can I compress my Malki's fifteen years into a mere few words? How can I
sing her praises without sounding hyperbolic? And, the greatest
challenge, how can I endure the pain that this will undoubtedly bring?
the task seems daunting, I will attempt it nonetheless. Since a
Palestinian Arab suicide bomber snuffed out her life on August 9th,
talking about my Malki is all there is left for me to do for her. And
helping her was something I so enjoyed. The opportunities were usually
limited; she was a very independent girl. I used to tell friends that
she was "fifteen going on eighteen."
handled all her school and teacher problems on her own. Shopped for her
clothes without me. Conducted a very active social life at Horev Girls
school and in her youth movement, Ezra. During her last two years, she
was rarely at home.
I had to look hard for ways to lend her a hand. A lift by car to her
flute lesson now and again to save her the short walk. A quick dash in
my car to hand her the lunch she made but forgotten on the kitchen
counter. A pretty new blouse I thought might grab her. A few packets of
her favorite gum. Small gestures.
the help she gave me was always on a grand scale, in ways that truly
mattered. I could count on Malki to calm down her eight year-old sister
who has a tendency to become irate or rebellious. Taking her into her
bedroom, they'd chat a while; this would somehow win her over. Malki
would then proudly present me with a cooperative little girl eager to
brush her teeth, finish her homework or do whatever it was I'd been
insisting upon in vain. When I would collapse on the couch after an
exhausting day, Malki appeared at my side with my pillow and blanket,
and gently settled me down. She never missed a chance to compliment me
when I dressed up for a simcha or wore a new outfit. When my husband
would phone home from one of his overseas business trips, Malki would
first ask him how he was feeling and how his meetings were panning out.
Only then would she enquire about the items she'd asked him to buy her.
(I, on the other hand, would launch pell-mell into my long shopping
list, along with a litany of the woes I was enduring on the home front
by myself.) If she were spending some time downtown, she would call home
and offer to do errands for me, aware that I rarely get out of the
there was her unique relationship with Haya-Elisheva, our youngest
child, now six-and-a-half, who suffers from global and profound
retardation as well as an extreme epilepsy condition called Lennox-Gastaut.
Early on, when Haya was hospitalized, Malki spent many hours at her
side, relieving me or simply keeping me company. She was only eleven at
the time but once alerted me to the fact that a nurse had hooked Haya up
to the wrong IV drip. On another occasion she was the first to notice a
croupy cough that turned out to need antibiotics. As a result of her
competence, I grew to lean on her - perhaps more than I should have. In
one of several diaries she left behind, she confessed that she would be
happy if we had put Haya away in an institution-though to me she
insisted that she preferred to keep her at home.
the challenges, Malki was well-balanced enough to develop into a
wholesome, active teen-ager. Her ability to see the bright side of
things, to concentrate on the "half-fullness of the cup"
became her trademark. Many of her close friends have written to tell us
how Malki constantly inspired them to fight despondence, be happy,
utilize every moment for fun but worthwhile activities. She achieved
this in a variety of ways. One was the cards she sent to her friends:
birthdays, holidays, returns from vacations, a disappointment, whatever.
On the cover, an artistic decoration alongside an apt poem or quotation
she had read somewhere that had touched her. On the back - a personal,
original note. Another was the intense, empathetic heart-to-heart talks
she had with her friends. In her diaries, these are often mentioned as
the highlights of her day.
a third medium of uplifting was music, an area in which she was
multi-talented. She studied recorder and flute for some ten years and
acquired impressive skill in both. When her school or youth movement
organized some event she never failed to contribute with either solo or
group performances. At mid and end-of-year concerts of the neighborhood
conservatory where she took lessons, Malki's playing always reduced me
to tears of nachat.
also taught herself to play guitar and, I've been told, would lug it
around practically everywhere, and strike up group sing-a-longs at every
opportunity - even on the school bus. Needless to say, the songs she and
her friends sang were what are dubbed here "shirei neshama" -
songs of the soul.
