A certain calm reigned over the Roth household in Jerusalem's Ramot neighborhood yesterday. Although it was just three days since Arnold and Frimet Roth had learned that their oldest daughter, Malka Chana, was among the 15 fatalities in Thursday's bombing of the Sbarro restaurant in Jerusalem, the mood in the household was not one of anger.
Rather, the Roths had been using the traditional seven-day mourning period to reflect upon the character and achievements of their 15-year-old daughter, known as Malki.
Arnold Roth, originally from Melbourne, recalled the extent to which Malka supported her mother when the youngest of the family's seven children, six-year-old Haya, developed severe health problems as a baby, leaving her with severe brain damage. During Haya's long periods of hospitalization, he said, Malka "had tremendous energy and empathy."
His wife, Frimet, a former New Yorker, said the help she received from Malka made her "more like a sister than a daughter." She also was a model of "how to be understanding of other people," her mother noted.
Determining that Malka was among those killed was a drawn out and difficult process, Arnold Roth said. He and his wife knew their daughter had planned to visit a neighborhood friend and then attend a mid-afternoon youth movement meeting in Talpiot with her best friend, Michal Raziel. However, after finding out that their daughters had not arrived at the meeting, both Frimet and Michal's mother, Aviva Raziel, drove to Sha'arei Tzedek Hospital to search for the girls. On their way to the hospital, the two were informed that their daughters had made a last-minute rendez-vous at Sbarro restaurant around 2 p.m., the time of the bombing.
When Arnold Roth heard shortly thereafter that Michal - whose body was among the first to be identified - had died, he experienced the "most awful moment of my life, because we knew Malki and Michal had been together." And at 2 a.m., Arnold and Frimet received a call from two of their sons to say they had identified Malka's body at Tel Aviv's Abu Kabir Forensic Institute. Arnold Roth said Malka was killed instantly. She was buried alongside Michal at the Har Hamenuhot cemetery in Jerusalem on Friday afternoon.
In 1989, after Malka, the fourth of the Roths seven children, turned three, the family decided to move to "the place where Jewish destiny is being played out," Arnold Roth said. Malka was a classical flautist - she played for the orchestra at her school, Horev Girls' High School, as well as for the Jerusalem Youth Orchestra - and was an active member of the religious Zionist youth movement Ezra.
But her strongest passion was caring for children with disabilities. She regularly assisted a mother in the neighborhood who has a severely handicapped son, and she often visited disabled children in hospitals. This summer, she volunteered for a week at the Etgarim camp for disabled children near the Kinneret, where she worked with severely handicapped girls her own age. She was an avid reader of Exceptional Parents, a publication for parents of handicapped children. The magazine, which includes a page devoted to the siblings of handicapped children, published a letter from Malka three years ago. Describing her disabled sister, Haya, Malka wrote: "Although she does not respond on the outside, I know she is responding on the inside. I love reading stories and cuddling up to her. I am sure when she has a fun time, she laughs in her heart... In conclusion, I want to say to all of you that are reading this now: You are not allowed to lose your hope, because maybe a miracle will happen: DO NOT LOSE HOPE."
The family plans to establish a fund, most likely connected to a handicapped children's program, in memory of Malka.
Arnold Roth acknowledged yesterday that his family "hasn't even begun" to come to terms with Malka's death. "I want people to know she isn't just another statistic," he said. "She was a human being, and a vital and loving child. Because her life's work will never be seen after this moment, I see it as an obligation to let people know about Malki," he said. "She was so mature and so much fun," Frimet Roth added. "She made me laugh so much all the time; we all enjoyed her. The only thing I can do now is tell people about her."
One victim still in critical condition
Hannah Nahenberg, who was seriously injured in Thursday's suicide bombing attack in the Jerusalem pizzeria, has not regained consciousness and remains in critical condition in the intensive care unit of Haddassah Ein Kerem hospital. In all, 13 people injured in the blast are still in Jerusalem hospitals, including two people in moderate to serious condition and four others lightly wounded.
Leah Schijveschuurder, 10, was released from Bikur Holim hospital yesterday and taken home by her three older brothers. The family lost their parents and three siblings in the blast. Eight-year-old Haya, moderately to seriously injured in the blast, had nails removed by surgeons, but remains in hospital recuperating at a satisfactory rate. She has been disconnected from most machines and can play with friends who come to visit her.
Two children, Haggai and Noam Amar, with light to moderate injuries including burns and shrapnel wounds, remain in Bikur Holim hospital.
Guy Shmuel-Hai, a soldier injured in the blast, was released from Hadassa Ein Kerem hospital yesterday. One injured person remains in Hadassah-Mount Scopus hospital, in moderate to serious condition and four others are lightly injured. Two people in moderate condition remain in Sha'arei Zedek hospital.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now