Yesterday at Yeshiva University, I was pleasantly surprised when my Rabbi told us that the father of Eyal Yifrach, one of the three boys who were kidnapped and murdered this summer, would be speaking in the Nathan Lamport Auditorium.
The event was initiated by the whole hall rising to sing the HaTikva. This was so moving for me. Since moving to my Kew Gardens Hills seven years ago, I have not heard Israel’s national anthem sung even once. In fact, I have heard many tefilote for the United States and the welfare of its leaders but never such a prayer for Israel and her leaders.
Uri Yifrach, Eyal’s father ascended the stage and briefly explained that he would convey part of his story in English and the rest in Hebrew.
He started by saying “that for the 118 days of the war in Gaza there was a feeling of solidarity amongst Jews in Israel and indeed everywhere, as never before. Hashem took us on a journey of love that gave us strength and emuna and helped us cope with the war in Gaza where the true intent of the Arabs were revealed through the numerous tunnels . Had Eyal, Gilad and Naftali not been abducted, we would not have found the tunnels and there would have been massacres all over Israel.”
“Through the war in Gaza, we sent a clear message to the world. We are a strong nation and not afraid. And we won’t move from our land or anywhere else.”
“Throughout our history we have always dealt with oppression and aggressors. Baruch Hashem, we are growing and getting stronger and that is our answer to all our enemies.”
Mr. Yifrach tied in his message with this week’s parasha. He asked, “Why did Yitzchak want to bless Esav? It was because Yitzchak knew that his progeny would be oppressed. Therefore they needed to be strong and have strong hands, like a hunter. However, Yitzchak also knew that his future generations would need the Torah.”
“He was about to bless Esav when Yaakov came to his tent. Yitzchak noticed ‘the hands were Esav but the voice was Yaakov’ – a perfect union of physical strength with spiritual Torah. Knowing that is what the future nation would need, Yitzchak gave his blessing. Likewise, what enabled us to survive the days of the kidnapping, murder and war was strength, Torah and emuna.”
When he and his wife were demonstrating in Rabin Square, he said that they noticed all kinds of Jews. The Dati Leumi were there with the Chasidish, Yeshivish, non-religious and more. His wife looked at him and said, “Zeu zeh. Hacol yaavor.” That’s it. Everything will pass (and get better).” In the strength of this achdut we will survive and become stronger.”
Mr. Yifrach found his son’s journal during those days and related a story. The name Eyal has two meanings. One is a deer, the other is strength. He and his wife named their son on the definition of strength. And as he read his journal, this too gave him strength.
Eyal wrote; “I do not fear. On the contrary, this brings out my strength. No fear. Rather the will to put forth my best effort. If you fall 1,000 times, it is a sign that you got up 1,000 times. It’s a sign that you have the strength to rise.”
Eyal’s father lifted his eyes from his notes, looked at us and said, “we all have this strength.”
We concluded his speech with Tehilim, prayers for the wounded of the recent attacks, prayers for the murdered and singing Acheinu. All in one voice.
On Sunday, November 9th , a 60 year old woman walking from the train station in sleepy, Cedarhurst Long Island, was attacked from behind by four females wearing Halloween masks and hoodies. The community is in an uproar. Why would anyone attack a defenseless 60 year old woman? And she was ruthlessly blindsided by four other women? Since when do these things happen in our neighborhood?
Being that it’s my job to teach people how to defend themselves, I have been approached by my colleagues and students to explain what to do in this situation. Since I have a military background, I imagine that they all expected a commando style, macho, spinning back fist type of response… No my friends. We’ll save the spinning back fist for another day.
Before I move on, please understand that I am in no way condemning the victim. Being in a violent encounter is a very stressful and frightening situation. I am merely using her incident to highlight some survival options available to the average person.
I will break down my answer into three phases, taking into account what the tragic heroine of the story should have done before, during and after the attack. My advice will be custom tailored for an average 60 year old woman. Of course all of us will be able to benefit regardless of age, gender or athletic ability.
