By Yaakov Morgenstern
When I woke up on Monday morning, all I could think about was the family I would meet later that evening, Rina and Amichai Ariel, the parents of Hallel Yaffa Ariel, the 13 year old girl from Kiryat Arba who was murdered in her bed just three months ago by a Palestinian terrorist.
I had spoken to a friend who offered to set up time for me to meet them privately for a few a minutes before they spoke. I was introduced to Amichai, the father and I shared with him the story of my sister, who was murdered on September 11th in the World Trade Center. He said to me that he had a friend who survived the attack that he had not seen in forty years named Ari. As he mentioned his name, I told him that if this friend is in New York, he will see him. I quickly messaged Ari and a few minutes later, he walked into the home where Rina and Amichai were speaking. A huge smile came across Amichai’s face. There are no words to describe what I saw. It was priceless. As I watched these two embrace — there was no need for words. These two men, each impacted by terrorism, one who lost his 13 year old daughter and the other who somehow survived and got out of the same building where my sister was murdered, minutes before the building collapsed.
On the 9/11 anniversary memorial service for the families this year, I noticed the Survivor Tree which I had seen many times before. Yet, this year it seemed different to me. I realized that this Survivor Tree, which had existed at the World Trade Center before the attacks, was found amongst the rubble, partially destroyed. As I looked at it today, in the center of the plaza of the memorial, I thought of the Lone Tree I had seen in Gush Etzion just nine months before. My cousin had taken me to the Lone Tree for the first time.
He explained to me that in 1948 there were families who lived there and when the Jordanian Army led the Arab attack, most of the people fled to Jerusalem while some stayed to protect their homes. Many were murdered at the tree and for 19 years, the women, children and men who had escaped, looked at that tree with the hope that they would return home to the very place where their family members were murdered. I thought about how the family members saw the Lone Tree as a symbol of hope.
These two trees 6000 miles apart — the Survivor Tree in New York and the Lone Tree in Israel, have so many similarities for me. It brings together the connection between the sacrifices that Jews make every day in Israel and around the world.
This is the strength of OneFamily. This is the strength of Klal Yisroel.
Yaakov Morgenstern is a licensed physical therapist living in the five towns in New York with his wife and children. His sister, Nancy Morgenstern was one of 658 people murdered while working in the World Trade Center for Cantor Fitzgerald on September 11, 2001.