It is very intimidating to walk in.
The family is mourning shiva for the death of a loved one.
An Unexpected death.
Yet another victim of Arab terror.
This time, the fatalities occurred in Sderot, a southern city atop of a mountain overlooking Gaza, which has become a target of Palestinian rockets since the beginning of the Intifada.
Although Sderot lies on Israel’s side of the 1949-67 armistice lines, Palestinian refugees who have lived in the squalor of UN refugee camps in Gaza since 1949 have been inculcated to fight for the “right of return” to Arab villages which existed before 1948 where Sderot now exists.
Arabs from UN camps in Gaza had fired close to three hundred rockets at innocent civilians in Sderot for the past three years. The first fatalities occurred on June 28, 2004. One was a four-year-old boy en route to nursery school, whose story was told and retold all week in the media.
The other, Mordechai Yosepov, an immigrant from Uzbekistan, whose story did not receive as much attention from the media due to a language barrier.
I, being from the former USSR, knew the Russian language. Together with two other reporters, I was privileged, to pay a visit to the victim’s family during the week of mourning.
We made the trip to Sderot to see the family who had experienced this loss and were now thrown into the same group as all the other victims of terror families. We needed to see, face to face, how human beings who willingly chose to live in Israel, and moreover in Sderot, could possibly feel after losing a beloved father, grandfather and husband by a rocket deliberately thrown at them just because “they were Jews.”
As we approached the mourning family, we felt their grief and shock. We spoke to them to find out their story and relay it to you- to paint a face of yet another victim of terror.
Mordechai Yosepov was among the many other Soviet Jews who emigrated from the former Soviet Union in the promise of a better future. He arrived from Uzbekistan with his second wife Nina in 1993 to reunite with his two children who had made Aliyah three years prior. He, like the others, was seeking a new life in the Jewish homeland. No one could have predicted how short lived that new life would be.
The family first settled in Tel Aviv, but soon relocated to Sderot due to the more affordable housing costs there. In Sderot, Mordechai lived among an extremely close-knit Russian-speaking Sephardi community, along with his two children Eduard 26, Albina 24 and his five grandchildren.
Upon his arrival, Mordechai served in the Israeli army and then returned for reserve duty in the last few years before his death. Despite all the hardships that he encountered with the strains of arriving to a new land, Mordechai maintained an excellent health record. His son Eduard related “He was in perfect condition. He never felt a need to visit the doctor.”
On that fateful Monday morning, Mordechai joined his relative for a stroll to take his grandson to the nearby nursery school..
After the boy was safely inside the building, Mordechai crossed the street and it was at that precise moment, at 8:15 a.m., that he met his death.
When we spoke to the bereaved children, both faces were aged and lined with the experience of sufferings. Both had immigrated to Tel Aviv with their mother Frida, and after resettling to Sderot, Eduard became employed as a security guard at nearby University Sapir College. It was in Sderot, as well, that Eduard met his wife, and she along with Albina continues to busy herself daily at home with their children.
When Eduard received that dreadful phone call informing him of his father’s death, he was outraged and enormously shocked. He told us that he had always felt safe in Sderot, far safer than in Tel Aviv. He remarked, “I always breathed a sigh of relief after returning home to Sderot. I never imagined that this could happen here.”
Now, when Eduard walks to synagogue each morning, he notices the empty streets and he knows that people are reluctant to leave their homes. Since the rockets are usually heard in the morning hours, Mordechai’s death has frightened the neighborhood and turned the sounds of the rockets into a realistic possibility of death.
During our visit, a Russian-born Knesset member, MK Dr. Yuri Shtern stopped by to pay his respects, along with several of his aides. We were comforted to see government officials who also arrived to show support for the victims’ families and assure them that they would help with expenses of the funeral arrangements.
After the member of Knesset left the house, Eduard proceeded to tell us about the Bukharian community in Sderot, which he was part of. He mentioned that the community was trying to build a synagogue for a long time but could not continue due to the lack of funds. On a more uplifting note, Eduard shared with us that the “government” promised to finish building the Bukharian synagogue and dedicate it to his father’s memory.
That day we built a connection with Mordechai Yosepov’s family.
The headlines of the attack faded soon after. People move on with their lives and forget the victims shortly after the horrific tragedies. Yet the shock and the pain of the family and of the close ones linger.
Almost two months have gone by since that fateful day in June. I maintain contact with Eduard Yosepov. It was very upsetting to find out that no one has kept contact with the family to offer help and show support since after the shiva. Eduard hasn’t heard from any government officials or funds that would offer help, which was due to him. He was promised minimal financial help to cover the costs of a grave monument and to help with the shiva expenses. The promises were not kept.
Eduard’s interests are not for selfish reasons. He stressed during our conversations that this support should have been given only out of respect for his father’s memory. After all, his father died “fighting a war” for his country.
Is this the treatment deserved by the innocent victims? That they should be forgotten by the government and people of Israel?
Address of Mordechai Yosepov’s son,
Noga St, Sderot, Israel