Marianne and Avner are good friends of ours. They met through partner, and have included her – and then us – in much of their lives. We have watched their four children grow – Inbal, Avital, and the twins Ami and Daniel.
Inbal took her position as the eldest very seriously, helping with her three younger siblings. A happy child, always with her beloved blanket, she coined a special, silly name for partner very early on. She was one of the kindest children I have ever known.
We were included in all the milestones – birthdays, Bat Mitzvah.
In the army, she served as a teacher. She loved kids, and on visits always took over with kidlet.
When she finished the army, she decided to go on to college to study human resources. She got an apartment with a friend and fellow student.
For her parents’ 25th anniversary, Inbal’s talented sister sang, her brothers entertained – but it was her role as the eldest to present their words and blessings to their parents.
Ten years ago tonight, she was coming home from college for the weekend. Called her parents from her cell when she got on the bus, and they started out on the drive to the nearest bus stop to pick her up.
It wasn’t so far from her stop when the suicide bomber boarded the bus. When he blew himself up, Inbal was killed instantly. Marianne and Avner were waiting at the bus stop, but the bus didn’t come. They saw ambulances head out past them. Word of the terror attack hit the news, and they tried to call Inbal’s cell, with no reply. They rushed to the hospital where the wounded were being taken, but couldn’t find her. It was midnight when Inbal was identified.
Names of those killed were to be released to the public at 7 am. Another family friend called us at 6 so that we wouldn’t hear the terrible news on the radio. Partner couldn’t stop crying, and kept trying to catch her breath. 6-yr-old Kidlet, awakened from the noise, came out of her room to see what was going on. I grabbed her up in a hug and just couldn’t let go. I told her Inbal had died. She didn’t struggle in my hard grip, just asked me “Mommy, why are you trembling?” I said because I loved Inbal very much. She said “I love her too,” and jumped from my lap and ran to her room to grab a hat that Inbal had lent her on our last visit and then told her she could keep. She asked if she could wear the hat to school, and I said of course.
It was still early, so I sat with kidlet, and we went through all the picture albums to find pictures of her with Inbal, which we put into a special little album for her to keep. When I took her to school, I called her first grade teacher out of the classroom. Kidlet announced to her teacher “My big sister died last night.” I sent kidlet into the class, then explained to the teacher what had happened. We arranged for kidlet to go home with a friend after school. Then partner and I headed to the funeral.
Mobs of people. We huddled under countless umbrellas in the rain, ankle deep in mud, and said goodbye to Inbal. Afterwards, the family was gathering at Marianne and Avner’s home. Partner didn’t want to intrude on their grief, and thought we should go on home, but Marianne vetoed that with seven curt words – “You’re family. You’re coming to the house.”
At the house, there was no wailing, no anger. We all sat in shocked silence. When anyone spoke, it was in a low tone or whisper. But it was mostly silence. A house full of people, looking at one another, sitting in silence.
After the 30-day period of mourning, there was a ceremony at the cemetery and a headstone was put in place. Marianne and Avner asked me to lead the appropriate prayers, as they are not religious, saying that is what Inbal would have wanted. Only Inbal’s grandparents – both holocaust survivors – and I spoke. I read from the prayerbook, and from classic Israeli poets, and recited prayers for peace. And, as I had been asked, I read the Kaddish – the mourner’s prayer. I’m not sure that Marianne and Avner realise just how deeply moved I was to have been asked.
That year I was homeroom teacher for a tenth grade class. That was the last year I taught kids. After that I taught adults, until my career change. Kidlet refused to ride buses for many years, we made arrangements with a local cab company for when she needed rides after school. The hat that Inbal gave kidlet still has a place of honour in her room. We still think of Inbal every day. Many, many people have said how much she touched their lives – with her optimism, with her kindness, with her belief in people and in peace.
Inbal’s death affected us so deeply, I can’t even begin to imagine or understand what our dear friends have gone through. They have handled their loss and grief with grace and dignity. They have never spoken of revenge, or of hate, only of peace. They worry and care about others first. We continue to share family events and holidays. Inbal’s sister and brothers have grown into amazing, wonderful adults, and we love them to bits.
Ten years ago tonight the world changed forever.
Marianne and Avner, you’re in our hearts, thank you for your permission to publish this. Avital, Ami, Daniel –– love you.