Last Saturday night, someone told me 85 people had been killed by a suicide bomber in Haifa. I ran to the computer to check cnn.com, and for an instant was relieved to discover the death toll was in fact 15.
That's just how awful our world has become.
We are relieved when only 15 innocent people are, in an instant, murdered. The best response we can muster, the only encouraging words we have left to mutter, are, "Thank God it wasn't more." That response is no longer sufficient.
Last February, Sharon Evans received news that her daughter had been gravely wounded in a terrorist attack. A Palestinian had driven a car into a group of soldiers waiting at a bus stop, killing eight, wounding 21. Evans' then 19-year-old daughter Monique Goldwasser was among what most newspapers -- The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times and, let's face it, this and other Jewish papers -- simply reported as "the wounded."
Here is what "wounded" means: Monique's four front teeth were destroyed, and her face was smashed in. She suffered a broken pelvis, two broken legs, a perforated intestine and a ruptured main artery in her left leg. She was unconscious and, when she arrived at the hospital ER, she had stopped breathing. That's "wounded."
"The doctors told me she had a 1 percent chance of surviving that first night," Evans told me on Monday. "But I made a deal with God. If Monique lived, I would spend my time helping the families of children who are no longer with us."
Goldwasser remained in the hospital for eight months, undergoing six surgeries. Evans, a divorced mother with four children, who lives in Ashkelon, left her job as an export manager and moved into the hospital beside her daughter. The Israeli government's aid to victims of terror paid for some of the costs associated with Goldwasser 's care, but the help was limited.
One day, Neil and Susan Thalheim visited Goldwasser in the hospital. The couple had started an organization, the Israel Emergency Solidarity Fund, to help Israeli victims of terror, offering them not just financial assistance but a comforting presence and a phone number to call whenever they needed anything. "They said, 'What can we do to help you?'" Evans said. The fund provided Evans with financial assistance and purchased a laptop computer and new clothes for Goldwasser, who had lost 40 pounds following the attack. Victims of terror contacted by The Journal said the fund's moneys do indeed end up where they're needed. Geula Herskovitz's husband, Arye, was shot and killed by terrorists while returning home from work. Three months later, terrorists shot and killed her son Asaf outside the West Bank settlement of Ofra. The fund provided Herskovitz instant monetary relief -- no red tape, no delay.
Herskovitz told me by phone that she has been in touch with the fund about sponsoring a small memorial garden in her husband's memory, and about helping her fortify a vehicle for travel to and from the settlement. I asked her if she felt safe staying in Ofra. "Where should I go? Is it safer in Netanya? In Jerusalem?" Good point.
We in America can't do a whole lot to stop these murders. Helping the victims and their families is one small but important thing we can do. This Sunday at 9 a.m., the Israel Emergency Solidarity Fund will hold a walk-a-thon to raise money for Israeli victims of terror. The walk will begin at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, at the corner of Pico Boulevard and Roxbury Drive. Sharon Evans has flown in from Israel to speak at the event and to be among those walking. "The Israeli government has to work out a way to protect its citizens," she told me, "and the rest of the Jews have to work out how we'll help people who have been hurt." One way is to show up for the walk, or sponsor someone who can.
Call (310) 772-8170 or log on to www.lawalk4israel.com to help.