Shimrit Ginot, the community gardener

In his song "Hu haya" ("He was"), lyricist Eli Moher describes the combination of those two words - so strikingly in the past tense - as the most chilling in the Hebrew language. When a friend this week came up to me and asked, "Did you know Shimrit Ginot?" for a split second of hope I tried to convince myself that she meant that Shimrit had moved out of our neighborhood. Of course I was only trying to fool myself before the inevitable. Shimrit would not leave Katamon where she literally put down roots. Even now it's hard to think of Old Katamon, particularly the strip between Rehov Halafta and Rehov Dostai, without Shimrit's presence and guiding hand. Did I know Shimrit? There are two answers. No, there are many people out there who knew her as a close friend, I was more an occasional visitor in her life. The other answer is "yes." I knew Shimrit, and I'm crying as I write these words in the past tense. I knew her as the botanist and neighbor and I was a more than occasional visitor into the beautiful "community garden" she nurtured around apartment buildings on Rehov Halafta and a synagogue on Rehov Ben-Zakai. I would stop to chat as she tended plants whose names I knew only from the tags that she had put up; she introduced me to her boyfriend, who seemed to make Shimrit bloom in love; my son would discuss his gardening hug (hobby) with her and swap tips and information. The last time we chatted, we discussed the three wild tortoises I had spotted in the area - a sign of the beauty of wildlife that can survive in the urban environment when there are people like Shimrit around. We celebrated the changes in building plans that would incorporate the community garden rather than destroy it. She worried out loud about the cost of water for the garden and who would continue to pay for it. Whereas real estate developers have closed in on our neighborhood looking for profits - as another late friend, Judy Davidson, used to say: "building apartments for homeless millionaires" - Shimrit would concentrate on how the whole community could benefit, to beautify rather than gentrify. Last week, like most people in our neighborhood, I was more caught up in the news of the terror attack that took the lives of two other young women from our immediate area (and a third victim from another part of town). I missed the road accident at Tzomet Habankim on June 30 in which Shimrit, a pedestrian, was injured - the police are still investigating the circumstances, but an eyewitness said she was on the sidewalk at the time. She died of her wounds on July 3. I was not surprised to hear she donated her organs. Shimrit was the sort of person who lived to give and died giving. But Shimrit, 52, died too young. We are coming to the end of the shmita year. Shimrit, with so many plans and so much to give, should be thriving. I did not "know" Shimrit. But I feel moved enough by her senseless death to write this appreciation. Perhaps I am fueled by the guilt of not expressing my appreciation enough while she was still alive. Shimrit, may your lovely soul rest in the Garden of Eden. The residents around the gardens you planted in our tiny corner here on Earth will miss you.