A Killing that Robs the Meaning of Love



REISTERSTOWN. — Recently I heard the news that my delicate-boned little 19-year-old cousin Einav had been murdered by her ex-boyfriend. The murder took place on Kubbutz Shaar Hagolan in the Jordan Valley of Israel, where she was home on leave from her obligatory stint in the army. She was sleeping when he shot her, and I pray that she slept until she died.

When I first met her, on a previous trip to Israel, I recognized her immediately. Something in her hazel eyes, a light, intelligence, a sharp, wry humor. We were alike more than the others, and we took from certain eccentric relatives similar genetic traits. We came toward each other as if we'd known one another all our lives. She was my sister, my daughter, she was me.

At age 17, she had her left breast tatooed with the image of a bird in flight. It had shocked her mother. She smoked incessantly and took birth-control pills, shocking me.

I warned her repeatedly, citing statistics about strokes in young women. Don't do both, I said. At least quit smoking. She didn't listen. She battled anorexia, flirted with bulemia. Played the flute well enough to have been accepted to a prestigious school of music and art.

When she graduated from high school, her parents sent her here to live with me a few months. She annoyed my husband by smoking in the house. She borrowed all my black clothes, not always with permission. She insisted on catching squirrels -- there are no squirrels in Israel. She wanted to take one home. She refused to believe she wouldn't be allowed.

I bought her a toy squirrel. It had to be good enough. She begged to ride a Harley Davidson motorcycle. After warning her that I didn't approve of motorcycles, I called every phone number in the Yellow Pages that had anything to do with Harleys, until I found a charitable man willing to take her for a ride.

She loved reggae music, but I never found a concert. Still, we managed to have fun. We visited Hammerjack's, which made me cringe but which she enjoyed. Once we spent an hour dancing to a disco beat at the Hippo, in a gay fantasy that delighted both of us. On one clear, sunny day, Einav, my 13-year-old daughter, and I dressed in black-and-white and visited the National Zoo. We got more stares than the zebras.

Then she returned to Israel, to serve out her army obligation. She dreaded it. But she met this boyfriend. He was handsome and she loved him. One day she did something he didn't like, and he hit her.

Afterward he was extremely sorry. She told me she understood that he felt things very intensely. His feelings sweep over him, she said, and although he loved her very much he couldn't help it. But he was trying to help it.

Then he hit her again, and she understood that he was dangerous to her. She left him.

But he loved her too much. He couldn't reach her at the army base, so he waited until she was home on leave, then he took a gun and waited outside her cabin until she was asleep.

Who knows what went through his mind as he waited in the dark. He wasn't thinking about Einav. He was thinking, if that's what it can be called, like a predator.

At 5 a.m., he entered her cabin and shot her, and she died in a sleeping position. Then he left.

Her mother was born on the kibbutz. Her grandparents came to Palestine before World War II. They fought the British, then became the farmer-scholars who built the kibbutz. The cabin in which Einav died is less than 100 yards from a wire fence that borders a banana plantation. On the other side are the mountains of Jordan. Bombs have fallen here, and every precious drop of blood has at least meant something for others, for the future.

What does Einav's blood mean?

The preciousness of life is part of Jewish cultural history. But the anguish all humans feel in the face of the insane violence of war turns to nothing in the wake of the malignant absurdity of murder for ''love.'' All the efforts of her grandparents and those who came before, all the others who never made it out of Poland, everything came down to Einav.

All of those victims who were murdered for nothing, who were herded unto cattlecars or shot in the street, every one of them XTC was a promise, none of them fulfilled. To look at her was to feel satisfied that all would be made right, at last.

Although I have memories of her, and photographs, it feels now as if she had never lived. I know this makes no sense. But that's how it feels. She was so impatient for her life to begin, she couldn't wait to get out of the army. During the Gulf war she'd been intermittently terrified and depressed, phoning me constantly, reversing the charge on long distance. I reassured her.

''You'll be all right, you'll be fine, you'll come here right after your service is over. You'll make it,'' I said.

Today, nothing comes to mind except cliches. Her grandmother told me she was sunshine, she'll shine no more. I keep thinking of images of flowers being cut with scissors. Nonsense, all of it.

Before me there is nothing but blank space. Where she was, is no one.

Yolanda Garfield writes from Reisterstown.

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