It was 10 years ago today that two young bar mitzvah boys decided to explore the mountains by their home.
As you know, they never returned.
Rather, while walking on their journey, they were set upon by 4 Arabs and were pummeled to death - beyond recognition - for the crime of being Jewish children living in their homeland.
It's the 10th Yartzeit (anniversary) today for Koby Mandell and Yosef Ish-Ran.
I remember sitting in my classroom in Potomac, Maryland, crying at my desk when I heard about their murders. I couldn't imagine anything more savage - anything more inhumane. Since then, of course, we've been challenged by other similarly despicable, unimaginable acts of this sort.
Five weeks after Koby's funeral, his father, Rabbi Seth Mandell, came back to Silver Spring to give a talk. The Mandells had made Aliyah from the area, and many of the children at the talk had been Koby's classmates. We were all looking for answers, for inspiration, for some understanding of how such an event could possibly take place - and of how one family could possibly be living through it.
During the talk, we were overcome by Rabbi Mandell's poise. He discussed the shiva and the many things that they learned about their dear son from those days. He discussed life in Israel and painted a picture for us of how difficult things were in general, and, of course, for their family in particular.
At that stage in our lives, we were raising our one son in Potomac and were still relatively new to Orthodox faith and practice. Aliyah was not something we had seriously considered. I assumed that we would have two or three children, and that we would raise them in the area.
When we finished the lecture and returned to our car, I was inconsolable. In the face of such tragedy - in the face of such cruelty and loss - I had only one thought. I turned to Josh on that night, in our car in Potomac, Maryland and said, "That's it. The answer to Koby's murder is children. We need to have lots and lots of children."
As the weeks and months went by, I started grappling with my feelings about Israel. Why should families like the Mandells be here, fighting for the safety and survival of Israel, while the rest of us could safely benefit from afar? It became harder for me to justify our lives outside of Israel.
Needless to say, our path has been long since 2001, with many things that have influenced our decisions. It’s hard to believe, sometimes, that we are now neighbors of the Mandells, living a few minutes away from their home in Gush Etzion; and that we are the very proud parents of six Israeli sons.
Anyone living here can tell you that our lives aren’t always easy. Sure, it would have made more economic sense to have three children rather than six. Of course we would have made more money living in the States, and had, perhaps, a quieter life.
But we wake up each day feeling like pioneers, and appreciating that we aren’t sitting on the sidelines of Jewish history – but participating in it.
We’re here for ourselves.
We're here for our people.
And we’re here for Koby.