Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Story of Ella Abukasis

I wrote the below article the first anniversary after Ella's murder and updated it last year. Today was the fourth anniversary of her death. I thank Hashem that He honored me with the joy of knowing and teaching Ella. I learned more from her than she ever did from me. May He revenge her death.

Have you ever met an angel? I did! I had the pleasure of teaching one for 3 years and her name was Ella Abukasis.(May G-d revenge her murder.)

Ella came to our Ulpana in Netivot from nearby Sederot as she wished to become more religious. (She had studied at an elementary school that she felt didn’t answer her many questions about faith and Judaism.)

Ella had the most wonderful smile- it was like a torch brightly burning. In the 5 years she studied at our school, I never saw her frown, get upset or angry even once. Everyone adored her. She was every teacher’s dream, an exemplary student: highly intelligent; highly motivated; extremely good-natured and beloved by all. She was also extremely attractive physically, but that only added to her remarkable inner beauty.

Even her choice of Bagrut project reflected her unique character. She chose to write about Patch Adams, the doctor who pioneered hospital clowns, and treating the patient as a person and not merely his illness. (Those who missed Robin Williams in the film ‘Patch Adams’ are advised to see it; it’s fantastic, and true!)
Another example of Ella’s exceptional equanimity is shown by the following: Her senior English teacher made a mistake. Ella showed up on a Friday morning the same month she was killed to do the winter bagrut. Sadly, by error a questionnaire hadn’t been ordered for her. Instead of getting angry (as I would have!) She gracefully calmed down the very upset English teacher with the words: “No big deal! As the Rabbis say, ‘Every delay is for the best!’ I’ll do the module in the summer, G-d willing.” Unfortunately, she was no longer with us that June.

Ella was a group leader at her local Bnei Akiva branch. On the Shabbat when she was cruelly felled by a kassam rocket in 2005 at the young age of 17, she had just spoken to her ‘chanichot’ (pupils) about the importance of modesty among young women. Walking home with her brother and another of our pupils, Michal, she heard an incoming missile approaching. Without thought to herself, she slammed her younger brother onto the ground and threw her body over his in order to shield him. A piece of shrapnel entered her brain stem and a few days later, she returned her pure soul to heaven.

This year on Israel’s 60th Day of Independence,Yom Ha’atzmaute, Ella’s brother Tamir, whom she so bravely sacrificed herself to save, proudly lit one of the 13 ‘masuote’ (torches) that represent the 13 tribes of Am Yisrael.

As is written in ’The Song of Songs,’ (Shir Ha’Shirim) ‘G-d goes down to his garden to pick roses.’ The rabbis explain this as an allegory for the fact that G-d often takes the very best individuals from this world into the next. I thank Him that I was given the honor to have Ella touch my life. She conquered the hearts of all who knew her, and a piece of mine will always belong to her.

The post script below was added in 2007:

I see the present reality in Sederot a direct result of our pullout from the Gaza Strip. My husband left Morocco at the age of 14, and he always told me that the Arab mentality sees appeasement (or giving in gracefully, however you want to say it,) as weakness. Since writing this, tens of my pupils from Sederot and Azor Otef Azza have been living a hellish nightmare, with hair-raising experiences, including many miracles. This is what I wrote then, and it is as appropriate today as it was then:

My pupil Ella Abukasis was murdered by a kassam in nearby Sederot; what did all those left-wingers think would be in Sederot after we pulled out? That the situation would improve? As an American Ashkenazi married to an Israeli Sefardi I am sorry to say that I believe the government classifies Sederot as 2nd class because the vast majority of its citizens are Sephardic , or Russian and Ethiopian immigrants. Had just a single kassam fallen on Ra’anana or Hertzylia, the gov’t would not have waited so long to react !!!
I have teenage students on tranquilizers; one of my pupil’s Mom is in a psychiatric ward; none of my pupils from Sederot could concentrate on last week’s English bagrut exam. (Thank you very much Min. of Ed. that you gave them an extra hour on the exam, but how can a pupil study under such circumstances.) Hence, I agree with every word in this article. We certainly don’t enjoy saying ‘told you so’ in such a situation, but we WERE RIGHT!!!!!!
THIS is a copy of the letter I sent to the New York Times on Sunday for which I have yet to receive a reply:

You always write about the hardship of the Palestinians. How about an article on the hardship of the people of Sederot and Netivot, and the Western Negev? You have NO idea how stressful life is when you never know when a rocket will fall. I had a pupils with a severe panic attack after mortars fell yesterday!!! Later this week we will "celebrate" the fourth anniversary of the murder of our dear pupil Ella Abukasis by a kassam rocket in Sederot.
I don't believe you will take me up on my offer to write about OUR plight. It is apparently politically incorrect to empathise with our years of stress from rocketing.

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