Tragedy hits Kibbutz Merav near Beit She'an

Add the name of Israeli Aliza Malka, 17, to the list of innocent victims killed in the 11-month-long intifada.

On Friday, Aug. 10, at 8:30 p.m., Aliza and three of her friends were driving back from an outing in nearby Beit She'an to their home in Kibbutz Merav, just inside the Green Line. Palestinians lying in wait behind the trees planted by the Jewish National Fund years ago ambushed the car containing the driver and the four schoolgirls ranging in age from 14 to 17.

Despite immediate triage, Aliza died of her wounds before she could be airlifted to a nearby hospital. The other three passengers were all wounded, one seriously.

According to Ha'aretz, the terrorists, who escaped, apparently came from the nearby town of Jenin; the defense establishment believes they were Fatah members.

The tragedy, which occurred in a picturesque 15-year-old kibbutz in the Gilboa mountains five miles south of Beit She'an, reaches Cleveland. Yitz Feigenbaum, son of Dr. David and Miriam Feigenbaum of South Euclid, lives on the kibbutz and runs the Kibbutz Merav Children's Home, a foster home for children from broken homes.

Aliza, who called Yitz "abba" (father), was one of Yitz's 12 foster children. She and her sister, like the other 10 children in the foster home, had been removed from their families because they had been abused or neglected. For many of these children, the kibbutz members are the only family they have.

"Because Aliza was so much one of their own, this tragedy has profoundly affected the kibbutz," says David Feigenbaum, who is in constant contact with his son, daughter-in-law, Debbie, and three grandchildren. "The mood is very tense and somber. When I visited the kibbutz during Passover, there was a general feeling that because they were situated on a top of a mountain, the 300 members were in a protected bubble."

Although during the past few months his son has found pipe bombs on the mountain road, says Feigenbaum, nothing prepared the family for this tragedy.

When the Feigenbaums took their grandchildren to Jerusalem, their big concern was the traffic, notes Feigenbaum. "Since there was no traffic in the kibbutz, we had the children practice looking both ways when they crossed streets. Now they have to watch out for terrorists."

American-born kibbutz member Judy Singer says, "There is a saying in Hebrew, 'Kol ha'aretz hazit - the whole country is one big front line - a battlefront.' Now, we here on Merav feel that is true."

In the wake of the violence, she says her 4-year old is afraid to leave the house because he is worried there are bad men inside the kibbutz.

"We have to continue our regular lives and not give in to those who want to kill," she says.

"But how do we teach our kids not to hate when all they see on TV are ambulances and soldiers running with stretchers from the most recent attacks?" she asks. "How can we ourselves not sink into hatred?"

As long as the Arabs feel world opinion is behind them, "they will keep on killing," David Feigenbaum says. "Israel has to say, forget what everyone else thinks and do what is effective. The problem is determining what is effective."

Meanwhile the sound of the buzz saw fills the air as members of the kibbutz chop down the leafy grove of trees that line the winding mountain path leading to Kibbutz Merav. They are being cut down, as was the life of Aliza Malka, who once ran freely and played hide-and-seek under those very branches.

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