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Modern-Day Maccabees: The Story of Malachi Rosenfeld

by Pnina Gabler
December 2, 2018
(Photo Credit: Hadar Nachman)

It was around midnight in June 2015, when I received one of the most dreaded phone calls. I was in bed waiting for my husband to return home from another one of his Binyamin League basketball games, when a neighbor called to say her husband just called her.

“There’s been another shooting on the road, your husband is OK, but his cell has no service,” said my neighbor. 

My mind starts racing and my heart starts pounding. There were two full cars of guys simply driving home from a basketball game that night. My husband, Benji, born and raised in New York, was driving the second car one kilometer behind the car that was shot at by terrorists. They stopped the car when they heard shots fired and called for help.

This all happened right near the Baal Hatzor Mountain, where Yehuda the Maccabee fought the last battle against the Greeks (in the first century BCE) and where G-d told Abraham, “Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art, northward and southward and eastward and westward, for all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever” (Genesis 13:14-15).

 

Nineteen deadly bullets pierced the first car that night, all four passengers were hit. Security volunteers from the nearby settlements raced over and started treating the wounded.

A.Y., the Director of The Heart of Israel, was one of them.

He recalls looking for the terrorist with his flashlight mounted on his M16, heart beating fast, knowing that at any minute he could be the one shot at next. He then heard people by a car screaming that there was a drive-by shooting, they shot and drove away. He ran towards the injured people and tried to stop the bleeding. A military ambulance finally came and a few minutes later a helicopter flew overhead. But they had not yet received permission to land because they were worried that the terrorists were still in the area and would shoot at the helicopter.

Malachi Rosenfeld was severely wounded. When the medics finally got him into the ambulance, it took a long hour for the ambulance to get to the nearest hospital. By that time, he had already lost too much blood.

We can’t know what would have happened if things were different,” A.Y. notes, “but we definitely could have done more and we know that by having an Emergency Room close by, so many lives could be saved.”

The car that Malachi was in, after the terrorists fled.

Miraculously, my husband, Benji, returned home to me and I felt such a huge relief. But the Rosenfeld family did not get that same relief that night. My husband came home with a bag of bloody jerseys, while Sara and Eliezer Rosenfeld, Malachi’s parents, ran to the hospital praying for a miracle, along with the rest of the people of Israel. 

The following day, they received every parents’ worst nightmare. Their son, Malachi, at age 25, was taken from them.

Malachi Rosenfeld Z”L

Thousands of people came to the funeral in Kochav Hashachar, a community in the heart of Israel where the Rosenfelds live. Everyone spoke about how Malachi was always helping others and how much he loved playing basketball. 

No one could hold back tears as Eliezer gripped his two remaining sons and began to sing. Through his tears and choked voice, we all heard him sing the soulful song written by Rabbi Nachman of Breslov (1772-1810), “V’afilu B’hastara.” The translation of the song is, “Even in the most concealed​​ of concealed​​ places, certainly​ He of the Blessed name is also found there. I stand with you, even through the hard times that befall upon you.” 

Family and friends began to join in. We all felt their painful loss, but even there at the funeral we could see this powerful, unbreakable family embodying the full essence of true and pure faith.

Clip of Eliezer Rosenfeld singing at his son, Malachi’s, funeral.

That song is exactly what the holiday of Channukah comes to teach us: That even when G-d seems to be hidden, in those tragic times, He is still there with us, always.

This week we are celebrating Channukah, the festival of lights, lighting candles for eight nights commemorating the victory of the war between the Macabees and the Greeks, as well as, remembering the miracle of finding one tiny unopened jar of pure oil that miraculously lasted for eight days. In both cases, all seemed hopeless and lost and the Temple had been completely desecrated, but they did not give up hope.

“It was one of the most stunning military achievements of the ancient world. It was, as we say in our prayers, a victory of the few over the many, the weak over the strong. It’s summed up in a wonderful line from the prophet Zechariah: “Not by might nor by strength but by My spirit says the Lord.

The Maccabees had neither might nor strength, neither weapons nor numbers. But they had a double portion of the Jewish spirit…Never believe that a handful of dedicated people can’t change the world. Inspired by faith, they can,” said Chief Rabbi of Britain, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

I believe that Sara and Eliezer Rosenfeld really embody the essence of Channukah.

They are the modern Maccabees with the unbreakable spirit and the unwavering faith that even in the dark times, in the painful trials of life, G-d is with us. Even in the dark, cold and long winter nights, we can light up the darkness.

Their faith was tested and yet they stood strong and lifted up this tragic event. Now, they are trying to ensure what happened to them does not happen to others. They are at the forefront of a new project to build an emergency room in the biblical heartland.

The inspirational Sara and Eliezer took their sadness and, together with The Heart of Israel, turned it into a mission of bringing hope to many other families. We can’t always understand the Divine plan, but we can do something to save others from any future emergency.

Just as we light the Channukah candles, spreading light in the dark winter nights, this emergency room will be that light in the darkness, that beacon of hope for so many people living in this area.

Sara and Eliezer ask you to take part in this life-saving project and donate toward building this emergency room in the heart of Israel.

Click here to donate.