Israel Resource Review 10th July, 2006


Only A Song Is Left . . . Profile of Pnina Eisenman, whose poetry followed tragedy
by Joseph Puder

Jerusalem - Pnina Eisenman is an attractive 38-year-old Israeli women with an optimistic outlook on life. She works at the Israeli Government Press office in Jerusalem, assisting visiting journalists. Considering the tragedy she suffered four years ago - the worst imagined catastrophe anyone could possibly experience - you would have to say that she is endowed with unusual courage and perseverance.

June 19, 2002, was a typical sunny afternoon. Pnina, her mother Noah, daughter Gal and 2-year-old son Sagi took off from Ofra, north of Jerusalem in a protected vehicle. Pnina arranged to meet her husband, Dr. Isaac Eisenman, at a French Hill crossroad - a Jerusalem neighborhood. She recalled getting there and waiting for a while when suddenly a huge explosion shook her. Pnina was evacuated to the Ein Kerem Hadassah hospital with external burns. Sagi, her 2-year-old was slightly hurt from a shrapnel fragment.

A Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up killing 5-year-old Gal and Gal's grandmother Noah Allon. Pnina herself was miraculously spared with only light wounds on her body, but with deep emotional scares that will accompany her forever. Pnina lost her daughter and her mother in a matter of seconds in front of her eyes, victims of a maniacal, hate-filled Arab-Palestinian terrorist who sought to murder indiscriminately as many Jewish victims as possible, including grandmothers and little children.

Shortly after the tragedy occurred, while still recuperating from her wounds and aware of her enormous loss, Pnina wrote a book she dedicated to her little daughter. She titled it, Songs to Gal. "Morning creeps slowly through the window and entered my room, it does not let me sleep. Mother strokes my hair lovingly whispering to me - Gali darling, morning has arrived . . . "

Pnina recited these words to her daughter and little Gal would repeat them. Gal never lived to see the book. "The pain of loss will remain with me forever but the book is a happy one," Pnina pointed out. "It is a book that every mother and daughter could find themselves in." Pnina dedicated the book to her mother and daughter, without mentioning the tragedy. She did not wish the book to be seen as a memorial, she said "Through the songs and choruses Gal will always be alive." Pnina explained that most people write after a tragedy "as a release mechanism of sorts." In my case she qualified, "I began writing while imbued by the joy of motherhood."

It is apparent that Pnina would rather talk about her book and the work she does with journalists. But asking her about the "the tragedy is inevitable. Who delivered the life changing news to her while in the hospital?

"My husband accompanied by a psychiatrist arrived in the room. I was connected to an oxygen mask and had difficulties in breathing. They waited for a while for me to recover, and because the following morning (according to Jewish tradition, J.P) the double funeral was to take place, they had to tell me . . . "

The guilt of the living Pnina explained is always there "Why did not I die instead of Gal?" Then, she added "when I embraced my little Sagi, I understood that I must live for him. I needed to enlarge the family at once, not to prove that life must go on, but to survive." A month after the tragedy they moved to a house with a garden- a dream house for Pnina. The move, however, increased her sense of loss. The house was big and it felt empty because Gal was full of life and had an imposing presence. "Gal would return from kindergarten like a storm, singing and dancing . . . I had to bring life again to the house." Three months after the tragedy she was pregnant, and she did not bother with an ultrasound, having convinced herself that it was going to be a girl.

Two years after the tragedy Pnina gave birth twice, to Noga and Yuval. The garden is once again full of life. "Once again I feel that I have a family. A mother's heart grows larger with each child and there is no limit to love and devotion, however, even if I had another 10 girls, the vacuum Gal left behind would never be filled."

Pnina grew up in a comfortable Jerusalem house. Her parents decided to move to Ofra for ideological reasons, in order to "settle the land of Israel."

Upon finishing high school she served in the army's education corps and then followed her parents in studying musicology and Hebrew at Bar-Ilan University (her father, Hanoch Allon, is a linguist and her mother was a greatly admired kindergarten teacher who played the guitar). Following her studies Pnina turned to tourism and served as a tour guide in Spanish and English. A decade ago she married Isaac Eisenman, a Colombia-born eye surgeon. They met while he was touring Israel. He was won over by Pnina's love of Israel and returned permanently to marry her.

Pnina's flourishing career in musical education came to an end when her eardrums were torn as a result of the terrorist's bomb. "I was no longer able to teach children who were Gal's age" she confessed. A friend who worked in Prime Minister Sharon's office arranged an interview with Ariel Sharon. "I told him that I could not pursue my previous career" and added that she had a lot to offer in terms of advocacy of Israel. All the while, Sharon could not take his eyes off Gal's picture and kept saying "what a gorgeous child." Sharon's phone call got her the job with the Government Press office. Every once in a while she gets a chance to tell her story to a foreign journalist, in the hope of personalizing the impact of Palestinian-Arab terrorism.

When asked how she deals with telling her other kids about their late sister and grandmother Pnina responded: "The kids see the pictures in the house and

I inadvertently mention Gal daily to them. When they grow up I will be more explicit about it, all according to their emotional maturity." She does not care to know the identity of the suicide bomber. On the other hand, "It is important to tell the kids why their sister is not with them, that it is not from God but the deeds of man - more specifically, human monsters." Pnina Eisenman hopes that America and the West will someday understand that Arab-Muslim terrorism is not about justice, occupation, or land disputes but rather about religious intolerance, hate and mendacity. She was a victim of a culture that loves death, whereas "for us life is sacred."

ŠThe Evening Bulletin 2006

The piece ran on July 10th, 2006 in the Evening Bulletin

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