The bereaved Israeli family that fell between the cracks

One Haifa-based family demands to know why the government is ignoring them in their grief over the death of their son, who was shot at close range by an Israeli Arab.

THE GRAVE of Guy Cafrey, who was murdered by an Israeli Arab in Haifa in January, is seen at the Moshav Ofer Cemetery, south of the city. (photo credit: Courtesy)
THE GRAVE of Guy Cafrey, who was murdered by an Israeli Arab in Haifa in January, is seen at the Moshav Ofer Cemetery, south of the city.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
On January 3, 2017, Guy Cafrey, a 48-year-old school bus driver for disabled children, was shot at close-range and murdered by an Israeli Arab in Haifa. He left behind his parents and a sister who, until this week, did not hear from a cabinet minister or from President Reuven Rivlin.
Usually, when a person is killed in a terrorist attack, the cabinet secretary assigns a minister to attend the funeral, and while there is no official procedure, ministers will often pay the family a shiva call. The president invites bereaved families to his official home.
Yet because of the circumstances surrounding Guy’s murder – which are in no way his or his family’s fault – the government has not sent any form of condolences, leaving the family feeling like its bereavement is somehow considered to be less important.
“I feel so totally ashamed,” Guy’s mother, Bertha, said this week. “How can they be like this?” Bertha Cafrey wrote a letter to The Jerusalem Post, published on September 12, in which she lamented that her son’s “murder fell under the radar."
“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has stated on many occasions that terror is terror, wherever it may be, and we expect the world to condemn terror in Israel just as it condemns terror elsewhere... Rivlin reiterated that terror must be condemned unequivocally everywhere. But unfortunately, they do not practice what they preach. None of our MKs or ministers, Left or Right, had any words to say. None came to the funeral. None came to the shiva. None came to the memorial,” she wrote.
Cafrey mentioned efforts to contact Education Minister Naftali Bennett, because he grew up in Haifa, and only received a form letter in response. She managed to find the phone number of Rivlin’s chief of staff, Rivka Ravitz, who promised to secure the traditional invitation to the President’s Residence for Cafrey, but has not done so yet.
Cafrey also applied to the Justice Ministry to get the refund for processing forms related to Guy’s death, which all terrorism victims’ families are entitled to, but got no response, and a follow-up letter to Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked was also ignored.
“Meanwhile, Guy, an honest, hard-working citizen who served his country in both Lebanon and Gaza, and brought joy to the disabled children he drove and cared about so dearly, received no respect from our elected representatives. He surely deserved better,” his mother wrote.
Cafrey, director of the Haifa English Theater, made aliya in 1973 from England with her husband, Igal, and Guy, who was four months old.
Guy served as a combat soldier in the Artillery Corps in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon.
His profile on the official listing of victims of terrorism said he had loved playing with his sister’s children, adopted abandoned dogs and cats, and was an avid photographer.
Speaking to the Post, Cafrey pointed out that for three weeks there was a gag order in relation to her son’s murder.
“But even when it was lifted, no one contacted us, no one was interested,” she said.
“I was really hurt... Why was Guy ignored? Our representatives don’t represent us. They only need us when it’s election time,” she added.
Cafrey posited that there were two reasons for the possible oversight. First, that there are many terrorist attacks. The second, she said, is that the murder of a Jewish man working in Haifa by an Arab man living in the city shatters its image.
“Everyone is pretending we have coexistence, and we don’t,” she said. “There is so much hatred. Everybody knows that, but nobody wants to touch it. Everyone is afraid of rocking the boat...
Outside Bet Hagefen [where the Haifa English Theater rehearses and performs] there is such violence. We just shut the lights and lock ourselves in when it happens – and it’s just swept under the rug.”
Cafrey said she reached out to Bennett not only because he grew up in Haifa, but because she thinks education is the best way to cope with the hatred behind Guy’s murder.
After the Post asked opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) for a reaction, he called Cafrey. Following their conversation, Herzog said: “I was shocked by the heart-wrenching story... I wished her a happy and quiet New Year in the name of all of Israel and promised to personally visit her at home. I plan to speak to the president and ask him to fix the mistake made.
“The power of Israeli society is tested by its social unity and shared responsibility, especially toward a family that lost its son in an act of terrorism,” Herzog stated. “The event requires thought and a conversation between all those hoping for peace and coexistence in Haifa specifically, and in the whole country, and I hope that the Cafrey family will be embraced by the people of Israel and the government.”
Officials in the Prime Minister’s Office explained that ministers are only sent to funerals of victims of terrorism when they are officially considered to be in that category, and Guy Cafrey was only recognized as such weeks later.
The President’s Residence said it is “checking the matter with the relevant authorities.”
Bennett’s office expressed regret to the Post, saying the minister responds as soon as possible to all bereaved families who reach out to him.
They were not sure what happened to Cafrey’s letter. On Wednesday, someone from Bennett’s office called Cafrey and invited her to meet the minister in Tel Aviv.
In January, no ministers came to the funerals of four soldiers killed in a vehicular terrorist attack in Jerusalem.
After Netanyahu heard of the incident in the media, he instructed cabinet secretary Tzachi Braverman to ensure that a minister or deputy minister attends every funeral of a soldier killed on duty or in a terrorist attack.