Haya's condition stabilized somewhat and I leaned on Malki's help in
that area a lot less, I made a great effort to "normalize" our
family life as much as possible. Malki's contacts with Haya were more
pleasurable, and her love unadulterated.
those rare occasions when she was home relaxing, Malki would sit Haya in
her lap on an armchair. At night, she often took her into her bed and
slept beside her. She became the only other family member capable of
feeding Haya and relieved me thus from time to time.
relationship with Haya did not satisfy her urge to help those less
fortunate than herself. She exhibited an amazing sensitivity to all
kinds of disabled people. One summer she helped a local single mother
with her profoundly disabled child suffering from the degenerative
Canavan's Disease. His limited responses were hardly noticed by others
but elicited enthusiasm from my Mali (the name we used inside the
school, she gravitated towards the group of learning-disabled girls who
study in a separate but parallel class. She developed genuine
friendships with them and urged her teachers to include those girls more
frequently in joint activities with the other students.
weeks before her death, Malki volunteered with a girlfriend at a sports
camp located in the Galilee (arranged by the Etgarim organization) for
disabled children. During the five days they were there assisting the
counselors, Malki's gentle, caring way touched everyone.
of the people associated with Etgarim travelled long distances to
comfort us during the Shiva-one trekked all the way from Kiryat Shmona
at Israel's northernmost edge and back in one day, a four hour drive
each way-and related incredible stories to us about Malki. One of the
counsellors who had supervised her remembered the farewell chat he had
conducted with the volunteers the night before their return home. When
he asked each of the volunteers to stand up and tell the group what they
viewed as the most important feature of their stint, they all emphasized
the importance of and satisfaction gained from giving to others. Malki
was the last one to speak. We were told that she was the only one who
spoke of what she had gained - of the happiness she had
experienced in working with the children.
a year before she was murdered, Malki and her friends, at the behest of
their youth movement leader, wrote personal letters addressed to G-d, in
which they expressed their prayers and requests for the upcoming Jewish
New Year. They submitted them to her in sealed envelopes, the intention
being to open and read them aloud the following year. The madricha
(leader) brought us Malki's sealed letter during the Shiva. Arnold, my
husband has not yet managed to bring himself to read it but, despite a
torrent of tears, I did. In it, Malki prayed for success in school and
in her youth movement as a counselor (which she was to become several
months later). She added the hope that our family would remain close and
supportive of one another.
request for Haya was particularly striking: not for a miracle, a cure or
even a dramatic improvement. Ever modest, she asked that Haya learn to
somehow convey to us which of our actions please and which disturb her.
In the final line of Malki's letter, in small script because the page
had already been filled, I read: "…and that I'll be alive and
that the Messiah should come".
have told us that our precious memories will eventually bring comfort.
But at this point that seems impossible. I cannot conjure up even one of
those I have mentioned without crying over the tragic loss that has
befallen us, her friends, and the many others she surely would have
helped had she been allowed to live out her life to its full course.
Jerusalem (October 2001)
Malki's Parents Write
a Barbaric Massacre
friend's snapshot above shows Malki (at left) at the Etgarim sports camp for children with
special needs on the banks of the Sea of Galilee (Lake Kinneret), July 2001,
with one of the teenagers whom she was helping to lead
writings by Frimet Roth
Happened Was Barbarism (Letter to TIME Magazine, 17 Sep 01)
to Weep... Time to Embrace (Jer Post 30 Mar 02)
to Terrorism (NY Daily News 28 Apr 02)
"My pain today is as raw as it was the day she stood on line at
Sbarro's in central
beside her best friend — two happy, compassionate 15-year-olds waiting
for a slice of pizza. But they also happened to be standing next to a
Palestinian with an explosive-laden guitar case."
Bereaved Are Also Heroes (Jerusalem Post 29-Jul-02) "Let´s not delude ourselves: Insensitivity and condescension are not
unavoidable. There is a better alternative. And it does not negate
moving on and embracing the future."
Pain Without End (Melbourne Herald-Sun 3 Oct 02)
Hearts (Jerusalem Post, 24 Oct, 2002)
If the article cannot be located on the Jerusalem Post site, an offline
copy is here.
sin of 'forgiveness fervor' (Jerusalem Post, 27 Nov, 2002) The
JPost solicited (with Frimet's approval) and published a response
essay, under the general heading 'Point/Counterpoint', by Dr Nurit Peled-Elhanan,
a leading activist in the Parents Circle Family Forum. Click here to read
Dr Peled-Elhanan's Counterpoint entitled "We have betrayed our
children". Peled-Elhanan astonishingly describes Frimet's arguments as
"racist and aggressive"
Ugly Truth (JewsWeek 19 March, 2003) "Occasionally, as in these
perverse times, the "victim" may be the bully. He may also be
a liar -- or even a murderer." (If the Jewseek site is unreachable,
an offline copy is here.)
Memorial, Not Even A Plaque (Jerusalem Post, 30 July, 2003)
"While New Yorkers thrash out fine details, like whether or not to
distinguish on name plaques between rescue workers and
"ordinary" victims, our own municipality entirely avoids messy
conflicts of this kind. It simply excludes bereaved families entirely
from the decision-making process affecting memorials."
Keeping Murdered Children in Our Hearts (Front Page Magazine, May