Rabbi Elli and Dinah Horovitz z"l, Murdered by Palestinian Terrorists, Sabbath Eve, March 7, 2003.
Like most people these days, I keep close tabs on the news. On Friday morning, March 7, when I read on the Internet that a couple was murdered in Kiryat
Arba, my ears perked up because my cousins live there.
But so do about 7,500 other people. We were out all Saturday afternoon, and came home for a short time before setting out for an evening concert. But before leaving I had to check the news once again. There it stared me in the face. The murdered couple was identified. I screamed for my husband. "Look, it's my [dad's] cousin Leah's son, Elli [Elnatan], and his wife, Dinah [Debbie]. They murdered my cousin."
I was reminded that the Horovitzes are not the first people in our family to have been murdered in Hebron. In 1929, my great-aunt Chancha's husband was murdered in the Hebron riots of that era in which the Arabs decimated the Jewish community.
We are an international family. Like many other Jewish families, we are everywhere -- Israel, the United States, Europe, Australia, South America. We have such a cohesive bond that in spite of the fact that we represent a variety of political beliefs and religious backgrounds within Judaism, there is a commonality that binds the family together. That glue is our strong belief in the destiny of the Jewish people and to our irrevocable attachment to the land of Israel. So our family is like a microcosm of the Jewish people.
Rabbi Elli Horovitz was a man of peace, a man of great erudition in Jewish learning, but also a person with a ready smile and a beauty of spirit who loved nature and music. He and Dinah, beloved by their hundreds and hundreds of students, were cut down at the height of their flowering. Thousands attended their funeral. He lived for a period of time with his aunt on Kibbutz Hulata, a nonreligious kibbutz in the north of Israel, where he came to understand Jews whose religious outlook was different from his, and he learned to love nature, grow fruit and cultivate a generosity of spirit. Subsequently, he chose to live in Kiryat Arba, adjacent to Hebron, not out of political conviction, but because Hebron was one of the oldest Jewish areas, the place that drew him spiritually and religiously. The flora and fauna of the area also possessed him. Just hours before he died, he and his wife hiked out to the hills near Hebron to enjoy the beautiful wildflowers in bloom.
I have been consumed these past few weeks by this latest horrific tragedy, communicating with relatives and friends all over the world, researching Internet stories about my cousin's life and death, and just thinking. I have started a file of the letters I have received from people on several continents who have been touched by this tragedy. As shocking as the story is -- the devout couple murdered in cold blood at Sabbath dinner by Arab terrorists posing as Jews dressed in religious garb -- people have emphasized one distinctive theme in their notes of condolence to me. They confess that they are angered even more acutely when they find out that the murdered persons were connected to a friend or relative of theirs -- however distant.
Suddenly, I felt the closeness of a family originally called Zines and sensed the unity of all these relatives in diverse parts of the world. I circled these cousins around me, and then I reached out to friends who were similarly moved, ultimately to all other Jews. In the final analysis, we Jews are all reminded about connections -- how we are connected to our friends and relatives dispersed all over, and how we are connected to the center of our ancient world in Israel.
One note of condolence said: "The Middle East conflict is a horrible abstraction until someone is murdered who has a direct connection with whom we know at home. I sympathize with your loss, and understand the pain that you and your family endure. I also understand that it resonates with the larger pain of the Jewish predicament in the Middle East."
Another: "I was so sad to hear of this tragedy, but now that it seems so close to home, it really tears my heart apart. Please, give your family my love, and tell them that many people in the Diaspora cry and pray for them."
My family tree named Zines, to which Rabbi Elli Horovitz and Dinah belonged, starts, as far as we know, with an ancestor named "Dina" (not related to Dinah Horovitz) who lived in Safed in Israel in the mid-1700s. We don't know how much further back our roots go in the land of Israel, but with the cruel murder of cousins Elli and Dinah merely for their devotion to their Jewish roots, it surely goes back to Father Abraham and Mother Sarah.Â Â
Gerry Segal Teitelbaum is the founder and president of the Los Angeles Judaica Collectors Club. She is currently working on articles for the Western States Jewish Historical Quarterly and Midstream magazine.