Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Esther Horgan, HY"D

Esther Horgan went for a run in the forest, as she was wont to do on nicer days. The air would be crisp and pine-scented, and she loved the feel and smell of being free in such a beautiful part of Eretz Yisrael. Here she could sing as loud as she wished, with only the clouds to hear. It felt good to stretch her limbs.

No doubt she came here often to run and to think, to exercise and stay in shape, while pondering life’s issues, large and small. There was bound to be always something to think about and resolve. After all, Esther Horgan was a mother of six and an immigrant who sought refuge in Israel from France, a European country that has seen more than its share of violent antisemitism over the past decade or so. Here in Israel, Esther might have thought, one can worry about things like where to send a daughter to high school or a son’s religious studies, instead of worrying that a child might be killed, God forbid, in the halls of a Jewish school, for the crime of being Jewish.

And that might have been true. And Esther Horgan may have been safer in that forest in Samaria, in the heart of Eretz HaKodesh, except that evil exists and infiltrates everywhere. Even in the Jewish State, or perhaps especially so. For many are the Arab terrorists who covet our beautiful land and want it, Jew-free, for themselves.

And the thing is, Esther Horgan wasn’t stupid. She knew that Arab terrorists might be anywhere, looking for opportunities to kill Jews. But the forest where her children were robbed of their mother was not just a random, isolated wood, but a nature preserve, a protected Jewish tourism site. The Israeli government invested here in bike paths and signage. It should have been safe.

It should have been safe for Esther Horgan to run and think and stretch her limbs in this part of the ancient Land of Israel. There should have been no danger to breathing in the pine-scented air of a forest whose name means “fragrant basil"—to bask in the glorious freedom of being alive in the Jewish State and of “coming home” to live in Tal Menashe in Samaria, indigenous Jewish territory for thousands of years. 

But it wasn't safe. Eitan Melet, a field coordinator at Regavim posted about it on Facebook with this stunning 360 degree photo of the Reihan Forest, where Esther was murdered:

(photo credit: Eitan Melet/Regavim)

Eitan Melet tells us that while the forest is beautiful, and the Israeli government has invested in developing the nature reserve, there's absolutely no police or army presence there, and it's become a shooting gallery and a dangerous hangout for all the Arabs of the areafrom Umm el Fahm and Reihan and the entire areawho do unspeakable things there. Melet was there only recentlya fully-armed, combat-trained maleand he was very uncomfortable.

And still, Esther Horgan went out of her home that morning, as she always did, seeking nothing but the peace of the forest. Nothing had ever happened to her before. But this one time, when she didn't come home, they found her dead, with signs of violence on her body. 

From the Jerusalem Post:

"We walked together for 30 years and yesterday you went and did not return. How can a few words describe the depth and breadth of your beauty and goodness?" said Esther's husband, Benyamin. "You built both a physical house and a spiritual house – everything – and it was supposed to be just the beginning. There were so many more plans.”

Nothing had ever happened before, but she was a small thing. You can see it in the pictures. She may have been fit, but she was no match for a brutal murderer, filled with lust for Jewish land soaked with Jewish blood. It shouldn't have happened, but it did.

And still, if Esther Horgan could speak, she would tell you how much better it is to run in the forest, to die as a Jew in the Land of Israel, than to die on the foreign soil of a France that never loved us. She would tell you to keep running in all the forests and beautiful parts of our indigenous territory, land that God gave us alone, to build on and live in. Land where we might someday run, free of any danger from the enemy within.

My neighbor Jocelyn Reisman Odenheimer, not to be deterred, runs on the security road behind her home, in memory of Esther Horgan. (photo credit: Ephraim Odenheimer)

(Thanks to Naomi Linder Kahn, director, international division of Regavim, for her assistance with this piece.)

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