Comforting the mourners

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Translation by Yehoshua Siskin

Side by side with the political drama, another drama is taking place in Israel – in 45 homes of families that are in mourning throughout the country. Thousands (!) are visiting these families every day, not only to pay a Shiva call but to get to know one another and talk for the first time. "How embarrassing. Only because of a catastrophe like this am I entering the house of a haredi family for the first time," a woman said yesterday to one of the bereaved families. "It's not pleasant to admit," she heard in reply, "but only because of a catastrophe like this are we hosting secular people in our home for the first time."

I arrived at the home of the Zeckbach family in Bnei Brak. 24-year-old Menachem left behind his wife Racheli, seven months pregnant, and a little daughter. Racheli showed me a Birkat HaMazon (blessing after eating bread) they had printed in her husband's memory in a convenient pocket- sized format. "We printed 3,000 copies and they are already gone. Who could have imagined that this many people would come."

In the kitchen of the home, you can barely move. Stacks of packages sent by Tara, Tenuva, and Rami Levi, but mostly by private individuals who continue to flood the residence with games, clothes, and food. "Even when it comes to things we don't need, it's very touching," family members said.

A young man came in and said that he did not turn on television or go to the Internet during Shabbat. "I knew that I would see their pictures, and I knew they would not want that." He told the Zeckbach family that he connected in particular with the face of Menachem, and therefore felt a need to visit them.

It was not easy to sit for long since people kept arriving and we're just standing at the entrance. "Please get up," a family relative who was managing the gathering would say every now and then. "Make a place for Am Yisrael."

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