By Inbar Shaked
Israel: an entire family was killed in a car accident north of the country — six children and both parents — only one girl survived, Rachel Efrat Attias, age seven.
Last week all the news media in Israel were focused on one thing – the fatal accident claiming the lives of eight out of the nine members of the Attias family. The only reason Rachel is still alive is quite ironic; she was the only one not wearing a seat belt.
Such news usually does not come to the attention of Israeli foreign residents, even the Jewish communities, and it was important to me as a shlicha to come and talk about “simple” things like these, even in cases of attack, because for us, the Israelis, we are all one big family. We lost an entire family, all without even driving drunk or driving too fast. And what is even more chilling in this story, the road accident happened because of a problem with the brakes, just a technical problem. The father was resourceful, while the pressure and the shouts of children were going on, while the mother read Psalms and prayed to God to save them, the father called the police and asked for instructions on what to do. He asked them to send a patrol car, but it was too late.
Rachel Efrat said, “We read Psalms and mother hugged and kissed me and then the car flipped over, then I tried to wake my mother and father.. they did not answer.” These two sentences are so touching, and they are chilling me even now as I am writing.
Rachel’s seat belt was not fastened and that’s what saved her: she flew out of the vehicle as it overturned and caught fire.
The Attiases were on their way back to the celebration of a new synagogue in Tiberias in the name of the family’s grandfather who wished all his life for this moment and saved all his money to build the synagogue.
Video clips aired in the news, show all the family, including the pair of twins, Elyashiv and Rabbi Simeon Neria, aged sixteen, and the girl Noa, only four years old. They all celebrated, sang, rejoiced and prayed.
On the ride back the family wanted to stop by the graves of the righteous and just minutes before reaching their destination, the accident occurred.
In addition to the security forces, police, firefighters and Zaka who arrived on the scene to help, many volunteers from the city of Tiberias and settlements in the area came to help.
Even when Rachel was hospitalized in Haifa’s Rambam Hospital, it is no exaggeration to say that all Israelis were interested in her fate, and from all over Israel many came to help her people.
The joint funeral of all the family members was simply an unforgettable occasion — intensity of pain, the thought of what will become of Rachel Efrat who is now all alone, the number of people mourning, so much beyond the TV screen, in the heart of every Israeli.
I think what it means to be Israeli, as well as a Jew, is understanding that “Whoever saves one life saves the world.” Rachel’s life has now been touched by so many people who have been drawn to her story. All of Israel felt like they were her family during the time she was in the news. Now, her uncles and extended family will assume the role of her parents.
On the one hand, Israelis are united in mourning the loss of the family, yet are comforted to know that the whole world is open to Rachel Efrat. •
Inbar Shaked is the shlicha with the Jewish Federation, bringing a personal view of Israel to our community.