The British Jewish community and the town of Efrat suffered a tragic and horrific loss this weekend when sisters Maia and Rina Dee were murdered in Friday’s terrorist attack in the Jordan Valley.
The sisters were killed, and their mother, Lucy, was critically wounded in what had initially been reported as a traffic accident. Emergency personnel soon discovered, though, that Palestinian terrorists had fired at the vehicle, causing it to veer off the road and crash, before approaching it and firing at its occupants from close range. More than 20 bullet casings were found at the scene.
IDF soldiers, who immediately began scanning the area for the suspects and set up checkpoints in an effort to apprehend them, have yet to find the perpetrators.
Tensions have been steadily building in recent weeks and the Passover holiday has been off to a difficult start. The Dee sisters’ murders were preceded by dozens of rockets fired by terrorists in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip into northern and southern Israel. Hours after the Jordan Valley attack, an Italian tourist, 35-year-old Alessandro Parini, was murdered and seven other pedestrians were wounded in a car-ramming attack in Tel Aviv. The perpetrator, an Arab citizen of Israel from Kafr Kassem, was killed by a police officer as he reached for what was thought to be a weapon.
This reality has not been easy to absorb. The country has been left reeling by each attack, only to be hit by another soon after.
But while each new piece of horrifying news naturally demands our attention, it is important to take a moment to think about the victims – who they were and why they were here.
Who were the victims?
Maia was 20 when she was murdered on Friday, and her younger sister, Rina, was only 15. They were on their way to spend Shabbat in Tiberias along with their parents. Their father, Rabbi Leo Dee, was in a separate vehicle and witnessed his daughters’ murder.
Prior to making aliyah – immigrating to Israel – the Dee family was a beloved member of the Jewish communities of Hendon in London and Radlett just outside London. In a statement, British Chief Rabbi Sir Ephraim Mirvis called Rabbi Leo and Lucy Dee his “dear colleagues.”
They, like many of those who work at and read The Jerusalem Post, came to Israel with Zionism in their hearts, believing in Israel’s fundamental right to exist and wanting to be a part of this historic project – to continue building it from the ground up.
The tragedy of the Dee sisters’ loss is further highlighted by the heartbreak surrounding their identities as immigrants. Coming to Israel, believing in the country, loving this land – those all put them in the line of fire. They came to Israel and were murdered by terrorists who reject the Zionism that brought them here in the first place.
This is not the first time immigrants have been victims of terrorism. Immigrants have been killed and wounded in countless attacks since before Israel’s founding, and there is virtually no immigrant community in Israel that hasn’t experienced terrible loss.
Remarkably, though, this has never slowed down or stopped aliyah. While waves of terror may have deterred individual immigrants at times, overall aliyah has been largely unaffected, and immigration from around the world continues in full force. Losses like that of Maia and Rina Dee are deeply felt by the immigrant communities in which the victims lived, which are often tight-knit and almost familial. However, that hasn’t prevented thousands of Jews from joining those communities every year, driven by the strength of their convictions and the belief that this is a country worth fighting for.
Israel is grappling with the latest wave of terror and violence as we prepare to observe Remembrance Day for the Fallen of Israel’s Wars and Victims of Terrorism in two weeks. During this time, let us recognize the immigrants who left their places of birth, immigrated to a new country and made the ultimate sacrifice in the Jewish people’s fight to live freely in their homeland.
May their memories be a blessing, and may their loss not have been in vain.