UN’s Cold Shoulder to Cold-Blooded Murder
In the presence of Natan Meir and his daughter, Israel’s UN ambassador’s call for his Palestinian counterpart to condemn his wife’s murder was met with silence.
Reprinted with permission from Ami Magazine.
On January 17, Dafna Meir was stabbed to death by a Palestinian terrorist in her home in Otniel, a Jewish settlement in the Judean Mountains south of Hebron. As she lay bleeding to death, the 39-year-old mother of six fought her attacker, preventing him from murdering three of her children who were home at the time.
For her daughter Ranana, 17, the memory will never fade.
“I was lying in my parents' bedroom. I was on the phone with one earphone in my ear. At first I thought she was probably frightened by a centipede or a cockroach, two things which easily could have caused Mom to shout.
“But then the shouts grew louder and didn't stop. I understood that something was happening there. When I went upstairs, Mom was already lying on the floor. She was still fighting with the terrorist."
Undeterred, the terrorist tried to pull the knife out of her mother to stab Ranana as well.
“I saw him try to pull out the knife. I shouted to my two brothers not to go up to the living room. I understood that he wanted to murder all of us. It took a few seconds until he realized that he couldn't remove the knife, and he ran.
Natan Meir sitting shiva with his daughter.
“Mom fought with him, she didn't let him remove the knife, she didn't let him hurt us. I screamed. He was shocked and fled. I went to Mom, to the knife that was sticking out of her. I wanted to remove it, but then I remembered that in the Magen David Adom course they told us not to remove foreign objects."
Ranana called Magen David Adom. An ambulance was dispatched.
“I was screaming the whole time, panicking. Mom was still breathing, I kept asking her the whole time to keep breathing, not to stop, but I already knew. It was clear to me that it was over. She tried to keep breathing. I think she heard me, even though she already wasn't responding.
“I hope she didn't hear me screaming.”
Dafna’s husband Natan was at the doctor in Gush Etzion with his son. Ranana called him, and he raced home.
“For forty minutes I drove to Otniel," he later recalled. "I stopped to pick up my son, who learns at Mekor Chaim Yeshiva. The whole time, I was trying to contact friends from the town, from the emergency response team, who I knew were supposed to be there in case of an incident. They told me they were treating her. For 40 minutes. I understood that if they were treating her for 40 minutes, the situation was very grave. I turned on the radio and heard 'a woman was murdered in an attack in Otniel.' And I knew it was over."
On April 19, Natan and Ranana were invited to a UN Security Council meeting by Israel’s UN ambassador, Danny Danon. Accompanied by representatives of OneFamily, an Israeli nonprofit that cares for terror victims, the Meirs stood behind Danon as he called on his Palestinian counterpart, Riyad Mansour, to condemn the attacks.
Unsurprisingly, there was silence.
"Shame on you,” Danon told Mansour. “Instead of denouncing terror, you are encouraging it."
At the opening of the Security Council meeting the Meirs stated that they hoped that the assembly would understand what they had endured. “It is difficult to express in words the deep pain and unbearable longing. With broken hearts, we ask the international community for help. We hear those who say that terror is a result of frustration, and we ask – is there anything more frustrating than what we have endured?”
But there was silence.
In a strongly-worded letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Natan spoke out at the lack of humanity he witnessed at the Security Council.
“Not a single UN representative shook our hands, called, or met with us. Even you, respected Secretary General, sat there and didn't even open your mouth. You didn't approach a man whose face is anguished and in pain,” Natan wrote.
I spoke with Natan Meir on Monday. What follows is the letter he sent to the secretary-general, and our conversation.
What happened to your wife Dafna is beyond tragic. She was also so heroic, struggling with her murderer in order to protect her children.
Yes. After he stabbed her she held the knife tightly and refused to let him remove it from her body, so he wouldn’t be able to stab the children.
Were all your children at home at the time?
Three children were at home. I have six children.
Your house is on the border of Otniel?
