Ever since the restaurant at the Beit Agron Press Center in Jerusalem closed a while ago because of declining tourism, Yehudah Haim's sandwich business at the corner grocery store has been booming. He would remake each pre-prepared sandwich with healthy fresh bread and any condiments that the customer would ask for. He knew exactly how many pickles I liked with my tuna fish, and just how much mayonnaise I liked with my egg salad. And he carefully cut each fresh vegetable to order. I had a special need, since I would wash my hands at Beit Agron and make the blessing over the bread only when I got to the store. I became used to hearing Yehudah's “Amen” to the first bite in my sandwich, before he would fill it with his goodies for me yet again.
On Sunday morning, I was on the bus to work, passing the old Jerusalem train station when we heard the bus in front of us blown to bits.
My first instinct was to run to the bus, and don my press badge to report what I saw. My friend with me had a digital camera, and he quickly snapped shots and got them in real time to the media.
Yehudah Haim, the sandwich maker, my friend, was on that ill-fated bus in front of us, also on his way to work.
All I have been able to think about for the past 24 hours is Yehduah's smiling face on Friday, when he said “Amen” to my blessing on a tuna bagel, when he wished me a good Shabbat. He is now a smiling face that the PLO has turned into a lifeless body. Today at lunch, I felt that I had lost my lunch partner. In my tiny country of Israel, everyone knows everyone else. Maybe Yehudah will say Amen to my blessing from heaven above.
The reality of media reporting continued, as Yehudah was being buried.
Fanny Haim, Yehuda's widow, had the presence of mind to write the following open letter to the judges in The Hague, where a European court holds hearings on the “legality” of a fence designed to keep murderers from killing people like Yehuda. In the hours before she buried her husband, she published the following letter in the daily Yediot newspaper here in Israel:
”Today, in The Hague, you will sit in judgment. Today, I will bury my husband, my heart has been cut in two. Tomorrow I must take the bus to work and home again. For here in Israel, life must go on.
”I am not a politician. I am appealing to you as someone who has lost her husband, a woman whose heart has been silenced - and a woman whose tragedy the separation fence could have prevented. I was married to Yehuda for 21 years. He was the love of my youth, since I was 15. Yehuda's sister is the wife of Israel's Economic Attache in The Hague and works in the Embassy there. For months, she, her husband and the Embassy staff have been trying to open the world's eyes. For months, they have been fighting for the rights of the State of Israel. As for me, what could I have asked for? Only for my small right, my husband's right, the right to see our children grow and prosper, go to school and serve in the army.
”I will no longer receive this right. But today, you can see to it that other Israeli families will merit this basic thing - to raise a happy family, to get up in the morning without bereavement, without gravestones, and without cemeteries. Today, as you begin your deliberations with open eyes, think, just for a moment, about the ordinary people behind this bloody conflict. Think for a moment about the golden heart of my husband, Yehuda, and about our young son, Avner. Maybe you can explain to him - he's only ten years old - why in God's Name he doesn't have a father any more?
”People will enter your hall today, who will speak, who will accuse. Mourners will enter my home and I will be unable to understand and I will certainly not be consoled. This evening, you will go home, kiss your spouses, hug your children - and I will be alone.
”True, the politics are far from me, but now as the pain is far too close to me, I think that I have acquired, with integrity and with tears, the right to appeal to you and say: If there had been a fence all along the length of the state, then maybe I, just like you, could kiss my husband this evening. Do not judge my country; do not restrain it from preventing additional people from becoming victims. Today, I am burying my husband; don't you bury justice. - Fanny Haim"