Sobbing, Rena Ariel caressed the blue shroud-covered body of her daughter Hallel Yaffa, 13, before uttering her final parting words to the girl who had been a brilliant student and who loved to dance.
“I am giving you one last hug,” Ariel said on Thursday evening as she eulogized Hallel in front of the hundreds of mourners who filled the small park a short walk from their home in Kiryat Arba near Hebron.
Just the night before, Hallel had performed in Jerusalem with the Harikud dance troop.
In the morning she slept late. According to Kiryat Arba Regional Council, she had planned to spend time with her stepfather Amichai when she awoke helping him in his boutique vineyard.
Funeral of Hallel Yaffa
She was alone in the house and still sleeping when 17-year-old Muhammad Tarayrah sneaked into her bedroom and stabbed her to death.
At the funeral, Ariel called out to Tarayrah’s mother.
“I am standing here with a heart filled with pain and I am turning to you, the Arab mother, the Muslim who sent your son out to stab,” Ariel said as she raised her arm and pointed her finger in the air. raised my daughter with love, but you and the Arab Muslim educators, you taught him to hate. Go, put your house in order,” she said as she shook with anger.
It was one of the few moments in the brief eulogy in which she was not crying as she spoke.
With her eyes to the sky, she called out to God and asked, “How do you eulogize a 13-and-a-half-year-old girl. Tell me what words to use to eulogize a flower, a pure soul, who is courageous and beautiful.
Your only sin was that you were almost perfect,” Rena said.
She recalled how she had struggled and finally succeeded in giving birth to Hallel, her firstborn.
To God, she said, “You gave me a present and now I am returning it to you.”
Rena said she was certain that her daughter would go straight to heaven and would be close to God’s seat of honor.
“Take her. Hug her, because I will never again be able to touch her. Make room for her, so she can dance,” Rena said.
She noted that there had been so many terrorism victims, particularly from Kiryat Arba, that had similarly risen to be close to God, a place that was now getting crowded.
“There isn’t any more room there,” Rena said.
Hallel’s dance teacher, Esther Meiron, recalled watching Hallel the night before as she stood in a white dress about to go on stage.
“Like a white bird, last night, you danced the dance of your life,” Meiron said.
She was always impressed, Meiron said, by the strength and light that emanated from Hallel as she danced.
At the time of the stabbing, Meiron said, she had just received a long text message from Rena thanking her and speaking of the significant role that dance and her center had played in Hallel’s life.
“I responded, ‘thank you.
Hallel is amazing,’ what seemed like almost one minute later I got a message about the terrorist attack,” Meiron said.
“I don’t understand. How is that possible?” she asked.
“Unfortunately, for years we have been dancing in the shadow of terrorism. And now, once again, it has knocked on our door without warning,” Meiron said.
“We always found comfort in dancing, but this time, after the kind of performance we had the night before, it is impossible to comprehend,” Meiron said.
To Hallel, she promised that they would never stop dancing.
“We will dance in spite of the pain and one day, we will also dance again, from happiness,” Meiron said.
The funeral, which lasted for almost an hour, included eulogies from MK Yehudah Glick, Rabbi Dov Lior, Kiryat Arba Council head Malachi Leveinger, Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel, whose cousin is Hallel’s stepfather.
Mourners then accompanied Hallel’s body to the old Jewish cemetery in Hebron for burial.
Before the funeral, dozens of neighbors, friends and relatives filled the small Ariel home, located by a security road on the outskirts of the settlement.
Rena sat in a corner not far from her daughter’s room and cried.
Hallel’s grandmother, Penina Aranoff, sat on the porch and spoke about Hallel, the second of her 24 grandchildren, who was a parent’s dream.
She was both artistic and a gifted student academically, Aranoff said. Hallel was fun and full of life, the kind of child everyone wants to be around.
She recalled that Hallel took the time every Friday to call and wish her a good Sabbath.
“Who will call me tomorrow?” she asked.
Aranoff lives nearby in the Efrat settlement. She explained that she had immigrated to Israel from New York and that her daughter Rena was also born in the United States. Although Hallel was born in Israel, she holds dual Israeli-American citizenship, Aranoff said.
The morning of the attack Aranoff said she was in the middle of a water aerobics class, when her daughter Yael came to tell her that Hallel had been hurt and that they had to go quickly to Shaare Zedek Medical Center.
“We went straight to the hospital, but there was nothing to do, she never had a chance,” said Aranoff.
Hallel was in the middle of a series of intense dance performances with her troop. There was one more left to go and when she was finished, Aranoff said, she had promised her they would do something special to celebrate.
Aranoff shook her head as she spoke and said it is hard to perceive that Hallel is gone.
“I still think it’s a mistake,” she said.
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