A visit to the Rimmel family mourning tent

In one of the worst car crashes of the decade 34-year-old Tzipi Rimmel and her three-week-old daughter, Noam Rachel, were killed

THE MOURNING tent for 34-year-old Tzipi Rimmel and her three-week-old daughter Noam Rachel. (photo credit: DON KATES)
THE MOURNING tent for 34-year-old Tzipi Rimmel and her three-week-old daughter Noam Rachel.
(photo credit: DON KATES)
Tents have always held a warm place in Jewish tradition. Abraham’s tent, an iconic symbol of his legendary hessed, loving kindness, was uniquely open on all sides, beckoning to wayfarers to come inside and enjoy his hospitality. Isaac’s spirit was rekindled when he brought new wife Rebecca into his mother, Sara’s, tent, and Jacob was first described as an “ish ohalim,” a man of the tent who spent his early days in study.
But last week I visited another kind of tent, one associated not with celebration or scholarship, but with tragedy and grief. It was a mourning tent, set up to house the multitude of mourners who came from far and wide to console the surviving members of the Rimmel family.
In one of the worst car crashes of the decade – in a country where vehicular fatalities have become shockingly routine - 34-year-old Tzipi Rimmel and her three-week-old daughter, Noam Rachel, were killed, and her husband, Efraim, and son, Itai, very seriously wounded in a horrendous “accident” on Highway 443. I cringe at the use of the euphemism “accident,” because these are carnages that are eminently preventable, and a direct result of woeful road etiquette and flaunting of the law.
The perpetrator in this case was one Tariq Kurd, an 18-year-old resident of east Jerusalem who, according to reports, was “test-driving” his new car and rammed into the back of the Rimmel’s car at a speed of over 170 kph (about 105 mph).
This latest catastrophe has cast a pall of gloom over Neve Tzuf (Halamish), a close-knit settlement in the Shomron where the Rimmels are popular and productive members. In the United States, as well, there was shock and sadness, particularly in Chicago, where Efraim and Tzipi served as emissaries of Israel and charismatic teachers and youth leaders, beloved by many in the religious-Zionist community. An outpouring of donations has come in to provide for the three remaining Rimmel children in the absence of their parents, yet no amount of money can compensate for the destruction of their world.
What is it about our roads that have led to more deaths than terrorists acts? Why is it that drivers face a daily Russian roulette each time they start their cars? And what can be done to somehow solve this problem?
I suggest that there must be intensive efforts on three fronts simultaneously:
• The Drivers. It’s often been said that Israeli motorists don’t drive – they aim; and indeed, our highways sometimes look like battlefields, where tanks of all colors and sizes are jockeying for position. Our drivers change lanes at will – they seem to be allergic to using turn signals; they jump out on yellow lights and wreak “horn abuse” on those who don’t move fast enough for them. Anyone brave enough to drive in the left lane will invariably see someone behind him in the rearview mirror – driving 10-20 kph over the speed limit – blinking furiously (emphasis on furious) – at them to get out of the way. Drivers routinely stop in the middle of streets to schmooze or window-shop, oblivious to anyone behind them, and double-park when it’s just too much hassle to find a legal space. Tailgating is just the Israeli way of “playing chicken,” leading to umpteen rear-end collisions, and whether or not drivers will stop for you at a pedestrian crosswalk is, well, a hit-or-miss affair – literally.
When I was growing up, in addition to school-sponsored drivers’ education classes, our parents were the ones to teach us how to drive. My dad, like most fathers and mothers, were meticulous in emphasizing both the mechanics – and manners – of proper driving. Sure, we loved speed like any kids would, but we had a respect for other drivers and didn’t look upon them as our competition. Today, despite the many expensive lessons necessary to pass, all too many drivers consider their card a license to bend or break every rule whenever they get behind the wheel. And “road rudeness” is just one step away from road rage.
• Enforcement. How many of us have watched innumerable traffic offenses being committed as we searched in vain for a traffic cop? Park illegally for 10 minutes and, yes, you may very well be ticketed, because that’s big money for the local cities; but see a motorcyclist gleefully fly down the sidewalk and be caught by a policeman? Hardly ever.
True, we are starting to use technology in the fight against bad drivers; drones and high-quality cameras can catch illegal over-takers and speeders and cellphone users – the main cause of accidents today – and that is a hopeful sign for the future. But there is no substitute for actual police on our roads and highways; their very presence has a palpable effect on those around them.
Not only must fines be greatly increased across the board, but licenses must be revoked and repeat offenders shipped off to prison. It’s outrageous that in innumerable cases the perpetrators have no license to drive, no insurance and multiple offenses. Long prison terms are the only way to keep these predators off the streets. They are “traffic terrorists” who endanger all of society and must be locked away.
• Pedestrians. Pedestrians need not be hapless, helpless victims; they can also be part of the solution. Don’t let motorcycles drive down sidewalks with impunity; berate them and send their picture and license number to the police. Don’t allow electric bikes and scooters to own the sidewalks either; these are future bad drivers in training. They will graduate from being two-wheel to four-wheel offenders. Insist on more bicycle lanes and better enforcement from your council members; they actually need your votes to be elected. And if you are a parent of one of these kids, for God’s sake, act like one! Be an enforcer, not an enabler.
We don’t take road safety seriously enough – until we change from a survivor into a statistic. By the time that happens, God forbid, it’s too late.
The writer is director of the Jewish Outreach Center of Ra’anana. [email protected]