A staggering number of 63 children became yesomim after losing their fathers in the Meron disaster, including the five children of Ariel Tzadik, z’l, of the Bayit Vegan neighborhood of Jerusalem.
Mendy, 19, the bechor of the family who was at Meron with his father, told Ynet about that horrifying night and the great responsibility that has now fallen on his shoulders as the oldest of five children, the youngest of whom is only nine.
“In my wildest dreams, I never thought my father was one of those killed,” Mendy said.
Tzadik, z’l, and his three oldest sons planned on camping out in a tent on Har Meron over Lag B’Omer and Shabbos [a common practice for those who can’t afford a hotel]. Mendy’s brother traveled to Meron early to save a spot and set up a tent. Father and sons made up to meet at the hadlaka.
Mendy and his brother Elazar were at the second hadkaka of Toldos Aharon when a friend called him and told him that there had been a multi-casualty incident. “I saw Hatzalah members running and as a first-aid responder, I went to assist. I saw terrible sights that I can’t get out of my mind.”
“While I was aiding the injured, I got a call from my mother that my 11-year-old brother Levi Yitzchak is lost. I told her that he’s with Abba and she insisted that he’s not with him. I tried calling my father to ask him if he saw my little brother but he didn’t answer his phone.”
“I thought that for sure that he was also helping the injured because he was a strong person, physically and emotionally. I tried calling Levi Yitzchak but there was no phone reception. I went up to the top of the mountain and found Levi Yitzchak there. He told me that Abba left him outside and told him that he’s going to dance and that’s how my little brother was saved.”
Mendy and his brother spent the whole night looking for their father. “We thought he had just lost his phone. Toward morning we thought that he would come to the tent to get his tefillin. When he didn’t come by 6:30 a.m. we decided to return home. I packed up our stuff. I never imagined he was killed. We davened that maybe he was seriously injured.”
“The lack of certainty was frightening and stressful, especially after a night like that and all the terrible scenes we witnessed. We sent our uncle to Abu Kabir but there was no information yet. We only received the bitter news that Abba is no longer alive an hour and a half before Shabbos.”
“It’s a completely different life without him,” Mendy said sadly. “He was everything to me and my siblings. Abba cared so much about Ahavas Yisrael. He would work all week and then on Friday he would travel to the Old City and hear a shiur on Chassidus and put on tefillin on people. It was important to him that every Jew put on tefillin – he did that for 20 years. It was in his blood to be mekareiv people and worry about them.”
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)