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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The year without Purim

In the days leading up to Purim in 1996, 60 persons died in five terror attacks throughout Israel. Here in Jerusalem, the same number 18 bus was attacked by suicide bombers on two consecutive Sunday mornings. It was miserable. This is a story about how one woman who had loved ones murdered in Tel Aviv's Dizengoff Center in one of those attacks was able to cope. The picture above is the memorial in Dizengoff Square in Tel Aviv for the Purim eve attack discussed in the article (Hat Tip: Mrs. Carl).
At 3:56 p.m. on the eve of Purim, a suicide bomber detonated a twenty-kilogram (44 lb.) bomb laced with nails and screws at the intersection of Dizengoff and King George Streets, outside the Dizengoff Center shopping mall in downtown Tel Aviv. Five children in costumes were among the 13 victims, who included a young soldier, two friends out for coffee, a journalist on his way to work, an elderly woman due to meet her son at an Israel philharmonic concert, a woman on her way home from shopping, and a mother and daughter shopping for a wedding dress.
Seventy-three-year-old Sylvia Bernstein and her 48-year-old daughter Gail Belkin were out with Gail’s daughter Lauren for her wedding-dress fitting – she was to be married two weeks later. In what should have been the happiest week of her life, Lauren suffered the horrific loss of her mother and grandmother. Sylvia, a widow, was survived by three other children: her son Paul and daughter Marlyn Butchins in Israel, and her son Darryl, now in Australia. Gail was survived by her American husband Larry Belkin – to whom she had been married for a year, her two daughters, and two stepchildren.
Marlyn and her sister Gail were best friends and exceptionally close. For nine years Marlyn struggled to find a way to contain her grief. “For me it doesn’t have to be closure. I heal – I don’t like the word closure, because there is no closure really. It’s something that you think about all the time. I eventually came to the acknowledgment and understanding that life does go on. Despite the pain and the hardship of the loss, I realized we must continue to move forward, otherwise we hand a victory to those who would seek to destroy us.”
Every year Marlyn and Paul and their families would attend the commemoration service held on the corner of Dizengoff and King George Streets in the heart of Tel Aviv. There would be speeches by the mayor and by family members of the victims, Yizkor (the Jewish memorial prayer), “many, many tears, the names on the stark stone memorial touched with loving fingers…and we have gone home to mourn once again.” After a number of years of standing alongside the other family members at the annual service, Marlyn began to feel bothered that she didn’t know the other families or anything about the loved ones they were mourning. This was a tragedy that had permanently affected so many families, and Marlyn only had her own individual piece of the story.  
Perhaps this was what led her to the idea of creating a quilt that would join all the pieces of the tragedy together into a unifying whole. Marlyn embarked on a personal mission to create the Dizengoff Memorial Quilt to bring the stories of the victims of Dizengoff, Purim 1996, to life. She did so with the help of volunteers from the Accent Quilters Guild of Herzliya. 
 Read the whole thing.

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