Hundreds stood over a small grave on Monday night in Sderot. Their heads were bowed, they were quiet and in pain. Only one voice rose above the dark cemetery – that of the grieving mother, who had come from a distance of thousands of kilometers – crying out from a mobile phone.
It was one of the saddest funerals in the history of the southern city of Sderot. Sapir Taviv, 11, who was born in the city and as a child moved with her family to New York, returned home to be laid to rest, after she died of leukemia.
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Her parents, who could not leave the US due to bureaucratic issues, watched the funeral via the mobile video chat application Skype.
“My girl, don’t be scared there in the dark, alone. I am hugging you, I love you, soon we will come to visit you,” the mother said in tearful parting.
Six years ago, Anat and Oren Taviv left Israel and immigrated to New York, where they live among an Orthodox Jewish community. Ten months ago, they learned that Sapir was ill with leukemia.
“The cancer attacked her quickly and very hard,” said her uncle, Aharon Orian, “Her parents did everything to save her. Sapir underwent a bone marrow transplant, which didn’t work. She knew she was going to die. At her deathbed, she said how much it hurt her that she would not be able to celebrate her bat mitzvah. She said the most important thing to her was that the family stay united after her death, no matter what happened.”
Sapir passed away earleir this week. Her parents decided to fly to Israel to bury their daughter in Sderot, but were aware that due to bureaucratic issues with American authorities, they probably would not be able to return to the States.
At the last moment, under pressure from the local community, the couple decided it would be best to stay in the US. “The risk was too great,” Orian explained. “They have another daughter and two sons, and their lives are in New York. They could not leave their children alone, without their parents.”
Having no choice, relatives of the family turned to the Sderot Municipality, requesting assistance in transporting Sapir to burial. Mayor David Buskila and his assistants, Tal Mechi and Sima Gal took on the sensitive assignment. Sapir’s body was flown to Israel, and the municipality arranged for a photographer, Yehuda Peretz, to film the funeral on video via a mobile phone, so that her mother could watch it at the same time in New York.
Throughout the funeral, the parents did not stop crying. The hardest moment was when their daughter was laid in the ground.
The crowd stood in silence, and only the lamentations of the mother were heard from the phone, “My Sapir, you know how much we fought for your life. I was with you in every moment, throughout all the treatments. I did everything so that you could be with us, and now I am not with you on your final journey. Forgive me my love, I love you and I miss you. Watch over us there in heaven.”
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