The Litman Murders: The Untold Story Of An Empty Wedding Hall

The media is a heartless and fickle lover, capable of dismissing the heartache and drama of one story over another, because of the way the winds of opinion blow this way and that, or because the scale of one story is enough to eclipse the smaller one. Those are actually two really good scenarios, relatively speaking. It would explain, for instance, why the world is looking at the tragedy that happened in France and not at the smaller tragedy that happened in Israel. It would make it seem less heartless.

Yes. A coordinated attack on three places in which over one hundred people are killed is going to trump a story in which only two people are killed in a place where terror is de rigueur, par for the course, the dues Jews pay, for living in their ancestral homeland.

And yet, it is a terrible thing that happened here in Israel and in a way, the intimate story of what happened to two, could and would grab the heart in way that the death of over one hundred anonymous people never could, if only the facts were known. If only the media chose to broadcast what happened on a late Friday afternoon on the roads of Judea to one Jewish family.

But they never would.

Which is why it falls to me to try and convey the details to you, dear Reader, and to the world, if only the world would listen for the short time it will take me to tell this story.

This is the story of the heinous double-murder of Rabbi Yaakov Litman and his 18 year-old son, Netanel. The car was filled with various members of the Litman family, seven all told. They were on their way to Metar, where their daughter Sarah’s groom to be, Ariel Biegel, the rabbi’s son, would be called to read from the Torah on his last Shabbat as a single man.  Candies would be thrown at him by the joyous congregants, wishing him a long and sweet life with his bride. There would be singing, and two families getting to know each other over shared meals, and lots and lots of mazal tovs.

Ariel Biegel and Sarah Yechiya Litman at their engagement party, just a short time ago.

Ariel Biegel and Sarah Techiya Litman at their engagement party, just a short time ago.

But it was not to be.

The car was set upon by Arab terrorists who laid in wait for Jewish prey, in a car by the side of the road. The terrorists sprayed the car filled with Litmans, taking out father and son, leaving a mother and various other family members wounded and grieving.

Sarah Techiya Litman, the bride to be, would not have been with them. It is traditional for the bride-to-be to have her final Shabbat as a single girl, in the company of her friends. By tradition, the bride and groom are not to see each other in the last several days before the wedding, as this is bad luck. So it was that when Sarah said goodbye to her father and brother, she said goodbye to them for good.

She had no inkling, of course, that this was to be the case.

Before this most momentous of Sabbaths in  a young Jewish girl’s life could even be ushered in, her father and brother took their final breaths. Cruelly, suddenly. Painfully.

And in an instant, Sarah’s sparkly dreams were smashed, tainted, dredged in the blood of her father and brother, irreparably spoiled with mourning and terror, forever. No more would she dream of the stately walk to the wedding canopy, bedecked in white wedding finery, with her father waiting there alongside her bridegroom, the few young years of her life, from cradle to this moment etched on his face, in his smile, in his eyes.

No. He would not be there. And there would be no white gown. Not this week.

Instead, Sarah is sitting shiva. Shiva. She is mourning. And the wedding hall will not be filled with guests eating delicacies and dancing long hours into the night.

The wedding will happen, God willing. But things will never be the same. Sarah will not start life with her husband with the same clean and hopeful slate, but with terrible baggage: a suitcase filled with blood and flesh, memories of her brother and father killed because they happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, on the way to celebrate HER marriage.

It will never be right. Never.

Left: Netanel Litman, 18, right: Rabbi Yaakov Litman, 44.

Left: Netanel Litman, 18, right: Rabbi Yaakov Litman.

But the world is not looking at Sarah and her small, poignant, bloodstained story. And so they will not know of the Red Crescent ambulance that came to the scene of the accident, saw only wounded and murdered Jews, and left, because they did not care to treat the Litmans. They saw them as subhuman. They saw them not as people, but as apes and pigs and did not feel they’d be breaching the Hippocratic Oath in leaving Netanel, who might have had a chance, had they stopped to help, to die in a car in front of his helpless mother and siblings, his father already dead.

There were seven of them in the car. Netanel used his phone to call for help. In the recorded message he clearly states, “There is a Red Crescent ambulance here, but he is driving away from us. I don’t know why.”

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But I do know why. The Red Crescent ambulance drove away because there was no frigging way they were going to save some lousy Jews. “Feh. Let them die,” they thought in the cadence of their own tongue. To them, killing Jews is a mitzvah, you see. Jews do not deserve to live.

And why should they feel differently, when the Agence France-Presse (AFP) releases a chronology of terror from 9/11 to now omitting any mention of Israel. France, Lebanon, Egypt, Turkey, Tunisia, Kenya, France again, Kenya again, India, Britain, Spain, Indonesia, and the United States: all of these dead are dead worthy of mention. This is called “terror.”

But when Jews are killed, this is not terror. This is not the same thing. Because the Jews are a subhuman species, something worse than a cockroach. Sarah Litman’s story will not be told on CNN, unless as some anonymous, passing mention: Palestinians Arrested After Two Settlers Die in Occupied Territories.

The story will then be unrecognizable. No one will know that it was sheer murder, by people who see no difference between an elderly rabbi in Jerusalem and a car filled with a family on the way to a happy celebration in the Hills of Hebron, a place that belonged to the Jews before there was an Arab people and a very long time before Mohammed was born.

No one will hear of Sarah’s crying on Shabbat, when it is forbidden for Jews to cry, the happiest day of the week. No one will hear how they had to physically hold her up at the funerals of her father and brother on what was to be the final Saturday night she would go to sleep alone in her childhood bed, and dream a bride’s dreams of white satin, lace and pearls, and the pride and love in a father’s face as she would demurely sip wine from a silver goblet, her mother delicately lifting her veil.

Dreams of love, of being beautiful and young and sparkly, embarking on a new path. All of it now drenched with blood and sadness. And the hatred of a world that looked the other way, excusing the deaths of two more Jews, believing the lies that say that Judea is not part of the Jewish homeland, believing the lies that THOSE terrorists are somehow different than the terrorists of France, or the terrorists of 9/11. That when Jews are killed, it matters where they live because Abbas wishes this territory Judenrein and this must be respected!

Terror is not terror when Jews have what the terrorists want: Jewish land. Terror is not terror when Jews are lurking on the margins of the story.

It is not terror when Jews die.

It is never terror when Jews die.

And they will believe this, substituting “Zionist” for “Jew” believing in their “honest criticism” and in the purity of their beliefs. Because there is a momentum, you see. A momentum that holds Israel’s feet to the flame, and views the terrorists that hack at them with meat cleavers in the streets and shoot parents in front of children as “freedom fighters.”

It is the narrative that matters.

After all, if this had been terror, Israel would have been in that AFP timeline. And Europe would not be labeling goods made in the Territories. And the UN would not condemn Israel again and again and look the other way at the human rights violations of the entire rest of the world.

It’s not terror when they kill Jews, you see. And a bride isn’t a bride when she’s a subhuman species, so low that medics would not stop to save her father and brother. So low that the mainstream media will not tell you about the Red Crescent ambulance that looked and ever so slowly drove away; the bride whose wedding hall is empty; two Jewish families in the hills of Hebron where the Patriarchs sleep their eternal sleep, shattered by events beyond their control, in a world that looks elsewhere for its fill of horror.


Varda Epstein

A third-generation-born Pittsburgher on her mother’s mother’s side, Varda moved to Israel 36 years ago and is a crazy political animal who spams people with right wing political articles on Facebook in between raising her 12 children and writing about education as the communications writer at Kars for Kids a Guidestar gold medal charity.

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