The 18 years that have passed since Yoni Berg’s mother was shot to death on the road from Efrat to Jerusalem have not dimmed the pain of her death.
“It still hurts,” Berg said as he stood by her grave in the Kfar Etzion cemetery on Israel’s Remembrance Day and spoke of his grief with a group of visiting teenagers.
While time is supposed to “heal all wounds,” he said, “it doesn’t and that’s OK. I do not want it to feel OK again.” His mother, Sara Blaustein, was 53 at the time of her death and had immigrated to Israel from New York just one year prior.
“She moved here out of pure love of the land of Israel and the State of Israel and wanted to live out her life with her husband and her young daughter,” Berg said.
In the aftermath of the Shavuot holiday in 2001, she and her second husband Norman were on their way to Jerusalem’s Western Wall. Blaustein sat in the passenger seat as her husband drove and spoke about Sampson in the biblical Book of Judges.
Berg recalled the words that someone had told him in the week immediately after her death.
“Your mother didn’t die in a car accident,” he said. “She was killed because she was Jewish. She was not part of a military operation. She was not scheming against the Palestinian national aspiration. She was just driving.”
Throughout the country, Israelis gathered around the tombs of fallen soldiers to honor the 23,741 people who died in uniform defending the country.
In the small cemetery in the settlement bloc of Gush Etzion, Berg said that it is important to pay one’s respect to the soldiers who gave their lives for their country.
“It is also important to know that there are people like my mother who did not suit up for it,” Berg said.
As he spoke, a group of young women from the Migdal Oz seminary stood in a circle around the grave of Esther Alvan, 20, and sang mournful religious tunes. Alvan had attended the school and was killed in the same attack as Blaustein.
In another section of the cemetery, a group of young men sang as they stood in a semi-circle by the grave of terror victim Yaakov Don, 49, who had been a popular teacher. He was shot to death in a terror attack at the Gush Etzion junction in November 2015.
One teacher brought his students to each grave of the fallen to recite psalms.
Berg’s sister, Adena Kapon, told the young women who stood with her that their visit helped strengthen and comfort her.
“You are bringing a lot of comfort to us as a family and to all the families who are here,” Kapon said. “We carry a heavy weight with us all the time, a loss and an emptiness and a heaviness. Today is the day that we feel you are carrying it with us. You are taking a little bit of the load off.”
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