No. There is some distance between the house and the border of the yishuv.
How long have you been living there?
Since we got married 19 years ago.
Had any similar incidences occurred in Otniel, or was this the first time?
Around ten years ago some terrorists infiltrated into the yeshivah and killed four bachurim.
What can you tell our readers about your wife?
(Sigh.) My wife was a very special person. She was honest and sincere and unafraid of anyone. She always spoke straight from the heart, without fear or embarrassment. She believed that if you want to educate, you have to talk about everything; if you hide things, your knowledge will be lacking. She managed to do a lot in her lifetime, which was not very long. She lived each day as if it were her last. That's why she lived very powerfully.
How are your children managing?
It's hard for everyone, very hard, but we take it slowly. Hashem has mercy.
May I ask what you do for a living?
Of course. I work in a high school in Susia and I'm also a psychotherapist. I mostly help people who are addicted to the Internet.
Dafna and Natan Meir
Did your wife also work?
She was a nurse in a hospital. She was also an expert on childbirth-related issues and a prolific writer. She kept a blog on which she answered people’s questions, thousands of inquiries on the topic. More than 150,000 people read it, which has increased exponentially since her passing. Doctors would turn to her as well. She was considered a guru. She knew a tremendous amount.
Why did you go with your daughter to the UN? What did you hope to accomplish?
The Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, asked us to represent the Israeli side. Everyone is always talking about the Palestinian side, the Palestinians' pain, but no one ever talks about us. He wanted us to represent our anguish.
Did you meet with Ban Ki-moon?
No. We had a press conference on April 18, before a session of the Security Council. Then we went inside and sat next to Danny Danon, the Israeli ambassador.
Did you speak there?
No, we weren’t allowed; only the ambassador has permission to speak. But Danny Danon told our story, spoke about Dafna and introduced us. Everyone was familiar with what happened. According to what we were told, they were informed ahead of time that we were coming.
Did anyone speak to you, say hello, anything?
Nothing. No one said a word to us. No one even acknowledged us.
When you say no one, who was there? Was the American ambassador in attendance?
Yes, he was there as well. The entire Security Council was in session. Ban Ki-moon was also there in the beginning and didn’t say a word. At one point the Palestinian representative got up to complain about Palestinian children being held in Israeli prisons. One of those children was Dafna’s murderer, and no one said a word about the incident. It's unbelievable.
I'll be honest. I didn't expect anyone to say anything good or even pay us any attention in the UN. That's why I wasn't disappointed. But I felt that just couldn’t remain silent on this matter. There are always complaints in the UN: Why aren't the Israelis treating the Palestinians right? Why don't we evacuate Judea and Samaria. They condemn us constantly and do not express even a drop of empathy. Where's the heart? Where's the humanity? Diplomacy and politics do not bring peace. Peace is not achieved by a piece of paper; it comes from the heart. Peace comes from people. If you have no humanity, you will not have peace.
Yes, but I’m sure you know better than I do that the UN has always been a lion's den of Israel-haters. It isn’t anything new. Didn't Danny Danon warn you that they are all anti-Semites?
Yes, I was forewarned. I knew it would be like this, but I still feel obligated to cry out so people will pay heed. We have to work with our hearts, because peace depends on the heart. This is the message I wish to express.
The election is rapidly approaching in America. Do you have any message for the new President?
If I were the President of the United States, I’d look for ways to create meeting points between the Israeli and Palestinian populations. I would try to build more joint industrial areas, a joint library. I would also try to organize common ventures for the majority that wants peace. This is what we need to strengthen and work on, not fences and not borders. We have to look for ways to connect people and allow them to live together. They should have shared shopping centers, shared employment centers. That is peace.
Do you have Arab neighbors near the yishuv?
Are you close with any of them?
Yes. I have many good Palestinian friends. Some of them have been my friends for 20 years.
After what happened, how did they react? Did any of them say anything to you?