Before the Attack
This incident should have been prepared for well in advance. 2012 FBI crime statistics report (see attached image) that a violent crime occurs in the United States every 42 seconds. That fact begs the question, “what are you going to do about it?” Not everyone has the temperament, physical ability or time to become a black belt. And let’s be clear, a black belt turns into a white belt fairly quickly when four assailants attack from behind and launch a volley of stomps and soccer kicks to the head. Carrying a concealed weapon will no doubt escalate the situation and may also open a legal Pandora’s Box in the aftermath that may very well ruin your life.
In parashat Vayishlach, Yaakov prepares gifts for Esav in anticipation of their inevitable meeting. These gifts are to appease his brother so as to avoid a war. Along those lines, here is a novel idea that may help deescalate the situation and allow the victim to return home to their family in one piece.
Get yourself an old wallet. Stuff into it at least 30 to 35 dollar bills, some pictures of other peoples’ children (whom you have no connection with and do not live in your neighborhood) and maybe some out of town business cards. Finish it off with a few of those fake credit cards that we all receive in the mail and voila. You have just created your very own “throw away wallet.” It is designed to placate the attacker so that you are left alone with your health intact and to reduce or eliminate the possibility of the attacker later visiting your home to do more violence. I will dedicate a future article to further explain this life saving decoy.
A few moments before the attack, our heroin’s radar should have detected that trouble was ahead. The assault occurred on November 9th. Yet here she saw three girls wearing hoodies and a fourth wearing a scary Halloween mask. Additionally, public transportation, for whatever reason, tends to attract criminals. And criminals, very often tend to work in groups. Our heroine should have used common sense, maintained her situational awareness and avoided crossing their path.
During the Attack
Our heroine was blind-sided, thrown to the ground and attacked by multiple assailants. The typical untrained response to being thrown onto the ground and kicked is to curl up into the fetal position and whimper until the attacker deems to be merciful and goes away. Ironically, the fetal position does not protect one’s skull very well. Ideally, she should have immediately assumed a ground defense posture (another topic for a future article) and verbally communicated to her assailants to please take her purse (containing the throw away wallet) and to leave her alone.
Had our heroine been an athlete or (well) trained in self-defense, I would have recommended her getting to her feet as soon as possible, counter attacking and running away. However, our heroine and in fact, most people, are not athletes or well-trained warriors, hence the emphasis on situational awareness and outsmarting the attackers.
After the Attack
After the attack our heroine should have immediately sought medical attention via 911. The adrenaline triggered by a mugging can mask pain as serious as a knife wound. She then should have tried her best to calm down and remember all the details of her attackers. Things like accents, distinguishing marks and general build. Thank G-d she backed up her cell phone to her computer or outside server. So recovering all that critical information won’t be a problem. We all back up our cell phones, don’t we? Assuming she was a bit more tech savvy, her phone has a locate feature on it that may help police track it to the four thuggish girls who attacked her.
Now, unfortunately in this case, her attackers actually obtained her real wallet with driver’s license and possibly other sensitive information like passwords, social security number and home address. She should immediately have home security cameras installed, change all her passwords and perhaps live for some time at friends or family, just in case these girls decide to come to her house and pay her another visit.
I hope the average reader found this helpful. For questions, comments, or to set up seminars or lessons, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or through my website www.shomer360.com
Below is the unedited version of the article I sent to Dr. Yael Respler for her "Dear Dr. Yael" advice column in the Jewish Press (July 25th 2014). It is the third article I wrote for her surrounding my experiences with bullied children since we met about a year ago. I gratefully thank her for providing me the opportunity to get my ideas out to such a large audience concerning bullying. Her allowing me to share her spotlight has allowed me to positively affect the lives of many children I would have never met.
