A LEGACY OF PERSECUTION
Everyone in Israel remembers the deadly attack in south Mt. Hebron in the Adora settlement in 2002. Two terrorists infiltrated the settlement on a Saturday morning, dressed in IDF uniforms and armed with M-16 rifles, and killed four people.
We met Shiri Shefi at the Bar Mitzvah celebration we hosted at the Millennium Center in December 2020, when her son was celebrating his Bar Mitzvah.
Shiri Shefi who was then a 27-year-old mother of three small children ages 5, 4, and 14 months, lost her eldest daughter, Daniel. She now recounts the moments of horror and says; “To this day, even 19 years later, I sense Daniel everywhere. In the difficult moments, when everything closes in, I feel her hovering over me and pulling me out. Then I [thank God] for both the good and the bad. There is strength at the end of the day, even though the pain cannot be erased.”
“Daniel wanted to go to the synagogue with my husband. A month and a half earlier she celebrated her fifth birthday. I remember that because she wore the same clothes to go to the synagogue, I still remember her telling me, “Mom, just a minute”, as she just wanted to finish watching some kids’ show on TV. And as she was saying those words, I saw a man in my living room wearing IDF uniform with a long M16 and a bulletproof vest, standing at the door and starting to shoot. I yelled at him; “what are you doing?!!” and for a moment I didn’t realize what was happening since we had soldiers in our settlement and I hadn’t yet realized this was an attack. He started shooting and from that moment I acted automatically. I went into the adjacent kids’ room, shut the blinders, switched off the TV, shut the door, and hid Daniel and Eliad under the bed, and asked them to be silent, and with my little son Uriel, I went under the other bed. After a few moments, I turned to the children to see what was happening. I saw that Daniel and Eliad were injured, I did not understand what was happening with them. Everything happened in a matter of seconds and all that while I’m hearing rifle shots continuing inside the house.”
In those moments Shiri still did not know Daniel was gone, despite whispering to them to check if everything was okay with no answer. She thought they did not answer because she had told them to be quiet. At some point, when the firing subsided, Shiri started thinking about how to alert that they suffered an armed attack.
“As I was thinking how to get to my cell phone I heard Daniel’s last breaths and I realized that she is not among the living anymore. As if God was telling me that I cannot touch her as she is no longer mine”, she says. “I quietly called Eliad again and he did not reply and I thought that they are both not alive anymore and that it’s just me and Uriel.”
Shiri managed to get to the MIRS device, and at that moment a neighbor from an adjacent settlement called and asked if everything was ok, in reply Shiri said: “The kids are dead.”
“I recall telling the neighbor that if God wasn’t there to help, how could she do anything to help?”
The call was cut off and Shiri tried to call the police station in Hebron where her husband, both her brothers and brother in law worked. “I spoke to the diarist and yelled to him that the children are dead.” He did not understand what I was talking about because the news about terrorists had not reached them yet. My brother who was there grabbed the phone and told me enforcement was on the way, and I replied that the children were already dead.”
When police forces arrived at the scene together with Yaakov, Shiri's husband, a cry came out of Shiri’s throat: “I'm sorry I could not save the children; Daniel and Eliad are dead.”
“Eliad survived,” Shiri says. “When I was in the ambulance they brought him to me to see that he was alive. He was injured in the ear and head but thank God he was alive.”
“We had two more children later, Noya and Guy. It was difficult looking for a home to live in. Eventually, after several attempts, we decided to live in front of the sea in Ashkelon, after trying dozens of apartments. We are like the sea—sometimes calm and quiet and sometimes raging. What goes on with our emotions is very difficult because something was taken from our soul, which will always be missed and always be painful—it cannot be explained.”
“At the end of the day, with all the pain involved we have no other country,” Shiri says. “When Daniel was born we added the name Bat-El to her name. She is named after my late father-in-law which I never got to know, so we added the name Bat-El to hers. After she died, we wrote on the tombstone: "A land flowing with milk and honey." Honey (דבש Dvash in Hebrew) is an acronym for Daniel, Bat-El, and Shefi. Even with all the difficulty, we see the best in the Land,” she concludes.