Raise a Glass in Memory
by Romi Sussman
What was a woman who doesn’t drink doing with 52 bottles of wine in the back of her car? Yes, it was close to Rosh Hashanah, but that certainly wasn’t the full answer. No, she hadn’t suddenly become a wine distributor in her free time….well, not really. So what was she doing? The answer was more meaningful than you might expect.
The story begins on the last day of school, June 30th, 2016. My children got up with eager anticipation for their last day of school, as did the younger Ariel girls in Kiryat Arba. My high school boys were tucked soundly in their beds, having finished school the week before. So, too was Hallel.
But here our stories diverge.
Because as my boys dreamed of the summer ahead, of rock climbing and working, of traveling and hanging out with friends, Hallel’s bedroom window was opened by a 17 year old terrorist; a terrorist who jumped through the window as she slept, dreaming of her dance recital from the night before, and murdered her in her bed.
So began the hell that would engulf the Ariel family through the summer and into the fall.
As so many have somehow learned to do, the Ariel family has tried to rise from the ashes of despair and find hope. And hope, for them, has come (among other things) in the shape of a wine bottle.
Amichai and Rena Ariel own a beautiful vineyard in Kiryat Arba where they make their own wines from scratch and sell them to their neighbors. Now, they are selling them near and far to keep Hallel’s memory alive, to enable us to elevate her soul in this special way. Amichai Ariel was expecting Hallel to help him bottle and label his wine this summer, as that was her task within the family business.
Instead, he has created a beautiful label with her picture, in her memory.
As Elana Kronenberg, an amazing woman who is actively working with the family, explained, “It's a bottle of blessings that can be distributed to those in need here in Israel. An amazing way to connect to our people, land and roots. And with each blessing made, Hallel Yaffa's neshama will have an aliya. And you can make it happen by buying a bottle of blessings. With love from the Ariel b'Yehuda winery in the Judean Hills.”
I was moved by the incredible fortitude that it must have taken for Amichai and Rena to get up from their tragedy and to already think of a way to memorialize their daughter. So before Rosh Hashanah, I decided to be part of their solution, a tiny piece of the answer to their tragedy.
I gathered a group from my office together to purchase wine, and I was driving the 52 bottles recently to bring them to my co-workers.
At our Rosh Hashanah table, as we opened a bottle of the Ariel b’Yehuda Merlot, one of our guests said, “I don’t remember this one. Isn’t it crazy that all of these terror attacks start to blend together and you can’t remember the details of one to the next?”
It is crazy on so many levels. But the bottle of wine allowed us to open a conversation about Hallel; to remember what had happened to her; and to elevate her soul while we were enjoying a delicious meal with family and friends. It allowed us to talk about her during our happiness, and to remember her surrounded by love and joy.
There is little that we can do for terror victims and their families. There is only so much comfort we can offer, and so much money we each have to contribute. But we can buy a bottle of wine and share it together in memory of this 13 year old girl who didn’t get the chance to enjoy her summer as did my boys; who didn’t get the chance to return to school this September or to sit around the beautiful Rosh Hashanah table with her family.
But I did.
And the least that I felt I could do was to buy a bottle of the wine with her beautiful face on it and to share it with those I love. And to bring other bottles to the homes where I’ve been invited to celebrate and to enjoy. I’ve brought Hallel along with me over the chagim and I feel blessed to have been given this opportunity.
Romi Sussman heads the content writing department for a technology and digital consulting company. Originally from Los Angeles, California, she made Aliyah from Potomac, MD and is raising six boys in the hills of Gush Etzion. She frequently blogs about life in Israel and her experiences over the last decade.