'I'll Speak for My Lost Friend'

Teens Who Survived Parkland Shooting Prep for Gun Control Rally in Israel

Three survivors of the high-school massacre will be in Israel on March 23, at a demonstration calling for stricter gun control in the U.S. ‘I hope a lot of people come so we can share what we need to share,’ says Eden Hebron, 14

The three teens from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School speaking at the March For Our Lives rally in Tel Aviv on March 23 (from left): Dani Tylim, and sisters Eden and Maia Hebron.
Courtesy of Carrie Tylim/The Hebron family

“Not again! This cannot be happening again,” Carrie Tylim said to herself last month as she sped down the suburban streets of Parkland, toward her daughter Dani, after receiving texts from her that there was a shooter on campus.

Some 19 years earlier, in August 1999, Carrie had driven in a panic through Los Angeles traffic to reach her two sons, ages 3 and 9: They were at the local JCC when a white supremacist opened fire, wounding five people and killing one.

“We had always said that was our ‘turn,’ and we can check that [mass shootings] off the list of things we have to worry about. But that wasn’t the case,” Tylim tells Haaretz in a phone interview. “The randomness of it goes to show that it could happen to one family in two different states, on two different coasts,” she notes.

Dani Tylim, 18, is a junior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. She is one of three Parkland students scheduled to speak at Tel Aviv’s March For Our Lives rally, to be held at 1 P.M. on Friday March 23 in front of the U.S. Embassy (with participants assembling at noon at Mike's Place on the beachfront).

It’s a solidarity event ahead of the main March For Our Lives rally the following day in Washington, demanding changes to the U.S. gun legislation that made it possible for suspected shooter Nikolas Cruz to purchase an assault rifle like the one he used to murder 17 people on February 14.

Sisters Maia and Eden Hebron (18 and 14, respectively) are the other Stoneman Douglas students set to speak at the Tel Aviv rally, organized by alumni from the school now living in Israel, plus Democrats Abroad and Pantsuit Nation Israel.

Speaking to Haaretz by phone, Eden recounts how she was in her freshman English class – working quietly on an essay about the struggle some people have faced to receive an education – when she and her classmates dashed under desks for safety at the sound of automatic gunfire. At the time, she says, it felt like it would never end.

She watched as bullets struck her best friend and fellow freshman Alyssa Alhadeff, leaving her dead on the classroom floor.

'I move on'

The Tel Aviv rally is one of hundreds planned around the United States and worldwide in support of the D.C. march.

“I hope a lot of people come, so we can share what we need to share,” says Eden.

As the smell of gunpowder filled the air, and as glass from the door the shooter shot through shattered around her, Eden thought she was experiencing the final moments of her life. Three of her classmates were killed in those horrific minutes, including Alhadeff – remembered as a vibrant and much loved 14-year-old, a star soccer player and top student.

Eden Hebron, right, with her best friend Alyssa Alhadeff, who was killed next to her in the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
Nicole Cook

“Everyone is saying ‘Alyssa would have wanted you to live your life,’ and maybe she would. But I can’t really imagine her thinking that – because never in a million years did her friends think they would go through the pain of losing her,” says Eden. “We are just so young. I move on, I go to school, I have to act somewhat normal most of the time. And I will speak for her because she is no longer able to.”

Eden Hebron’s father is Israeli, and she and her family visit the country regularly; they had already planned to spend the Passover holiday here with the family.

In the past, she says, she occasionally used to worry about traveling here. “I grew up listening to people telling me about bomb threats in Israel. I go there every year, but I always get a little bit of anxiety,” she says. “But now I’m not really scared to go. After all, I experienced the worst thing I could ever go through. I thought I was safe in class – and I wasn’t.”

Eden’s older sister, Maia, a senior at the school, agrees. “People say Israel is so unsafe. But the truth is, when I walk in the streets in Israel, I don’t have the same fear I have walking now in the halls in my school, [in what] is supposed to be one of safest cities in the country.”

The first text exchange between Dani Tylim and her mom Carrie on the morning of February 14, 2018. It was the second time Carrie Tylim's children had been involved in a mass-shooting incident.
Courtesy of Carrie Tylim

Maia recounts how when she ran out of the school during the shooting, all she could think about was Eden, if she was safe, and what she was going through.

‘Something is happening’

Around the United States on Wednesday – a month to the day since the mass shooting in Parkland – students staged walkouts to protest America’s lack of gun control.

“Shootings have happened hundreds of time before, but finally there is a lot of awareness. It makes me feel something is happening,” says Maia. But as she and her classmates stood on the football field in unity on Wednesday, she says it was sobering to look right next to her and see a classmate who had lost his younger sister in the attack.

Also on the field was Dani Tylim, who was heartened by so many people participating around the United States – among them her friends from URJ Camp Coleman, a Jewish camp in Georgia.

“To know my camp friends who live in Georgia, Texas, and different parts of Florida were doing walkouts at their schools, and to have everyone involved and coming together and wanting change, means so much,” she says.

“It feels really good to know I’ll be speaking in Israel,” adds Dani. “The trip was planned before everything happened, and at first I was disappointed I couldn’t be in Washington. So when I found out there was a march in Israel, I wanted to be involved and speak. I think it’s amazing I can bring what I am doing in Florida to Israel,” she adds.

Marni Mandell, 40, who immigrated to Israel from Orlando, proposed the solidary rally in Tel Aviv. She says it was in despair that mass shootings – like the one that happened at the Pulse nightclub in her hometown in 2016, killing 49 – had become so commonplace.

“I just couldn’t not do anything anymore, even though I’m living in Israel and not living there,” Mandell says. “From my perspective, living in Israel, the one thing I could do is stand up and get people to stand up as far away as here, and create our own march to stand alongside those in America.”

High school students standing in Washington Square Park, New York, on March 14, 2018, during the school walkout calling for stricter gun control laws in the United States.
TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP