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Aliza Cohen


By Aliza Cohen, Grade 12, Grant Park High School, March 22, 2011

On March 6, 2008, I was surrounded by thousands of other Israeli and American teenagers in celebrating rosh chodesh Adar, the new month where we welcome the happiest time of the year, in the Old City of Jerusalem.  We sang and danced, a gathering of so many; young, old, observant and non-observant, all together to publicly proclaim our love for the land and joy in the new month.

While in the midst of the festivities, I began to see more and more people crying and screaming. Confused and frightened, I tried to find my group, the bus load of people who had been smiling and laughing the whole hour-long journey to Jerusalem.  I pushed through the hordes of a suddenly anxious crowd and finally located them.  Smiles were wiped clean off their faces, replaced with most horrified expressions. The music had been cut short, replaced with a wailing and heart-wrenching Shema Yisrael.  And then they told me.  Not a twenty minute walk from where I stood, a terrorist walked through the doors of the Merkaz HaRav Yeshiva and brutally murdered eight students before being subdued.

The devastating news broke out among the people, causing a deathly still silence that still rings in my ears today.  And then, the panic.  Needless to say, the atmosphere had changed dramatically. This large collection of people that knew not even the name of the person beside them turned and began weeping into their arms.

Though so many years have passed since then, and so much has changed, I will always feel a deep connection to those eight young men. I may never have known them personally, but their deaths are forever intertwined with my life, a constant reminder.

Last week, a Palestinian terrorist walked into the home of Udi Fogel, 36, and his wife, Ruth, 35, and barbarically murdered them and three of their six children. The children, Yoav, 11, Elad, 4, and three-month-old Hadas were stabbed to death in their beds, guilty of nothing.

Except for a few singular reporters, their deaths were moved aside, even disregarded, as nothing more than a terrible mistake.  As one newspaper letter wrote; ‘This crime is still under investigation, by both the IDF and Palestinian Authority.  No perpetrators have yet been identified...and many militant Palestinian groups have been denounced.’

In this time, the Jews of diaspora face an everlasting dilemma: while so far away, how can we be a part of their struggle? How can we hold hands with our people and help keep them afloat in such desperate times?

The answer is easy. Friends, do not forget. Remember. Wake up and pray for the homecoming of Gilad Shalit.  Go to sleep with thoughts of the Fogel family resting in your heart.  These brave, innocent souls deserve our respect, and our hopes. Together, we can build a fortress around our land.  We can band together and be strong for one another.  We celebrated yet again our triumphant victory over the evil intentions of Haman this week on Purim, as we have for centuries, over every obstacle and enemy that wishes to destroy our existence!

We have proven ourselves determined, strong-willed, and invincible all these years, and now we need to reinforce our spirits and stand strong together once again.


Aliza Cohen, is a graduate of Ohr Hatorah Day School who studied in Israel for grades 9-11 at Ulpanat Darcei Noam. She now attends Grant Park High School.

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