Monday, November 27, 2006

27-Nov-06: Today Would Have Been Our Daughter's 21st Birthday

Our daughter Malki was born twenty-one years ago today on 27th November 1985 in Melbourne, Australia. Her life ended in the center of Jerusalem on 9th August 2001 when a Hamas barbarian exploded his guitar case inside one of the city's most popular and crowded restaurants, Sbarro.

We hope you will take a moment to remember Malki's beautiful life by paying a visit to the website of the foundation that bears her name. It does a good deal of practical work for families from all parts of Israeli society who care at home for a disabled child. The website address is www.kerenmalki.org

Malki's mother wrote the short essay below soon after the murder:
How can I compress my Malki's fifteen years into a mere few words? How can I sing her praises without sounding hyperbolic? And, the greatest challenge, how can I endure the pain that this will undoubtedly bring? While the task seems daunting, I will attempt it nonetheless.

Since a Palestinian Arab suicide bomber snuffed out her life on August 9th, talking about my Malki is all there is left for me to do for her. And helping her was something I so enjoyed.

The opportunities were usually limited; she was a very independent girl. I used to tell friends that she was "fifteen going on eighteen."
Malki handled all her school and teacher problems on her own. Shopped for her clothes without me. Conducted a very active social life at Horev Girls school and in her youth movement, Ezra. During her last two years, she was rarely at home. So I had to look hard for ways to lend her a hand. A lift by car to her flute lesson now and again to save her the short walk. A quick dash in my car to hand her the lunch she made but forgotten on the kitchen counter. A pretty new blouse I thought might grab her. A few packets of her favorite gum. Small gestures.

But the help she gave me was always on a grand scale, in ways that truly mattered. I could count on Malki to calm down her eight year-old sister who has a tendency to become irate or rebellious. Taking her into her bedroom, they'd chat a while; this would somehow win her over. Malki would then proudly present me with a cooperative little girl eager to brush her teeth, finish her homework or do whatever it was I'd been insisting upon in vain. When I would collapse on the couch after an exhausting day, Malki appeared at my side with my pillow and blanket, and gently settled me down.

She never missed a chance to compliment me when I dressed up for a simcha or wore a new outfit. When my husband would phone home from one of his overseas business trips, Malki would first ask him how he was feeling and how his meetings were panning out. Only then would she enquire about the items she'd asked him to buy her. (I, on the other hand, would launch pell-mell into my long shopping list, along with a litany of the woes I was enduring on the home front by myself.) If she were spending some time downtown, she would call home and offer to do errands for me, aware that I rarely get out of the house.


Then there was her unique relationship with Haya-Elisheva, our youngest child, now six-and-a-half, who suffers from global and profound retardation as well as an extreme epilepsy condition called Lennox-Gastaut. Early on, when Haya was hospitalized, Malki spent many hours at her side, relieving me or simply keeping me company. She was only eleven at the time but once alerted me to the fact that a nurse had hooked Haya up to the wrong IV drip. On another occasion she was the first to notice a croupy cough that turned out to need antibiotics.

As a result of her competence, I grew to lean on her - perhaps more than I should have. In one of several diaries she left behind, she confessed that she would be happy if we had put Haya away in an institution-though to me she insisted that she preferred to keep her at home.


Despite the challenges, Malki was well-balanced enough to develop into a wholesome, active teen-ager. Her ability to see the bright side of things, to concentrate on the "half-fullness of the cup" became her trademark.

Many of her close friends have written to tell us how Malki constantly inspired them to fight despondence, be happy, utilize every moment for fun but worthwhile activities. She achieved this in a variety of ways. One was the cards she sent to her friends: birthdays, holidays, returns from vacations, a disappointment, whatever. On the cover, an artistic decoration alongside an apt poem or quotation she had read somewhere that had touched her. On the back - a personal, original note.

Another was the intense, empathetic heart-to-heart talks she had with her friends. In her diaries, these are often mentioned as the highlights of her day.


Yet a third medium of uplifting was music, an area in which she was multi-talented. She studied recorder and flute for some ten years and acquired impressive skill in both. When her school or youth movement organized some event she never failed to contribute with either solo or group performances. At mid and end-of-year concerts of the neighborhood conservatory where she took lessons, Malki's playing always reduced me to tears of nachat. She also taught herself to play guitar and, I've been told, would lug it around practically everywhere, and strike up group sing-a-longs at every opportunity - even on the school bus. Needless to say, the songs she and her friends sang were what are dubbed here "shirei neshama" - songs of the soul.

Once Haya's condition stabilized somewhat and I leaned on Malki's help in that area a lot less, I made a great effort to "normalize" our family life as much as possible. Malki's contacts with Haya were more pleasurable, and her love unadulterated. On those rare occasions when she was home relaxing, Malki would sit Haya in her lap on an armchair. At night, she often took her into her bed and slept beside her. She became the only other family member capable of feeding Haya and relieved me thus from time to time.

