I came to Israel from South Africa in 1967; I came as a volunteer after the Six Day War, thinking I'd be here for about six months. I really wanted to leave South Africa because I'd been active in the anti-apartheid movement and it was getting very pressured and ugly. I actually wanted to live in the States-- then I came here and I've had this sort of love-hate relationship with this country ever since. In many ways I was disillusioned by a lot of the attitudes I encountered; there is a lot of racist behavior here in Israel as well that I hadn't imagined. But that's not really relevant to what I want to say.
I went to a Hebrew language immersion program, got married and had two kids, worked for the Jerusalem Post, and then with immigrants to help them find employment. After I got divorced I came to live in Tel Aviv; we had lived on a moshav near Netanya.
I brought up my children in a very tolerant and loving liberal way; David and Eran, it was kind of like a triangle-- the three of us. David went to the Thelma Yelin School of the Arts because he was a very gifted musician. Out of his whole class he was probably the only one who went to the army. I was really surprised when he chose that, but I think you can't take responsibility for somebody else's life, even if it is your child. Even in his regular army service David was torn because he didn't want to serve in the Occupied Territories.He became an officer and was called to go to Hebron. He was in a terrible quandary and came to me and said, "What the hell am I going to do? I don't want to be there." I said, "If you want to go to jail I'll support you, but are you going to make a difference if you go to jail?" Because basically, if he were sent to jail, when he got out they'd put him somewhere else [in the Occupied Territories]. It's a never-ending story. If it would have created a huge noise then maybe that would have been the right choice; but you can also go [to your military post] and lead by example, by treating people around you with respect. I saw the scars in both of my children after serving the military, from having to be in the first intifada. They grew up in a home that never made any fuss over one's creed or color; we just liked people. All through this army service that was what happened all the time [debating whether to serve in the Territories], and then this group was formed of officers that did not want to serve in the Occupied Territories and David joined and went to all the demonstrations; he was also part of the peace movement.
After the army David went to Tel Aviv University and studied philosophy and psychology and then started to do his Masters in Philosophy of Education. He was teaching philosophy at a pre-military program for potential social leaders and he was also teaching at Tel Aviv University.
Then he got called up for miluim
and the whole issue came up again: he doesn't want to go, if he goes he doesn't want to serve in the Occupied Territories. If he doesn't go he's letting his soldiers down, what kind of example is it for these kids who are going to be inducted into the army in two months, if he goes he would treat anybody, any Palestinian, with respect, and so would his soldiers by his example. I said, "Maybe you are setting a good example [by refusing to go]" and he said, "I can't let my soldiers down and if I don't go someone else will and will do terrible things." I keep telling everybody that there isn't really black and white.
David went to his reserve service and I was filled with a terrible premonition, of fear I suppose. He called me on that Saturday and said, "I have done everything to protect us. You know I love my life, but this is a terrible place, I feel like a sitting duck." He never shared that kind of stuff with me, ever. My kids never told me what they were doing in the army. They always told me ridiculous stories thinking that I was going believe them. The next morning I got up very early and ran to work hours before I had to be there. I didn't want to be at home, I had a very restless feeling. David was killed by a sniper, along with nine other people.
They were at a checkpoint, a political checkpoint,
Two days after he was killed it was pulled down; they removed the checkpoint. I suppose all of my life I spoke about coexistence and tolerance. That must be ingrained in me because one of the first things I said is, "You may not kill anybody in the name of my child." I suppose that's quite unusual, an expected reaction to that kind of news.
It is impossible to describe what it is to lose a child. Your whole life is totally changed forever. It's not that I'm not the same person I was. I'm the same person with a lot of pain. Wherever I go, I carry this with me. You try to run away at the beginning, but you can't. I went overseas. I went to India, I came back again, but it just goes with you wherever you go. I had a PR office and I was working with National Geographic and the History Channel and food and wine and all the good things in life, as well as with coexistence projects with Palestinian-Israeli citizens.
I wasn't particularly politically involved, it was much more on a social level: animal welfare, children, coexistence projects. I always did a lot of volunteer work; I put a lot into those kinds of things, it's always been a part of who I am. But my work began to lose all joy for me. My priorities changed completely. To sit in a meeting and decide whether a wine should be marketed in one way or another became totally irrelevant to me; I couldn't bear it. I was just very lucky, I had wonderful girls working with me in the office and they really ran the office for me for a year until I decided I couldn't bear it anymore, and I closed the office.
Yitzhak Frankenthal had come to speak to me; he was the founder of the Bereaved Families Forum. I wasn't sure that was the path I wanted to take, but I went to a seminar. There were a lot of Israelis and Palestinians from the group there and I didn't really feel convinced yet. But the more time went by the more I wanted to work somewhere to make a difference.