Tifferet Tratner, age 24, was the first resident of Gush Katif to be killed directly by a mortar shell.
In four years of endless bombardment Gush Katif had experienced the realm of the supra-rational, the realm of endless miracles by the Almighty. Mortars launched by Arab terrorists in Khan Yunis into the Gush Katif settlements exploded everywhere. They caused damage and injuries, but no deaths. The day before Yom Kippur 2004 this extraordinary statistic changed.
A mortar smashed into Tifferet Tratner’s home collapsing the roof onto her. She was home only because she had found an abandoned puppy and was caring for it. Unconscious, she was flown to Soroka Hospital in Beersheba where she died.
Her death brought shock waves through a community that has been blasted by Arabs and designated for destruction by the Israeli government.
Who was Tifferet Tratner? It seemed that very few knew her. She was shy, barely speaking to passersby even when walking her dog. Her parents had come on aliya from the United States and settled in Jerusalem. Tifferet was their sabra daughter.
After high school she did her year of national service in the isolated settlement of Netzarim, where she had an uncle. Her grandfather was killed by terrorists while visiting Netzarim. One of her sisters lives in the Gush Katif settlement of Atzmona.
Tifferet then did a second year at the Katifari, the Neve Dekalim Zoo. Her ‘adoptive parents’, Eli and Pazit Moses, said that “she was modest and had a quiet sense of humor. One had to make an effort to know her, but it was worth it.”
On the morning before the holy day of Yom Kippur, as people rushed to do last minute shopping, as housewives prepared the pre-Fast meal, as children played in parks near their homes, the sound of exploding mortars broke the still morning air. Tifferet’s house was hit. She was found by a neighbor and a security guard. Less than two hours later she was laid to rest in Jerusalem. Because of the hurried burial her friends and neighbors, still in shock, could not attend the funeral. She died alone, and was carried to her grave by her immediate family and by the reverend people of Jerusalem people who did not know her.
The Yom Kippur holiday intervened. Shiva, the seven days of mourning, was cancelled. No one was able to sit shiva for Tifferet.
But her name, her picture, her life and her death were endlessly recounted in the Israeli and international media. Her death made a difference. Instead of the usual ineffectual response to attacks the IDF entered Khan Yunis and did a massive cleaning of the area near the wall. And last night we slept without a mortar attack.
Tifferet, I didn’t know you while you lived, and I’m sorry it took your death to make a difference. You were aptly named: Tifferet means splendor. As Eli Moses said, “Tifferet was our first sacrifice. May she be our last sacrifice.”