Her relationship with Haya did not satisfy her urge to help those less fortunate than herself. She exhibited an amazing sensitivity to all kinds of disabled people. One summer she helped a local single mother with her profoundly disabled child suffering from the degenerative Canavan's Disease. His limited responses were hardly noticed by others but elicited enthusiasm from my Mali (the name we used inside the family).

At school, she gravitated towards the group of learning-disabled girls who study in a separate but parallel class. She developed genuine friendships with them and urged her teachers to include those girls more frequently in joint activities with the other students.

Two weeks before her death, Malki volunteered with a girlfriend at a sports camp located in the Galilee (arranged by the Etgarim organization) for disabled children. During the five days they were there assisting the counselors, Malki's gentle, caring way touched everyone. Many of the people associated with Etgarim travelled long distances to comfort us during the Shiva - one trekked all the way from Kiryat Shmona at Israel's northernmost edge and back in one day, a four hour drive each way-and related incredible stories to us about Malki.

One of the counsellors who had supervised her remembered the farewell chat he had conducted with the volunteers the night before their return home. When he asked each of the volunteers to stand up and tell the group what they viewed as the most important feature of their stint, they all emphasized the importance of and satisfaction gained from giving to others. Malki was the last one to speak. We were told that she was the only one who spoke of what she had gained - of the happiness she had experienced in working with the children.


Nearly a year before she was murdered, Malki and her friends, at the behest of their youth movement leader, wrote personal letters addressed to G-d, in which they expressed their prayers and requests for the upcoming Jewish New Year. They submitted them to her in sealed envelopes, the intention being to open and read them aloud the following year. The madricha (leader) brought us Malki's sealed letter during the Shiva. Arnold, my husband has not yet managed to bring himself to read it but, despite a torrent of tears, I did. In it, Malki prayed for success in school and in her youth movement as a counselor (which she was to become several months later). She added the hope that our family would remain close and supportive of one another. Her request for Haya was particularly striking: not for a miracle, a cure or even a dramatic improvement. Ever modest, she asked that Haya learn to somehow convey to us which of our actions please and which disturb her. In the final line of Malki's letter, in small script because the page had already been filled, I read: "…and that I'll be alive and that the Messiah should come".

People have told us that our precious memories will eventually bring comfort. But at this point that seems impossible. I cannot conjure up even one of those I have mentioned without crying over the tragic loss that has befallen us, her friends, and the many others she surely would have helped had she been allowed to live out her life to its full course.


Frimet Roth

Jerusalem (October 2001)

In her memory, we would be glad if you would listen to a song Malki wrote in the last year of her life. The words and the music are hers; the spirit is the indomitable spirit of the Jewish people. Malki's Song in MP3 form is downloadable from here.

11 comments:

Rob said...

A lovely uplifting song. Thank you.

Baleboosteh said...

Malki was obviously a very talented girl and from what I have read on your blog and The Malki Foundation a truly beautiful soul inside and out. Your tragic loss is so terribly sad.

Peace to you and your family.

GuyFromHungary said...

all i can say, with tears in my eyes, that these moments reminds me, that what's the diffrence beetween just exsisting and living.

joining to baleboosteh:

peace to you and your family

Redhead Infidel said...

My heart goes out to you. It looks like you have brought beauty and hope out of the ashes of her death. That is a precious gift to the world.

Bagel Blogger said...

Happy birthday Malki.

Shalom
Aaron

Juanita said...

What a beautiful child. And what wonderful parents. May God Bless you and your efforts.

Lifearth said...

May peace be upon you. Its unfortunate that peace comes through gunbarrel

Gharqad Tree said...

Almost everything I could say sounds trite, so let me just wish you peace and offer you thanks for your good works.

The-View-From-Ramot said...

Sadly, this blog like many others, attracts some quite creepy readers. Their anonymous ravings, dripping with racist hatred, are not going to be published here, not even today's anonymous contribution that starts out "She would still be with you if..." Hint to today's creepy person: you want your opinion to be published, send us your full name, mailing address and email address. Only then will we consider extending the courtesy of publishing your opinion appear here, as nauseating as it is to us.

Anonymous said...

Though nothing one could ever say would ease your pain I just wanted to let you know that many people on the world feel for you. Even as I don't know you personally I have tears in my eyes when I'm reading about Malki. I put a link on my blogs to your websites. Maybe this can at least help the other kids you are working for a little bit. All the best for you and shalom!

The-View-From-Ramot said...

Most writers of blogs will have come across the sort of moronic contributions that sometimes reach us here - and particularly in response to this posting about our daughter's life and her death. It's puzzling to us that people with so much hatred on their minds go actively looking for sites like this one. There's no shortage of blogs and websites that provide a welcome home for people with so much prejudice, hatred, racism and intolerance in their hearts. A pity they feel the need to spread their pathological sickness into other places like the one we have created here.