Late Wednesday night, around midnight, in a crowded funeral parlor in Jerusalem, Shmuel Elimelech Braun stood in front of the small, white shroud-covered body of his three-month old daughter, Chaya Zissel, killed earlier that day in a terror attack.
“Zissila, you were pure,” the young father said in a tear-choked voice.
Earlier on Wednesday, he and his wife, Chana, had taken their only child to see the Western Wall for the first time.
“In the last hour, you were by the Kotel. You woke up. We schmoozed with each other,” said Braun as he recounted those last moments with the daughter he cherished.
“You looked at me and smiled,” Braun said. “I told you, this is the Kotel, this is Har Habayit [Temple Mount].”
Braun spoke with his infant daughter about the cherubs that had been on the Ark of the Covenant when the Temple existed thousands of years ago.
He described how the angels’ faces were like that of a pure child.
“They were like you,” Bruan told her. “You looked at me, with a twinkle in your eye, like you knew, like you understood me.”
He spoke partially in English and partially in Yiddish. He and his wife had come to Jerusalem from Rockland County in New York so that Braun could study in a yeshiva.
They had tried to have a child without success for a number of years. Finally, on July 9, Chana gave birth to Chaya Zissel.
“You made us happy from the moment you [arrived],” Braun said.
He proceeded to recount her short life, which included the High Holy Days and Succot.
Chana’s parents, Shimshon and Sara Halperin, had come from New York so they could celebrate the holidays together.
During those days, “You were glowing,” Braun said of his daughter.
He recalled how he would hold her on his lap and sing religious songs at the end of the meals.
As he spoke, he was surrounded by male mourners who wore black suits and black hats. His tearful wife stood together with the women.
After the eulogies, men carried Chaya Zissel’s small body outside on a gurney chanting the prayer, “A Woman of Valor,” as they walked.
On Thursday, they sat the shiva mourning period in their small Jerusalem apartment.
Halperin, who is originally from Israel, but has lived in the United States for the last 40 years, came outside to speak with reporters about his granddaughter and their family. He explained that his father Rafael was a well-known businessman and rabbi in Israel, who had authored an encyclopedia and founded Optica Halperin.
Then he recalled the events that occurred on Wednesday when Chana and Shmuel took Chaya Zissel for her first trip to the Western Wall.
Halperin held up a photograph taken during that trip, in which Chaya Zissel was wearing a purple sweater and baby hat. Her eyes were wide open.
The family returned home on the light rail. Just after they stepped off the train, a young Arab man from east Jerusalem, Abdel Rahman al-Shalodi, drove his car into the group of people standing by the rails.
Police have charged that he did so deliberately and that the incident is a terrorist attack.
Halperin said that his granddaughter flew out of her carriage and into the air some 10 to 20 meters before landing on the sidewalk, wounding her head.
Doctors were unable to save her life, Halperin said.
His wife, he said, had left Israel earlier that day, while Chaya Zissel was still alive.
“She was kissing her. Half an hour later the taxi came. She went to the airport. She flew to JFK Airport.”
When Sara got off the plane, she was greeted immediately by her children and friends who broke the news to her of her granddaughter’s death.
She immediately flew back to Israel on the same plane in which she had arrived. She returned to the Brauns’ apartment just as her husband was speaking with reporters.
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