Rabbi Leo Dee, father of Maia and Rina and husband of Lucy who were murdered during Passover in a deadly terrorist attack, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday at his home in Efrat in Gush Etzion of what life has been like for his family and what lies ahead.
Asked about the recent divisions in Israel, the political turmoil and the judicial reforms, Dee said he hopes that “people have learned two things: Number one, that if in a situation of tragedy, everyone can come together that means that we can come together and anytime we want to live, the possibility is there. Secondly, what brings us together is some positivity. I think that if there’s love that’s shown towards people, they want to come together. If people criticize each other, which unfortunately is the modern way between politicians and between Facebook groups, then we’ll just create a polarized society. So I think we have to accept the other people, we have to show that we love other people and we want to listen to them, even if we don’t agree.”
The Dee's family tragedy
The terror attack that claimed three of the family members took place on Highway 57 near the Hamra junction. Though it was initially reported as a traffic accident, an initial investigation found that the terrorists fired at the Efrat family’s vehicle, causing it to veer to the shoulder and crash. They then fired again at the car to ensure that they had hit those inside.
20-year-old Maia and 15-year-old Rina Dee were killed on the spot, while their mother Lucy was evacuated to the hospital where she underwent emergency surgeries and remained in critical condition for several days, before she passed away early days later. Over 20 bullet casings were found at the scene.
Dee explained how he now has an additional role with his three children, to also be their mother. He joked that he now calls himself “Dummy,” a combination between “Mummy and Daddy.”
Dee shared that “the kids went back to school today and Keren went back to her volunteer work. I think it’s probably a good idea because it’s only two days and then they’ve got Memorial Day and Independence Day. So it’s a really helpful week, but it will give them a flavor of going back.” Dee explained that “it was stressful and they were anxious about going back and how it was going to be.”
Efrat’s teenagers as well have also been in mourning and many haven’t gone to school since before Passover. He shared that these groups of teenagers have been doing amazing things in memory of his daughters and wife.
Dee shared that there are three main projects in memory of his daughters and wife that he hopes to fundraise for. “Lucy was very keen on community building,” he said. “She built communities in England and she built communities in Israel.” The synagogue which the family is a member of, Zayit Raanan, will be building a community hall in her name.
“Maia used to love going to springs; we received so many pictures from her friends at different springs. She was always sitting around these areas with her friends in beautiful places. We’re building a spring in Efrat with a beautiful garden, flowers and trees. It should be a destination for people in Efrat but also attract people from Jerusalem and from way beyond,” he said.
Rena was a very active counselor in the Ezra youth movement in Efrat “which has been operating out a carpark. In the winter that’s not so pleasant, in summer it’s not so pleasant either,” he explained. These projects will be promoted in conjunction with the Efrat municipality and Council Head Oded Revivi.
Dee currently works as a math teacher, though he has many other qualifications, but has his job now mainly since he was a new immigrant and wasn’t able to find the right type of work, he explained. “I have put my current work on hold for the end of the year. We’re now almost in May. So to be honest, they’ll survive. They’re coming up to final exams and they have a replacement teacher.” He added that “I need to seriously think seriously about what’s next. But at the moment, I’m focusing on looking after the kids and being the mother and the father,” he said.
Dee studied chemical engineering at Cambridge University while Lucy studied Japanese at Oxford University, later becoming an English teacher in Israel. He worked in finance for a decade in the UK and then decided to go study in rabbinic schools in Israel. They lived in Israel for four years and returned to the UK as emissaries, Dee as a community rabbi.
“Lucy actually woke up about two years into those six years back in the UK and she said we cannot bring up Jewish kids in England, we can only bring them up in Israel. She said we need to sell a house in England and that we had to buy a house in Israel and we did,” he said.
“When we came here, she [Lucy] immediately started training as an English teacher and she just went from strength to strength. She loved the people and the people loved her.” Dee shared that “I didn’t find anything [a career] quite like her, that was my calling. I didn’t really have such a calling. So I did multiple different things. I studied public health, and I wrote a book on ecology. I worked in sustainable investment. Most recently, I was teaching math.”
He added that he sees himself as “an educator, I have a lot of interests. And I read a lot. That’s where I come from.”
He also criticized CNN, calling it “a partner in international terror. I think that the perception of Israel in the world press is very negative. I’m not sure why that is. But one of the things that I hoped to achieve was to equate Israel and the Israeli flag with good, because in this situation, it was very clear where the good lied and where the evil lied,” Dee explained.
Dee had recently interviewed on CNN, and called it a “pleasant,” that he talked about “the cycle of violence,” which he said “was caused by the world media, because when a terrorist attack happens and the world media is not out there to condemn it absolutely – that creates an opening for the next terror attack, which then you know, not responding to appropriately and that causes the next one. So that’s the cycle of violence.”
What is the way to stop it?
“For the media to stop praising the terrorists or giving them any credibility,” Dee continued, saying that during the interview, the CNN anchor was listening to him and “nodding her head,” but at the end of the interview, she said something around the lines of, “‘After this, we’ll be turning to Palestinians who had a very similar situation.’”
Dee said: “If I’d had the opportunity to respond to that, I would have said, ‘Excuse me, how many Palestinians have been attacked by Israeli terrorists this week and killed in cold blood on the way up to holiday, intentionally.’ Or maybe these Palestinians that you’re talking about were actually terrorist suspects who the Israeli police or army were interrogating? Perhaps they are, in fact, the very people who killed my wife and daughters. But to equate them to my wife and daughters is exactly the problem.
That is why he considers the network a “partner in international terror. Through the interview, they demonstrated that very obviously, I think, to anyone intelligent.”