Smiling Through the Tears in Tekoa

Jerusalem Post - May 14, 2001 - Gil Hoffman

Justice4JP Prefacing Note:

Although Jonathan Pollard is in dire straits himself, his care and concern for others is overwhelming. At Jonathan's request, his wife Esther has been making shiva calls and hospital visits in Israel for years. Until the Jerusalem Post article below appeared, these visits they have gone undetected and unreported.

Justice4JP notes that Esther was accompanied by Karen Dub, the wife of Jonathan's attorney to both the Mandell shiva and the Ish-Ran shiva yesterday

The Ish-Ran family, which is sitting shiva in Jerusalem, was contacted by the Prime Minister's office early on Sunday morning (13/05/01) and asked to relocate to Tekoa in order to convenience the Prime Minister or the President so that they would not have to make shiva calls in 2 locations. The Ish-Rans of course declined. Mrs. Ish-Ran later told Esther Pollard, "My 10 year old daughter was furious. How is it a child understands that you do not ask such a thing but the government does not? Whoever wishes to come to see us can come here. Our door is open to all." The Ish-Rans are sitting shiva in Nachalot, Jerusalem.

Smiling Through the Tears in Tekoa

TEKOA (May 14) - "I love this place, but it took away my son," Sherri Mandell, mother of slain teenager Ya'acov (Koby) Mandell, told President Moshe Katsav yesterday when he came to Tekoa to pay a condolence call on the family.

The wadi where Koby and his friend Yosef (Yossi) Ish-Ran were battered to death last Wednesday was beautiful like the Grand Canyon to him, Mandell said, as she showed Katsav pictures of her son's bar mitzva, taken less than a year ago, not far from the site of his murder.

Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, MK Benny Elon, and Esther Pollard, wife of imprisoned Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, joined hundreds of well-wishers and Tekoa residents in paying their respects. Neighbor after neighbor came over the weekend and told Sherri more stories about her son.

Katsav said that the fact that the Mandells had made aliya from the United States only seven years ago made their loss even more of a tragedy. He called on Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat to put an end to the months of raging violence and prevent such tragedies from recurring.

Elon, of the far-right National Union party, called the murders a senseless act of deeply-rooted hatred and said that the conflict has ceased to be a matter of Left and Right.

Sherri Mandell had no political response to her son's death.

The family sent a message to the neighborhood synagogue on Shabbat telling their neighbors that they hoped their son's death would inspire love and not hate.

"I didn't come here because of politics; I came here despite the politics," she told Katsav.

The family moved to Tekoa because of its picturesque countryside, its warm and widely assorted population, and its unique sense of spirituality, they said.

On Lag Ba'omer Thursday night, Tekoa residents held a bonfire at the site of the murder, where they sang songs until late at night and vowed to preserve their memories of their lost sons.

Koby's brother, Daniel, described him as a star baseball player, who collected baseball and basketball cards, loved pop music and the songs of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach.

His mother described an almost symbiotic relationship she had with her son, who was youthful in spirit and mischievousness but very mature in how thoughtful and caring he was for the members of his family and his community.

Despite her pain, Sherri Mandell's laugh could be heard down the street from her house as she greeted people with a smile, the same way Koby always did.

"That is the way Koby would have wanted it," she said.