“It’s odd, isn’t it? People die every day and the world goes on like nothing happened. But when it’s a person you love, you think every one should stop and take notice. That they ought to cry and light candles and tell you that you’re not alone.” (Kristina McMorris, Letters from Home)
Thirteen year old American-Israeli Hallel Ariel was brutally murdered by a 17 year old terrorist in Israel. Heartbreaking! That murder reminded me of another American-Israeli, 13 year old Koby Mandell murdered May 8, 2001. His friend 14 years old Yosef Ishran died at the hands of the same terrorists. In Jerusalem I met with Sherri Mandell, Koby’s mother (pictured).
She shared about the great depths of grief she experienced. In her book “The Blessings of a Broken Heart,” she wrote about life after Koby. “We have to walk about five blocks to get to Burger King. We’re hungry, tired and cranky so when we pass a vegetarian restaurant – we decide to stop there to eat. I think we are all relieved not to have to feel the sadness of eating hamburgers without Koby.
“My kids go to pick up the drinks at the counter of the restaurant, and I close my eyes and hold a napkin against my eyes as I cry and I wonder: how am I going to go on? How am I going to stand up? How am I going to get the strength to leave this restaurant and take my children home on the bus?”
Grief overwhelmed her until her surviving children lovingly said, “Mother, we know how deeply you feel the loss of Koby, but please understand we feel that loss too. But we have suffered two severe tragedies. We lost Koby but since he died, we lost our mother too.” Sherri knew they were right. She told me they had a meaningful time as a family and considered how they could remember Koby appropriately. The Koby Mandell Foundation was launched. They knew the deep impact of grief terror inflicted on their own family and they knew others shared that sorrow with their own traumatic experiences.
They launched Camp Koby for teens and youth, where counselling and encouragement were prioritised. Jewish and Arab victims of terror are brought together. Sherrie explained they are wary of each other on the first day. By day two they hear heart-wrenching testimonies. The barriers recede. By midweek the teens laugh and cry with each other. She said they draw to each other through their common need and one teen with a tragic infirmity relates to another with the same predicament. Their nationalistic differences are forgotten, at least for the moment. By the end of the week, Sherrie told me, they share email addresses so they can maintain contact. (Online visit The Koby Mandell Foundation – kobymandell.org -to see the scope of their vision).
On the website the Mandells have posted comments written by Koby. One is called: ‘What makes a Good Parent.’ He wrote: “If I were my parents I would always stick up for my kid because if you don’t, your kid begins to feel bad and thinks that you don’t care about him. Anyway, your kid always needs somebody to stick up for him.
“I would also let my kid wear whatever he wants and make his own decisions, because kids need freedom as much as parents do, if not more. I’m not saying you can let your kid do whatever he wants, but don’t confine him, and let him make his own decisions.” (Read the rest at the website)
Koby liked to quote – “Taking the Bully by the Horns” by Kathy Noll. “I was once bullied by a jerk who wanted to show off in front of his friends . He took a chair from me during school when I was sitting down and I fell on the floor. I said to my friends that guy’s an idiot and he heard me. He started to hit and kick me and then walked away. I didn’t hit him back because he was bigger and older than me. A week later my father found out and we ran into him at the pizza place. My father went up to him and threatened to break his nose off if he touched me again. Since then he has not bothered me. I felt good because he was punished and embarrassed. (More at the website.’
Koby had quite a sense of humour and some of his favorite jokes are published on the website: “As the light changed from red to green to yellow and back to red again, I sat there thinking about life. Was it nothing more than a bunch of honking and yelling? Sometimes it just seems that way.”
“Millionaire is dying, he calls his 3 closest friends to his bedside. “I know they say you can’t take it with you when you go, but I want to try.” He said, “I’m going to give you $1 Million apiece, if you will place it in my coffin at my funeral.” They agreed, and at his funeral, they all placed envelopes in the casket. 2 Months pass, and they meet for lunch. One friend says “I have a confession, I only put $200,000 in the envelope”. Another friend says “Yeah, I only put in $300,000.” The third says “I’m SO disappointed! He was our friend! How could you do this? … My envelope contained a check for $1,000,000”.”
These murdered terror victims are more than statistics. They were vibrant living, loved and valued. Not to be forgotten. I am reminded author Latoya Alston wrote “Loss is only temporary when you believe in God!”
Ron Ross is a Middle East consultant for United Christian Broadcasters (Vision FM). Previously he was radio news editor for Bridges for Peace in Jerusalem, Israel.
His career started at WINTV (Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Ron Ross previous articles may be viewed at