‘A hole in the heart of the nation’

Mourners at the funeral of Rina Shnerb, in Lod. Photo: AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner

SHE was meant to return to school on Sunday, after Israel’s summer holiday. Instead, Rina Shnerb lies in a newly-dug grave, killed by a terrorist bomb.

Hiking turned to horror for the 17-year-old as she approached a natural spring in the West Bank. Terrorists were watching her arrival via cameras, and detonated the remote-controlled bomb they had planted.

“They were on the way to a spring, they got out of the car, and just after they got out of the car, there was an explosion,” Shnerb’s brother-in-law Avichai Lavnoni told The AJN. He said that she was “a great girl, full of joy and always smiling”. 

Rina Shnerb.

She died at the scene, and her father Eitan and 19-year-old brother Dvir were wounded and hospitalised. Shnerb’s uncle Shmuel Shenhav addressed Rina in a eulogy at the funeral, saying: “We already miss your smile, Rina, when you look and say: ‘It will be okay.'” She was a leader in Bnei Akiva, and the movement paid tribute to her as “a huge soul, smart and full of sensitivity, with a huge smile and always giving”.

Shnerb’s sister, Tamar Lavnoni, said, “The void that has been created isn’t just a void for our family. There’s now a hole in the heart of the nation.”

During the shiva she made an unusual appeal in her sister’s memory – for people to take a break from their phones. “Rina was very upset about how much time we waste our mobile phones,” she said. 

“On Friday, my mum asked everyone who could to take a break from their phone in her memory, to do something meaningful. We are also asking people to take a break every day and to do something meaningful with their time.”

The international community expressed strong disapproval of the attack, and Australia’s ambassador to Israel, Chris Cannan, tweeted to “strongly condemn” it and wish “swift recovery for her brother and father, and express sincere condolences to family and loved ones.” 

Shnerb comes from a family in Lod that runs a charity for the poor, and mourners said that she inherited its values. “There aren’t many families like yours, who compromise their own wellbeing for the good of the people,” said Shenhav. 

Eitan Shnerb, who could not leave hospital to attend his daughter’s funeral, told mourners by phone: “Right after the attack, Dvir and I looked at each other and said we would come out stronger. It hurts but we pray there will be no more attacks like this one.”

President Reuven Rivlin paid a condolence call to him at hospital, and said: “We weep for Rina, and she deserves our tears, but we also get up and carry on. And it is so important for us to continue to make sure Rina’s voice continues to be heard. Choose life and keep strong.”

After the funeral, teenagers flocked to the grave, which was covered with flowers, and sat crying and trying to comfort each other. In Jerusalem, youngsters gathered in the city centre, where they sat on the street, sang and wrote tributes to Shnerb. 

This is the second terror killing in the same West Bank spot in just over four years. In June 2015, Danny Gonen, who was also from Lod, was fatally shot there by terrorists – and the spring is today called Danny’s spring in his honour.

The attack came on the heels of several other terror incidents during August, including the fatal stabbing of another teenager, Dvir Sorek, violent clashes on the Temple Mount on the Fast of Av, and non-fatal stabbings of three Israelis. 

On Monday, three days after Shnerb was killed, the IDF found and neutralised a bomb by a West Bank road, seemingly planted to claim Israeli lives. 

Shnerb’s death prompted a political reaction in Israel, where settler leader Yossi Dagan, head of the Samaria Regional Council, and Lod’s mayor Yair Revivo, called for Shnerb to be honoured with the founding of a new settlement in her name. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not approve a new settlement, but did give the green light for a new 300-home neighbourhood in the settlement of Dolev. He said, “We will deepen our roots and strike at our enemies. We will continue to strengthen and develop settlement.”

As The AJN went to press, a manhunt was underway to catch Shnerb’s killer, and Israel’s leaders were vowing that the search will succeed. “The security arms are in pursuit after the abhorrent terrorists,” said Netanyahu. 

“We will apprehend them. The long arm of Israel reaches all those who seek our lives and will settle accounts with them.”

NATHAN JEFFAY