Twenty people are sitting shiva in the home of Michel, Michael's maternal grandmother. Most are English-speakers. The atmosphere is restrained. On the wall is a large photograph of Michael and Hila, from their wedding day.
"I don't know how I feel, it's too soon. I'm too numb. It's still too much of a shock. Of course I'm very sad," Valerie, Michael's mother, says quietly. She can offer no reason, either before or in retrospect, for what happened that morning. "He was such a calm, even-tempered person. Something sent him over the edge. He totally flipped. I'm sad that he did it." Even when she thinks back to how Michael was as a child and as a teen, she has no rational explanation.
Valerie and her daughter Karyn, 31, Michael's older sister, who sits next to her throughout the interview, do accept the police supposition that Michael killed his wife Hila and their two children, before killing himself. "It doesn't sound like something he could do, but there doesn't seem to be any explanation," Karyn says.
Valerie speaks of a child who was easy to raise but mischievous, always smiling, who immigrated to Israel with his family from Leeds, northern England, when he was three. Two years later they moved to Ra'anana. Michael attended Bartov elementary school and MetroWest high school. He joined the Civil Guard, like his father and sister, at age 15.
Valerie insists there is nothing in his past that indicated a problem. "He was a wonderful father who couldn't do enough for his children. After Yarden was born, he was totally involved and happy. We didn't see any change in him," she says.
Valerie saw her grandchildren several times a week. The last time was last Saturday night, at their apartment in Hod Hasharon. She spoke to Michael daily. Their last conversation was on Wednesday night, and she says there was no hint of what was to come. "You can tell when you are speaking to someone - especially your own child - from their tone of voice if something is wrong. When I spoke to him on Wednesday evening, he sounded normal - totally and utterly."
Michael's father Ray, a popular member of the Ra'anana Anglo community had committed suicide a year earlier, after suffering from a brain tumor for three years. Valerie and Karyn insist that Michael's actions had nothing to do with this, and that the father's death did not affect the son's mental state.
"I don't think there was any connection at all ... He was devastated. He was very close to him, but we were all devastated. It was the reaction of a normal son who loses his father. He didn't get any therapy afterward that we know of," Valerie says.
Michael was 24 when he met Hila. "They were a great couple. He adored her, everything about her. They were a great match. Everyone knew they loved each other. A perfect couple," says Valerie.
At first Valerie and Karyn did not want to talk about their relationship with Hila's family, the Bachars, but in the course of the interview they opened up. "We got on well, as much as with any machotonim [in-laws]. They adored Michael, and they treated him like a son. We will definitely go and see them but I don't know when," says Valerie.
Karyn's husband, who refused to give his name, adds: "We asked to speak to Tzipi, Hila's mother, through the police on Thursday, and she said she wanted to talk but not now, she simply was unable. I don't think their family blames us."
"I don't feel guilty," Valerie emphasizes. "You're not responsible for your children's actions. He was an adult and a father of two. As bad as his action was, I'm not responsible for it."
Michael's family was asked not to attend the funeral of Hila, Yuval and Yarden on Friday. "It hurt us, but I can understand why. They were my grandchildren as well, and I couldn't say good-bye to my own grandchildren. We'll go after the shiva," says Valerie.
Regarding the absence of the name "Fisher" from the temporary markers on the children's graves, Valerie says, her words choked, "That really upset us because they were born Fishers."
The Fishers want to emphasize that they are sitting shiva for all four people. "Our grief is as strong as the Bachars'," Karyn's husband says. "The 'restraint' [shown at the funeral - C.H. and N.K.] is a matter of mentality."
The Fishers convey grief, but not apology. "I don't think we need to apologize," Karyn says. "We are with them. We too lost Hila and the children, just as we are without Michael."
Valerie and Karyn say they would very much like to know what caused Michael's actions.
"I think it would give some kind of closure, some sort of peace of mind. It's not going to bring him back, but at least we'd know," says Valerie.
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