kalnatarov memorial 248.88.
(photo credit: Yaakov Lappin)
The streets of Bnei Ayish, a working-class town of some 7,000 people south of Gedera, were a little quieter on Sunday afternoon as parents brought their children home from school.
The residents - mostly immigrants from the former Soviet Union and Sabras of Yemenite descent - struggled to explain to their children and to themselves how a seven-year-old boy was murdered a stone's throw away from his home by twin brothers who had for years been labelled by many locals as pedophiles.
"He didn't manage to do many things and yet his life has already ended," said a letter written by one of Leon Kalnatarov's classmates that was placed on a memorial at the Ofek elementary school, where the boy studied.
"All of the anger, rage and desire for vengeance will not bring back even one second of Leon's life," another letter read.
"I feel terrible. My girl has not slept for two days," said Olga Gilles, who had just picked up her seven-year-old from the Ofek school. Gilles stroked her daughter's head as she spoke.
"I don't know how to explain it to her. It's hard enough for an adult to understand. My daughter does not want to leave the house. She's scared to be home and she does not want to go out," Gilles said. "I won't let her stray far after this. If she plays outside, she must remain near the house so I can see her from the window."
Anna, 22, said she baby-sat for the murder victim on several occasions.
"It's so shocking. The people who did this are animals. Everyone could see something was wrong with them. There were complaints. The authorities should have followed things closer," she said.
"You could see the twins weren't normal. They would ask you the same question over and over. They didn't have the mental age of a 24-year-old," said Radic, an 18-year-old soldier.
Frightened, angry parents gathered outside the school gate, waiting for their children to emerge from the building. "My husband was threatened by the twins," said Yelena Teromifar, who lives next to the ironically named Sodmi family.
Teromifar said her husband came to the aid of a teenage boy who complained that he was struck by the twins after objecting to their advances toward his younger brother.
"When residents accused the twins of criminal behavior, their father, Meir, responded, 'Being criminal is something professional,'" Teromifar said.
"All of the authorities should have focused on them," she added. "My boy, eight, has nightmares."
"Leon was so sweet. He would always walk around with candies," Teromifar recalled. "My son passed by the home of the twins. I can't fathom what would have happened had he gone in," she said.
Inside the school, psychologists and specialists held an emergency meeting with teachers to evaluate how the pupils were responding to the murder, and to plan for the days ahead.
"This is what is called emergency readiness," principal Micky Maor told The Jerusalem Post. "All of our emergency plans are being implemented, and adapted on a daily basis," she said.
"Leon was a wonderful child. He recently made big advances in his literacy skills," Maor said.
Pupils were told the brutal truth on Sunday by teachers, she said.
"We told them, yes, it's true, Leon was murdered. And yes, two people, who are known to some of you, are in prison."
The children are encouraged to talk about their feelings and nightmares, and made to feel that their responses are normal, the principal said.
"This is very hard for children to understand. We are determined to show them we are here for them. The kids are asking us what a pedophile is. They are struggling to understand death and to grasp the fact that Leon will not come back tomorrow or ever," Maor said.