The second day of Nisan marks the tenth anniversary of the murder of ten-month old Shalhevet Pass, shot and killed by an Arab sniper from the Abu Sneneh hills in Hebron. That horrible event remains embedded in my memory, as if it were yesterday. I''ll never forget my nine year old daughter, running, screaming, into my office, crying, "the baby was hit in the head and Yitzhak in the legs!" The following in an interview with Yitzhak Pass, videoed in Hebrew, yesterday. (See video below.) Q. Yitzhak Pass, yesterday you marked a decade to that terrible day – I remember it like it was yesterday – what about you?
Me too, I remember what happened in detail, even though, after the murder, I had a black hole in my memory, what happened. Afterwards, we started to join our memories, and I remember.
Q. What do you remember?
We walked with Shalhevet in her stroller in the direction of the Avraham Avinu neighborhood, her grandparents, my wife’s parents, and when we reached the entrance to the neighborhood, then, I remember the blast I felt in my legs, at the first moment I didn’t understand what had happened, and when I turned around and saw that my legs were hit, I realized that I’d been shot. I lay down on the ground behind the soldier’s station, my wife took Shalhevet from the stroller in the direction of a wall that could block them from the shooting, and when she held her head, she discovered that Shalhevet had been shot in the head. The soldiers started arriving, there was shooting, until I was evacuated. I remember it like it was yesterday.
Q. You live about 50 meters from the location of the murder. How do you deal with it, on a daily basis?
Unfortunately, bereavement, both mine and in a more general national sense, is an integral part of our lives. It’s impossible to ignore it and we have to deal with it. I chose to deal with it by living where it happened, to show that it won’t break us, to the contrary, it heightens our determination and increases our strength. There’s no doubt that every time I walk past the monument put up in Shalhevet’s memory, I feel a little pinch at my heart, it’s constant, it’s opposite my eyes all the time, it’s impossible to ignore it, but we learned to live with it, and somehow to receive strength from it.
Q. This wasn’t the first time your families, from both sides, were affected by terror. This was the most horrific, as per the results, but it wasn’t the first time. What other terror events were your families affected by?
Unfortunately, we have a not so simple history in our family, on my side and on my wife’s side. She’s lived here many years; her parents arrived here many years ago. Her father, Avraham Zerbiv, a scribe, some 17 or eighteen years ago, was walking to early morning prayers at Ma’arat HaMachpela when, on the way, he was attacked by three terrorists with axes. He was very critically wounded, he succeeded in killing one of them and the other two were apprehended. His life was saved due to the care he received from Dr. Baruch Goldstein, who performed emergency surgery on him at the site of the attack and saved his life.
My wife’s twin sister was stabbed here in Hebron and fortunately, not seriously hurt. And my younger brother, who today also lives in Hebron, was shot two weeks before Shalhevet’s terrible murder, on the Shabbat of Purim, he was shot by a sniper from the Abu Sneneh hills, and fortunately for all of us, was slightly injured in his foot.
Indeed, we have experienced first-hand, terror and Arab hatred of Jews who live in Hebron.
Q. How did you choose to eternalize Shalhevet?
First of all, from our standpoint, and from that of the entire community, it was a murder that stood out due to its result. This was an infant, ten months old, that shocked the entire world. We received thousands of reactions, letters, not only from Jews and people living in Israel, who shared our grief. We understood that Shalhevet wasn’t our private possession, rather, essentially, someone who belonged to all Am Yisrael – the Jewish people. One of our first decisions was to write a Torah in her memory. This way, anyone who felt a part of this could be a partner, and many Jews helped us from all over the world, and thank G-d, that Torah, which her grandfather, my wife’s father wrote, is here in Hebron.
Afterwards, in consultation with others in the community, we decided to open a Torah study hall, to eternalize her name, called Shahevet Techiyat HaAretz (Shalhevet, the living land), It was important to us to show that her murder just intensified our determination to be a part of our land, and that we are willing even to die for its sake, and to raise up and awaken, to instill love for Eretz Yisrael, the importance of our connection to the land, to settle it, to live anywhere and everywhere in our land.
