Yediot Aharonot (June 19,2003) (p. 1) by Rivka Freilich — “Every time I shut my eyes, I see my little girl,” says Galit Leibowitz, her eyes moist from tears. So Galit remains awake. She does not close her eyes.
Yesterday she tended to little Shira at the operating room, traveled to Noam’s funeral and returned to the hospital. In the moments between one action and another she remembers-and intense pain strikes her. “Noam was a gift,” she says in a broken voice. “We received her for a limited period of time and now we have to return her.”
Seven-year old Noam and her little sister Shira had a special connection. “Noam watched over Shira. She would bathe her, comb her hair, tell her stories, dance with her and take her to kindergarten,” relates the mother. “Shira and Noam have a bunk bed. I don’t know what Shira will do now. I don’t know how she will react when she enters the room and doesn’t see Noam. What will I tell her?”
“Noam charmed everyone, she was a darling. An energetic and brilliant girl who was always smiling. They prepared a wishing tree at school made of balloons, and each child put a note with his wish inside a balloon.
When Noam’s balloon burst, they found that she had written in her note ‘I want to reach 12th grade and take my matriculation exam.’ She did not even finish second grade. She recently began to write the invitations for her birthday, which will be soon. But she did not manage to write them all.”
On Tuesday, on the morning of the terror attack, they celebrated Shira’s third birthday. “Everyone was happy and playing,” Galit reconstructs quietly. “Then we went to a bar mitzva. Noam ran around and played with everyone, and taught them songs. She did not sit still for a moment.”
“Before we got into the car on the way back, we dressed Noam and Shira in pajamas. Noam sang to us the whole way, and then fell asleep. In a momentary decision we decided to take the Trans-Israel Highway. We almost missed the turnoff.” Galit pauses for a moment, returning to that random decision. “We came back especially to enter the death trap. Why? Perhaps it was meant to happen.”
“Suddenly the shooting began. My husband and I took Noam out of the car and began to resuscitate her. At the time, we did not know that Shira had been severely wounded. Apparently the bullet that passed through Noam’s body continued on to Shira and stopped. It is possible that Noam saved Shira with her body. She always looked after her.”
Galit asks to be alone in the room with her wounded little daughter. During the night, in the corridor of Schneider Hospital, she tells the many supportive relatives: “I need to be alone for a while.”
“Every family that experiences such an event is devastated,” says Galit.
“It is a great loss. But we are now part of a number. Another statistical figure. We have to remember that there is a world behind each one. My Noam was an entire world. She is not just another number.”
A Birthday Without Noam
Ma’ariv (June 19, 2003) (p. 4) by Moran Katz et al. —
Yesterday, in a broken voice, Shlomo Leibowitz said kadish on the grave of Noam, his seven year old daughter.
Embracing and supporting each other, the family stood round the freshly dug grave, and looked at the mounds of earth as they slowly covered her. “Noam always watched over Shira,” wept the mother, Galit. “Who will watch over Noam now?”
Noam Leibowitz was murdered on Tuesday by terrorist gunfire at the car she was riding in with her family. Shira, her little sister, who yesterday had her third birthday, was seriously wounded and is at Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva. Her 11-year old brother and grandfather were lightly wounded and released yesterday from the hospital.
For the last three years the Leibowitz family lived in the Yemin Orde Youth Village on the Karmel mountains. The father of the family, Shlomo, is the vice principal and the mother Galit is a teacher. Yesterday the village was to celebrate its jubilee year, however the day of joy turned into a day of grief. And instead of celebrations, the funeral of a seven year old smiling and bubbly girl took place.
At the elementary school where Noam was a pupil, the children and teachers had a hard time taking in the news. “They told us that Noam is in heaven, and that it is better there than here,” said Adi Levy, 8, Noam’s friend. “But despite the fact that she is happy, I will miss her, and I hope that when the Messiah comes, we will be able to talk to her.”
The school principal said that several days ago all the pupils were asked to write their wishes down. “I want to finish my studies and reach grade 12,” wrote Noam. At the time of her death, she was still a pupil in grade one.
At the youth village of Yemin Orde as well, talks were held with the pupils. “The pupils were supposed to celebrate their graduation day,” related Dotan Levy, the education coordinator of the village. “We were in the midst of general rehearsals when we received the news.” The pupils asked that the ceremony and party not be held, and the teachers agreed and delayed the event.
At the home of the Eliad family, Noam’s grandfather and grandmother described the journey which ended in tragedy over and over again. “My son-in-law suggested that we use the Trans-Israel Highway instead of on the old road,” related the grandmother, Miriam. “The trip was quiet. My granddaughters went to sleep, and suddenly we heard a volley of gunfire. At first my husband was hurt and then Noam as well, as she slept.”
At 1:30 p.m. many of the residents of the youth village, both friends and family, gathered in front of the village’s synagogue for prayers and eulogies. From there the grieving convoy continued on to the cemetery of the nearby community Nir Etzion. “Slowly, slowly, gently, look how small she is,” Galit bade those bearing the body of her daughter.
“The Leibowitzes are of the old type of families who are educators of children,” said the principal of the youth village, Dr. Haim Peri. “The youth village is a place where everybody knows everybody. The pupils knew Noam as a smiling child who always spoke to everyone. She was a small child with a big soul.” And the father, Shlomo, was ill at ease. “You are torn inside,” he said. “You don’t know whether to go to the hospital with Shira or to grieve about Noam.”
A short while before Noam’s funeral, her three year old sister was taken out of the operating room. The mother, Galit, left her little daughter’s bedside, and went to Noam’s funeral. Yesterday the doctors decided that the damage caused to Shira’s spine was reversible. The bullet that penetrated her hip stopped at the spine and was removed in a complicated and delicate operation. Shira’s hand was also ripped apart by the bullet, and needed an extended operation.
“Shira was very lucky,” said the director of the orthopedic unit at Schneider Children’s Hospital, Dr. Elhanan Bar-On. He added that her condition is still moderate, and that ahead of her still lie a series of operations to reconstruct her hand. It is actually her young age, said her doctors yesterday, which will help her body recover quickly.