laughing so hard, tears streamed down our faces.
On my brother’s Hebrew Yartzeit at Azza Street, the murder scene, an aging local resident approached me, my 74 year old Mom and my oldest son. The white haired gent looking at our memorial candles said, “Ein Brei-rah, we don’t have a choice.” Chezi didn’t.
Mother Ruth Goldberg visits Chezi's grave
Although he held three jobs- Jewish Press columnist, Arutz 7 Lifeline radio show host, and internationally known therapist for at-risk families, he struggled financially. He rode upwards of ten buses a day in Jerusalem to get to where he had to. When asked if he was fearful of the danger of riding Israeli public transportation, he answered, “When it is my time…”
That fated morning the bullet proofed Beitar Tour bus he typically commuted to Jerusalem on never came. To arrive on time for his first client, Chezi took local Bus 19. It stopped everywhere, including Bethlehem, where his murderer lived. One town over. Part of God’s plan. The Hebrew yartzeit, January 16th, I saw no flowers on Azza Street marking the murder of eleven men and women.
I was told Jerusalem’s Mayor Lupoliansky frowns on decorating blood stained streets fearing so many shrines to terrorism murder will frighten tourist dollars away. The news photo of Chezi with Lupoliansky, NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg and my nephew Tzvi Yehosuah on Ben Yehuda Street, August 23rd, 2004, is a media reminder five months and three days before Chezi’s murder, two politicians were promoting safety on Israel’s buses. Bloomberg’s assistant remembers sensing my brother was moving towards the politicians “with a purpose.” Another God detail, I guess.
Yesterday, January 29th, 2005, my nephew Eliezer turned 9 without his dad there to celebrate with him. My baby sister turned 28. Her brother was murdered on her birthday. Today January 30th, my brother’s name mounted again in stone, in the square he was murdered at, the square sharing his youngest daughter’s name, reminds the world 60 years after the Holocaust, Jews continue to be murdered from hate.
I find solace with the story of Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai comforted upon news of his son’s death. Rabbi Elazar Ben Arach told Ben Zakai, to consider our loved ones are being returned to God after we were entrusted with their safekeeping, sort of like returning crown jewels to a king after being asked to watch over them. We returned my brother yesterday a year ago.
My loss is different from my siblings. I am a photojournalist. Headlines they read are events I photograph up close- Jews marching for the PLO at the anti-Israel marches, the Jewish woman I photographed racing towards Lincoln’s Memorial for the Million Worker March holding her homemade collage up so both it and her t-shirt message, Jews For Palestine, fit into the same picture frame.
I cried inside noting upper left corner, the wheelchair bound Sheik who ordered the hit on my brother’s bus. I am at a loss what to say to my niece afraid to cross York University’s Campus Square where Chezi years earlier attended class. She fears being confronted again by the Muslim campaign where they grope students to imply that is how Israeli military abuse civilians. Another of Chezi’s nephews is considering attending Columbia University where Chezi got his Master’s in Education. This nephew saw photos of his uncle’s body in Bus 19’s carnage. I worry how he will handle Columbia professors teaching students that his uncle deserved to die because Chezi was a Jew in Israel.
January 29th teaches me tomorrow’s don’t always come nor can we predict what the morning will bring, like the phone call that changed our lives forever. Standing here, blocks from Beverly Hills, 90212, my sons and I once called home, alongside the Egged bus my brother was murdered on, is ironic.
A few months back I met, Arafat’s Press Officer’s former wife in DC. She told me she and her ex want to send their sons to my three sons alma-mater, Beverly Hills High. She confided she feared her Palestinian boys might be discriminated against. At Beverly? Terrorists sons being discriminated against at a predominantly Jewish High school… who’d have thought that… I guess God does have a plan.
Carrie Devorah is an award winning investigative photojournalist, based in Washington DC. “My year of aveilut , mourning, is over. I am officially no longer a mourner. If only life was that simple…”
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