Q. Shalhevet was your first born and at that time, only child. Since then your wife has given birth several times.
When Shalhevet was killed she was towards the end of her pregnancy. A few months later she gave birth to another daughter, Renana Nechama, and since then, thank G-d, we have two sons and three daughters, the last one was born two weeks ago and thank G-d, we see comfort in the children. This is one of the things that gives strength. We know that we still have reasons to continue and for what to aspire.
Q. Renana Nechama, the initial letters spell the word Ner (candle) (Shalhevet means flame). Was this intentional?
No, this is the first time that’s come to my attention. The meaning of Nechama (comfort) is clear, and Renana (song-chanting prayer), shows that despite the difficulties, was have to be happy all the time and believe in what we are doing. Despite the fact that sometimes the results are difficult, we, all of us in this state, indeed, there isn’t a person who doesn’t have a connection to death and bereavement, but it’s important to stress the happiness factor, that we are in Eretz Yisrael and not in Galut (diaspora).
Q. The other children know about their older sister?
The older ones, of course, the younger ones know that there was something, but they are too small to understand the details.
Q. What do you teach them, what do you tell them?
We tell them what happened, without hiding anything. I think that it’s important that children, as soon as they are able to comprehend, should understand the reality and know that Hebron isn’t like every other place in the world, that there are the complexities here. The children understand it, they live here and they know we’re not in Tel Aviv, that here there are soldiers and Arabs, that sometimes we get hit by rocks. Sometimes they feel the realities and complexities, but the bereavement is part of our life. I don’t think it should be blurred. It’s important that the children should know that, first of all, there is a price for our faith, for what we think and what we do, and that we gave our most valuable possession for the sake of Eretz Yisrael, for the sake of settling the land.
Q. When I stop by the monument with tourists, I stress, above everything else, that the family, despite the terrible tragedy, is still here. How do you stay here? Why?
First of all, we are stubborn. The Jewish people are stubborn, a stiff-necked people. We are enrooted in this land. Both in our personal family, and in a more general way, this is everything. There is nothing, not murder, not Arabs, which can uproot us from here, because we are a stiff-necked people. Despite what the Jewish people have experienced, we have been able to hold our heads high. We have to understand how they lived in Galut where anyone could do whatever he wanted to Jews, and here, and here, in Eretz Yisrael, we hold our heads high, standing straight and tall, no one will ever get us out of here.
Q. In conclusion, you’ve been in Hebron many years, you’ve absorbed many blows and had also, many joyous events. Why Hebron? For you, what’s so special about Hebron?
Hebron is the beginning of the Kingdom of Israel. The Kingdom of David, which is, for us - our first son, born to us, we called David Tzuri, because King David embodied standing tall, Jewish power, I don’t think there were many people in Jewish history who had such a personality that embodied the intensity of David, and essentially, the factors of Beit HaMikdash (the Temple) and redemption, Mashiach ben David, who will, with G-d’s help, come soon, all this was personified in King David, who absorbed his roots from the Judea region and from Hebron, specifically.
For us, Hebron is to return 3,000 years, linking to the image of King David, bonding to his personality, and to continue with what he began, to be here Jews in Eretz Yisrael, walking tall, fighting when necessary, and when necessary, to be gentle, as it’s written in the Talmud that David was “Adino HaEtzni,” during war he was as hard as a Cedar, and when he learned Torah, he was gentle like a silk worm. We want to return to our glorious past, when the Jewish people ruled Eretz Yisrael without any question marks or complexes, without the complicated realities that we witness today, all the confusion, all the convoluted ideas that we all unfortunately hear. We want to live as simply as possible, in the most natural way possible, the way a people should. In our opinion, such was expressed by King David. Yitzhak Pass, thank you very much.