Definitely. They called me and visited me and talked to me. It's not like in the United Nations. They told me how sorry they were.
During the shivah?
During the shivah, after the shivah. They came to my home.
Is there anything you’d like to tell our readers?
Yes. I’d like to ask people for one thing: to dare to do whatever you believe in. Have the courage to open your heart to your children, like Dafna did. Talk to your parents and your relatives. Don’t be afraid to talk about anything, even the less pleasant and more difficult things. You should have strength and beauty.
A Letter from Natan Meir to the Secretary General of the United Nations
Mr. Ban Ki-moon
Secretary General of the United Nations Organization
Re: the Security Council visit on 19 /4/16
On January 17th, 2016, a Palestinian youth entered my home in southern Mount Hebron and stabbed my wife to death in front of my children.
On April 19th, 2016, I attended Security Council discussions in the United Nations with my eldest daughter, who had single-handedly prevented additional murders by the intruder. In our presence, the Palestinian representative complained that hundreds of Palestinian children are in Israeli prisons, implying their innocence and the existence of a great injustice. One of those “children” he was talking about is the one who murdered my wife! Despite this scandalous misrepresentation, no one prevented him from continuing his speech.
Israel's UN Ambassador presented me and my daughter, and told our story. Not a single ambassador of the nations of the world bothered to come and comfort my 17 year old daughter. Not one came up to shake our hands. No one called or met with us before or after. No one wrote a letter. Even you, Mr. Secretary General, while sitting at the head of that meeting, did not reach out to us and or take notice of our anguished faces.
I, a citizen of the world, a simple pained citizen ask: Does the United Nations strive to be relevant when there is not a drop of the most basic humanity? Are representatives, who cannot look a man in the eye, worthy of condemning the way of life of another person? Where is honesty? Where are the aspirations for humanity, which form the basis of the establishment of the institution you lead? Is such a body able to prevent hatred, animosity and inequality?
Indeed, I know my place of residence is not acceptable to you, and so I ask you not to consent, but to understand. You should know that many of my neighbors who are considered Palestinian Arabs have sent condolences, looked me in the eye and come to my house. They know and I know that true peace will be achieved by us, the common people.
Peace is the result of building a life together, recognition and appreciation of shared beliefs, mutual acquaintance, endless patience and endless love. All these things require time, dozens or even hundreds of years. Patience of generations enables mutual forgiveness and building a life together despite the pain. This is the way real equality comes from shared inner desire. When there is no patience, others apply pressure – the exact opposite result occurs! Condemnation, sanctions and boycotts are destroying the peace and helping the extremists in their fight.
Dear Secretary-General, as the organization of the United Nations celebrates the rights of the Palestinians, it is crucial to remember that the Jewish national dream is to inherit the cities which they have dreamed of for thousands of years. Billions of believers around the world understand the connection of Jews to Israel through the Bible. A peaceful solution must also take into account the dream of the Jewish people.
The United Nations demands that Israel implement the vision of political separation by fences and borders. Apart from the injustice caused by a solution of this type to at least one of the sides, since he does not get what he wants, where is peace in this solution? Is peace a technical matter based only on the separation of racial groups? In this solution, there are no human rights and no democracy. It is based on a shocking element of racism! Would anyone conceive of separating people in a Western city, where riots have occurred, by ethnic origin of the rioters?
In conclusion, in the Middle East there are hundreds of millions of people who believe in one G-d. This belief instills love in my heart for my neighbor and their love towards me. We are close to each other in our faith much more than it seems. However, the roots of the conflict are religious fanaticism and lack of understanding. Therefore, the clergy must lead the process of historical reconciliation between nations. The United Nations, whose secular worldviews are at the base of its existence, could help if you recruited great leaders of different religions to lead the process of promoting peace.
Make it possible for us to patiently advance our shared lives for posterity.
If you would like to help, please help us to build bridges and connections between people, rather than borders and fences.
Otniel, Mount Hebron
Reprinted with permission from Ami Magazine.