The first months we lived in Kfar Darom we never cooked for the Shabbot since we were always invited to eat by the different families of our community. One Shabbot in November, two days before the tragic attack on our children’s school bus, we were invited to eat lunch with the Cohen family. When we arrived at their home shortly after the Shabbot day prayers were over we were greeted by a happy outgoing family. Ophir and Noga (the parents) were hurrying to put an array of salads on the table, so as not to make their guests wait. Meanwhile, the boys were jumping around the playroom collecting lego pieces that were needed to finish their castle (more correctly Yisrael’s, age 6, castle). Tehilla (age 8) was keeping her little sister occupied and Orit (age 11), not feeling too good, was upstairs resting.
Sitting happily around the Shabbot table, eating delicious food and singing beautiful songs, little did we know that just two days later three of the Cohen children would be severely wounded, all losing limbs, in the bombing by Arab terrorists of our children’s school bus. Orit lost her foot, Tehilla lost both of her legs to the knees and Yisrael lost one of his legs to the knee. Avraham, the eldest brother, was also supposed to be on that bus but had been late and missed it. After the terror attack the Cohen children as well as two other children and three women who were wounded, were rushed to Soroka, a hospital in Beer Sheva.
During the first week of being hospitalized, approximately ten thousand people came to visit them, loading their rooms with goodies and presents, which had to be cleared out several times a day so that one could walk through the room. The Cohen children stayed in Soroka Hospital for close to one month, during which time Tehilla was in intensive care and Orit underwent several operations. When their conditions stabilized the Cohens moved (temporarily) to Givet Shmuel, near Ramat Gan, so that their children could receive physical therapy at the Tel Hashomar Hospital.
Now, ten months later, after fighting for their lives and the right to be children once again, free to run and play, all three Cohen children have recuperated amazingly. With the help of prosthesis, Orit walks around with her friends. Tehilla looks and acts like a regular 4th grader, and Yisrael has taken up roller blading as a new sport. They refuse to be called “crippled” and therefore even if it may hurt they prefer to live without the crutches and wheelchairs.
While attending school and living their lives far from here, the Cohens still haven’t forgotten their home in Kfar Darom. As soon as possible they plan to return to their beloved community to live in their newly renovated home. The Cohen family’s strength and pride has shed light on all of our nation and given hope to many.
Yestarday, when I looked out of my kitchen window while eating rice krispies with fresh goat’s milk, I saw an amazing sight. A huge crane was lifting up a section of on of the pre-fabricated homes to add to the two already standing in order to complete the first of sixteen new homes in Kfar Darom. Almost all of the homes have been purchased. Many may have assumed that all of us families in Kfar Darom would have escaped as fast as we could to safer ground, but it is quite clear not only are we here to stay, but we are being joined by many others who believe that our presence here makes all of Israel safe and strong. Today I rolled up the curtain and placed Chana, content in her ‘bouncy chair’, near the window to see the action outside. She watched for a little while (she is very alert) and then dozed off. Often, when I watch Chana, I think of how amazing it is that this little baby is meriting to see what many had only dreamed – the rebuilding of our land and return of our nation to it’s rightful place.
Yisreal Cohen, 6 years old. Now that Yisrael has his prothesis he is showing that he is ready to throw his crutches away.