In the steady drumbeat of terror attacks in Israel of the past few months, it has become increasingly difficult to set the victims apart, to remember their names, to feel their horror at the moment they experienced their nightmare. We’re no longer as devastated by the orphans and widows and grieving parents who are left behind in the same way we were when the terror wave first began last Sukkos.
But along comes 39-year-old Dafna Meir, Hy”d, and shakes us out of our lethargy. Her death stops us in our tracks. The story of this slight woman fighting off a knife-wielding terrorist in her home to keep him from reaching her children brings back our ability to cry, and the tears flow uncontrollably.
The story of how she was raised by an adoptive mother because her own parents were incapable of caring for her, and how she told her husband before agreeing to marry him that no matter how many children they had, they must also adopt children, restores our appreciation for the goodness and potential of each and every terror victim, and for the immeasurable tragedy of their loss.
“You came to us at the age of 13,” Atarah, her adoptive mother, said, addressing Dafna at her funeral Monday. “You were part of an institution in which each person had a family whom they could go to. But you didn’t have any uncles or grandparents. Nor did you have parents who could take care of you. I thought we could try to take you in.”
At first, Dafna held back, refusing to return her adoptive mother’s hugs. She didn’t know how to love, how to trust, how to open up. “You apparently didn’t have a concept of what … a family was, a place where you can give and receive hugs. With time we got to know each other, you became our daughter and we were so happy that you were with us,” Atarah said.
This amazing young woman went on to marry, to bring four children into the world, now aged 10 to 17, and to adopt two children.
“All her life she raised foster kids and moved between institutions,” her niece Moriah told Yisrael Hayom. “Her dream was to take kids who had nothing and give them a good life. She was the best mother in the world.”
A friend, Liron Shtrenberg, who is a social worker who deals with troubled teens, recalled that Dafna “was always inviting teenagers who didn’t have anywhere to go to her home.”
She was a nurturer on the job, as well, working as a nurse in the neurosurgery department of Soroka Medical Center in Be’er Sheva. “Dafna was saving lives here [at the hospital] and her own life was taken in front of her children,” Prof. Yochanan Peiser said at the funeral. “She always did above and beyond.”
She was sensitive and often had difficulty sleeping after returning home from the hospital, having seen “very difficult sights,” the Walla news site reported. “There is a lot of sadness in my work. I have a hard time falling asleep after shifts. I wander around dazed,” it was reported on the site in her name.
And she was obviously a loving mother to her natural children, judging by the remarkable poise of her 17-year-old daughter Ranana, who witnessed her mother being martyred and a day later delivered a eulogy at Har Hamenuchos.
“You left us with a great empty space. We won’t drink tea together. You won’t accompany me to the chuppah. Sorry I couldn’t help you in the most difficult moments.”
Dafna’s husband, Natan, described his wife as “one in a million who grew up in a home that wasn’t a home and succeeded at growing and rehabilitating herself. Dafna was determined to return loving kindness to the world, and she did!”
Dafna is the 28th fatality since the current intifada began. All the attempts by the security forces to reassure us that the situation isn’t that serious, since in the days of the Second Intifada there were 28 korbanos a day, are an attempt to shirk responsibility. Worse, they are an attempt to minimize the terrible losses we are suffering, to accept them as part of life.
Dafna, in the circumstances of her life and death, refuses to become anyone’s statistic, and in so doing restores the dignity of all those who were killed. She has reminded us that we, as a nation, have lost 28 entire worlds. That lights have been extinguished and the world is a darker place.
Dafna Meir was well-known in the community. “She was a happy woman, full of joy, optimistic, responsible, loving,” neighbor Yishai Klein described her on Sunday evening.
May the zechus of her chessed to troubled youngsters, to the sick and infirm, to her children and husband, and to all her friends and acquaintances, be a source of protection and comfort to her precious family and for all of Klal Yisrael.