Latest posts by Varda Epstein (see all)
We got there early for the funeral. So early that I actually had a chair to sit on in the shade (!) before the workers realized that the several rows of plastic chairs they’d set up were not going suffice to handle thousands of people and took them away (the chairs, that is). One of the workers tried to be kind. He pushed the chair back into my hand. He had a little powwow with the other workers. He argued, “Old people, women, and children should have chairs!”
He was overruled while I was left chair-less, pondering which category he thought I fit.
But during the 20 minutes I had that chair, I was interviewed twice by the media.
It was good they seized the opportunity then, because the crush of humanity was stunning. I never saw so many people congregate at once.
It had been a difficult week. I went to the rally at Rabin Square on Sunday night, got the terrible news Monday night, and attended the funeral on Tuesday.
It was a hot day. People were fainting left and right. There would be sudden calls of, “Hovesh, hovesh (medic, medic)!” and the medics would push their way through us to attend the fainters. I saw passed-out women being born about on stretchers.
As for the still upright, the bodies were packed so closely there was no place to stumble or fall. The bodies held each other up and the heat was unbearable. I was surrounded by a press of young people. I asked one of them where they were from. She said, “Tiveria. Ir HaKoidesh. (Tiberias, the Holy City).”
They were beautiful these children. Beautiful with fresh skin and hope and patriotism and I was happy they were the future of my people and my country. They sang the same songs Jewish children in youth groups sing everywhere in the country. The boys, some of them, tried to be serious and failed, while others wept. One girl looked like the heat was getting to her. She was surprised when I pressed a bottle of cold water into her hand. “You look like you need this,” I said. And I urged her to drink.
But before they took the chairs away and I got packed into the crowd for hours, waiting for the saddest funeral I’d ever attended, in which three fathers (and a mother) said Kaddish in broken voices and a Rosh Yeshiva wailed and wept for his lost students, I got interviewed twice.
They wanted to interview the man sitting behind me. They’d heard him speaking English. He said, “I’d rather not,” and they walked away.
But as they walked away I thought I heard them say, “CNN,” and my ears perked up.
“CNN?” I asked, curling my lip in distaste.
Oopsie. That was all they needed. They came rushing over.
And at that point I had a decision to make: Let them interview me? Yes? No.
No, because they would use the footage and my words, taking them out of context.
Yes, because damn it, it was a chance to get the real story out there. For ONCE.
I Opted For Yes
There was no time to deliberate. I opted for yes.
“How did you feel when you heard the news?”
“I felt,” I paused, searching for a word, “SHATTERED.”
“Was it a foregone conclusion you’d come to the funeral?”
“No. My community arranged a bus so I decided I would come.”
“What community is that?”
“Efrat,” I said.
“Are all the people at the funeral settlers?”
Now THAT. Was an irritating question. But at last I had my opening.
I said, “No. This is a national tragedy. If you had attended the rally the other night, as I did, you would know that this terrible event affects everyone in the country: right, left, secular, religious, settler. We are all here. We are all one.
“These boys were murdered because they were JEWS living in their indigenous land.
“They weren’t ‘missing.’ They weren’t ‘believed kidnapped,’ they were kidnapped and murdered for the crime of being Jewish and for living in their land.
The “J” Word
“They were murdered because they. Were. Jews,” I said, harshly punctuating my words with a pointing finger at the reporter, at the cameraman, at the camera.
Gee. Do you think I got the “J” word in there often enough?
I hope so. After all, I had to make up for the President and Jen Psaki. I had to make up for everyone else in the U.S. administration. They all get tongue-tied whenever there is a ripe opportunity to say the words “Jew” or “Jewish” in relation to Arab terror.
I, on the other hand, have no such impediment.
The reporter’s final question, “What should be Israel’s response?”
I sensed his eagerness and knew what he wanted, that CNN reporter. He wanted me to lust for Arab blood. He wanted me to cry out for revenge. To say ugly things.
He wanted me to be that stereotypical rootin’ tootin’ shoot ‘em up settler gal.
But I did not give him what he wanted.
I said, “We must create a deterrent against such heinous acts. We need to protect our land. We need to make our children safe.”
With that, the two men, reporter and cameraman thanked me, packed up their gear and moved on. Another reporter asked a few questions of me, took some notes. But he was just some minor third-string reporter. It was CNN that mattered to me.
I wanted the world to hear! I wanted them JUST ONCE to hear the truth. That Jews are killed for being Jews. That it has nothing to do with land. It has nothing to do with “occupation.”
It has to do with evil.
CNN did not use my footage.
I kind of knew they wouldn’t. Still, I felt disappointed.
I watched for some sign of that footage, in vain. I googled and youtubed, lather, rinse, repeat. My friends watched out for it stateside. But we all eventually came to the same consensus: I didn’t give CNN what they wanted. I wasn’t the gun-totin’ settler itching to kill me some A-rabs.
I am just me, Varda.
A woman. A Jew. A mother of many children.
A lover of my land.
I don’t ache to kill or itch to see blood.
I lack the gene.
I’d rather leave these tasks to God.
Vengeance is Mine, and recompense, against the time when their foot shall slip; for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that are to come upon them shall make haste. For the LORD will judge His people, and repent Himself for His servants; when He seeth that their stay is gone, and there is none remaining, shut up or left at large (Deuteronomy 32:35-36).
The only urge I have is to grieve and move forward, the best I can.
Even if it doesn’t make good copy for the mainstream media and CNN.