All day Friday, thousands of mourners streamed in and out of the charred and bullet-pocked house in Itamar where the Shabo family had lived until the previous night. In what looked like a tribute to the mother and three children murdered there, the visitors stood staring at intimate details of the lives that had been frozen in one moment - at the mixer that was still covered in dough from the cake Rachel Shabo was preparing for Shabbat, the pots that she had taken from the cupboard to cook the Sabbath meal, the dishwasher now riddled by bullets, the burnt bedrooms upstairs, the yellow football left lying in the yard under a grapevine not yet completely ripe.
The scene inside the house - more than all the words, the sea of tears and the pain of the people of Itamar - bore witness to what had happened during those horrendous minutes on Thursday night.
The terrorist climbed up from the valley and without even cutting it, simply trampled down the fence. First he approached the neighbors' house but the dog began barking and he turned instead to the Shabo family's home. They were among the settlement's founders. Boaz, the father, a printer by profession, was not at home. The older children - Yariv, 17, and Atara, 15 - were also out, visiting friends. The terrorist first shot the mother, Rachel, in the back. Then he shot Zvi, 13, and Avishai, 5, also in the back. After that, Neria, 16, was also shot dead. Thirteen-year-old Aviah, who was wounded, told the doctor who attended her in the hospital that she had heard her mother shout out in pain and then all was quiet.
Only a month earlier, Neria had escaped terrorist shots in his bedroom at the yeshiva high school on Itamar. Three of his friends were killed then. Neria took his pillow home from his bedroom in the yeshiva and showed everyone who came how the bullets had penetrated it. On Thursday, the pillow was burned together with so many other possessions in the house.
Neria was not the only family member to have had a brush with death. Rachel's sister, Eilat Orlansky, who lives in the Gaza Strip settlement of Netzarim, lost her father-in-law, Michael, in March during a terrorist attack there. Boaz, who previously worked as an ambulance driver, had had his share of evacuating dead and wounded.
Thursday night's shots brought Yossi Twito, the settlement's security officer, rushing to the house. Twito, who acted according to the book, opened fire at the attackers but was mortally wounded during the first stages of the attack and died shortly afterward. Twito was a first-grade teacher at Elon Moreh and worked with youth at both settlements.
Harsh words were uttered at the funerals. The rabbi of Itamar, Nathan Hai, who founded the yeshiva, placed the blame for the situation in the laps of Labor politicians Shimon Peres and Yossi Beilin. "Peres and Beilin and their band of wicked sages did not tremble when they gave them guns and bullets which they use to murder us," he said. "None of the Palestinians is free of guilt." He called on the prime minister to "wipe them all out."
Benzi Lieberman, head of the Yesha council, said: "In the name of the living and the dead, we commit ourselves here not to give them a state but rather more and more settlements on this land ... These Palestinians do not deserve any human rights. We cannot talk of human rights for people who are not human."
The members of the family spoke in more personal tones. Alon Helmish, Rachel Shabo's brother, said that the family were "people of peace. We are not in favor of wars. We merely want to get home safely, to raise our children and not to seek arguments. But we are the victims of wrongdoers, of wild beasts," he said. "They should never have shot Avishai," he sobbed. "It was enough to blow in his direction and, he was so fragile, he would fly. Why did they murder him? What did he do to them?"
Rachel's friends said that she was an energetic and affable person. She grew up in Karnei Shomron and met Boaz, from Moshav Beit Meir near Jerusalem, 20 years ago. They joined the first seven families that founded Itamar near Nablus. The Shabo family hosted all the new families when they came to the settlement. Neria's friends said he had been a genius. Zvi's friends said he had been a righteous young man.
Boaz Shabo stood long minutes stroking the coffins of his wife and children. He could not go away and leave them. The settlers swore that there would be a new settlement, named for the five who were murdered. They said it would be established in the very near future.
As some of the thousands of mourning settlers called out for revenge, the children recited the Kaddish.
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