Eyal’s Grandmother Remembers
An excerpt from the interview conducted for Pnima Magazine by Hili Moyal, Adi Aharon, and Rut Azaria
For Ilana Yifrach, the grandmother of Eyal HY”D and a special woman, it is difficult to speak. And we can understand her. Eyal was her oldest grandchild, and he was a frequent visitor at their home in Kiryat Arba…
If we have merited to see recently how behind every great soul stands a great and believing mother, then this is equally true regarding the grandmother.
Ilana explains what keeps her strong during these troubled times, “All the time I tell myself, ‘Kaveh el Hashem, chazek v’yaametz libecha, v’kaveh el Hashem’ (hope to Hashem, make your heart strong and brave, and hope to Hashem). The word ‘kaveh’ reminds me of ‘kav’—a line, and that I have a direct line to the Creator of the World. It’s been very difficult. Eyal left my home on that Thursday night of the kidnapping, but we are staying strong in the merit of faith.”
And if Eyal was a frequent visitor at his grandmother’s home, she herself is a frequent visitor to Maarat HaMachpelah (the Machpelah Cave). Several times I have seen her there praying, her eyes not moving from her siddur as she reads the words with intense concentration. As then, now too she finds comfort at the entrance to the Garden of Eden, among the graves of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, and she comes there to pour out her thoughts to the Creator of the World.
“Every Thursday Eyal would come to visit. Our neighbor is his rabbi, and once a week they would study together. So an hour before the lesson Eyal would come to me, to visit his grandmother. We would sit together, eat his favorite foods, talk, laugh. He had tremendous joy for life and unparalleled love for people. Also love of Torah and love of the Land of Israel.
“He was proud of us, his grandparents, since we were among the first Jewish settlers of Hebron, 46 years ago. We would tell him how we came here as newlyweds, and he loved to hear about that and would come here a lot with his friends. He was very connected to Hebron, even his pidyon haben was here,“ Ilana remembers.
“He was an amazing child, very special. He was always happy, happy with everything. As the oldest grandson he served as a role model for the entire family. Even as a small child, he was very dynamic. When they would come to us for Shabbat, the entire family would go to Maarat HaMachpela to pray, and Eyal would lead the way.
“At the age of three, his parents decided to give him his first haircut. One Friday, first thing in the morning, we all went to HaRav Mordechai Eliyahu zt”l. His father lifted him onto his shoulders, and Eyal started reciting the verses in a loud voice. He yelled out, ‘Shema Yisrael Hashem Elokaynu Hashem Echad!’ ‘Hashem Melech, Hashem malach, Hashem Yimloch l’olam vaed!’ and ‘Hashem hu haelokim!’ and we recited after him.”
“HaRav Eliyahu was very moved. Even then we saw he had a special power. Since he was small he would recite verses in a loud voice, and I am certain that after he fought for his life, he breathed his last breath saying ‘Shema Yisrael’ just like Rabbi Akiva.
“He had tremendous love for others. He loved them with all his heart. He would always smile, hug, kiss. We are b”H, a big family. We would always see him holding a different baby in his arms, even as a boy. It really moved me to see that.
“What keeps us going now is the Torah and faith. As our Sages taught, “The land of Israel is acquired through suffering’ and Hebron is acquired through even greater suffering. Eyal wanted with all of his heart of study at the yeshiva in Hebron, but Hashem has His plans, and He took them, exalted martyrs, like Rabbi Akiva and the 10 martyrs of that time. Hashem takes the tsadikim. Maybe there was supposed to be a terrible decree on the Jewish people, and now we are seeing Kassams falling all over the land of Israel. It appears that the tsaddikim are praying above, and all of the prayers of Jews [after the kidnapping] certainly annulled the terrible decree.
“And we have seen miracles. For example, the fact that they didn’t burn their bodies, even though they could have done that when they burned the car. Or the fact that the burial society said that their bodies were completely whole [graphic details omitted] even though they had been under the ground for several weeks, in the heat. That’s not a miracle? We have all seen how Hashem hears our prayers and they never go unanswered.
“Eyal had so many plans. He wanted to study one-on-one with my husband, to fix up our garden. But there are many plans in a man’s heart. Now Eyal is learning Torah in Heaven, a lot of Torah. G-d willing, in their merit the redemption will come. May it be that these days of mourning will turn to days of celebration and rejoicing and we will be redeemed and saved immediately.
“And we won’t have to fast this Tisha B’Av because, in their merit, Moshiach will already be here.”