Yoni, Baruch Hashem is doing great in school. He is once again social, doing his work, sleeping better, not crying or clingy and not feeling like kids are out to get him. He is so much calmer. I attribute this to your kindness and belief in him as a springboard to him recovering. Thank you so much!
-E.L., Manhattan NY
Many mothers write to me frustrated as if there is no hope, as they struggle with their children in school and out, waiting for the day their child is bully-free and happy again. I wanted to share the above letter with you so you can see that there are people out there that can help. We have the privilege of having Captain Eilon Even-Esh, a self-defense and anti-bully expert, share with us his experience, so more parents, like the one above, can have a real solution to this very common problem.
Dear Dr. Yael,
Our son has been a bit quiet for the last weeks of school. We flat out asked him what’s going on and it appears that he is being bullied by a boy in his class. How can we possibly solve this issue? On top of that, he was recently diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder. Is it possible that the bullying is affecting him to the point of ADD? And of course, it’s that time of year again and we sent him to sleep away camp. Despite the fact that the bully does not go to the same camp, quite frankly we are concerned. We know it’s kind of late in the game to ask, but maybe sleep away camp is not right for him this year? We just want to be good parents and do right by our son. What should we do?
-Ora, Long Island NY
Oftentimes, parents are so busy in their own world that their child can be bullied for a long time without the parents even realizing. I’ve seen an instance where a child was bullied for a year without the parents being aware. So first of all, congratulations to you for being sensitive enough to notice your son’s change in behavior. In these hectic times, that’s not easy.
The real solution to bullying is to empower the bullied child. This doesn’t mean that the neshama of the bully isn’t precious and in need of support and empowerment as well. It means you have to focus your limited time and resources to where it’s most important…your child.
Just as a father is responsible to teach his son Torah, a trade and how to swim (Mesechet Kiddushin 29a.), so too must a parent teach their child how to protect him/herself. This means you must teach your son self defense. It’s wonderful if you or your husband can personally teach him. But if that isn’t the case, please enter your son into a reputable martial arts school or arrange for private lessons. If the instructor truly knows what he is doing and not just making his students punch the air while wearing pajama-like uniforms, you will see a real transformation in your son, hopefully in a short period of time.
Some yeshivas don’t allow their students to attend group martial arts classes either because the classes mix girls and boys or some other relevant reason. If this is the case for you, please contact me for private lessons or to arrange a group class at your shul, yeshiva or home.
I prefer an age and temperament appropriate method of teaching. Typically with younger children I teach grappling skills that neutralize an attacker’s assault and enable the child to hold down the bully without throwing a punch. I sometimes call these methods “yeshiva or summer camp techniques.” Most yeshivas and summer camps have a zero tolerance policy towards fighting. With these punch-free grappling techniques, my students clearly demonstrate that they are only protecting themselves. Only for my adult and teenage students will I incorporate Krav Maga (the self defense system of the Israel Defense Force) and other striking arts.
On the issue of ADD, please know that I do not have the credentials to assess if a child has Attention Deficit Disorder. However, in my work, I have seen bullying paralyze some kids. Typically, once they regain their confidence or the bully is removed from their life, the bullied child is able to concentrate again. On the flip side, I have also seen children and adults with the ADD label act contrary to its definition when they are engaged in an activity that they are truly interested in. I would humbly put forward that oftentimes a child will exhibit ADD like characteristics if they are not interested in the subject matter they are learning or if they are not engaged by their teacher in a style that suits their personality. There is, after all, such a thing as an uninteresting teacher. The problem may not be your son.
I think this is a good segue to the topic of sleep away camp. This year is my family’s first year in sleep away camp. I am director of Krav Maga and Paintball in Camp Mesorah in upstate NY and I travel twice a week to teach group and private Krav Maga lessons in other summer Camps like Mogen Av and Camp Kaylie. I can understand with your son away from home why you might be concerned. But I am seeing some kids absolutely blossom in summer camp. As one camp director told me, “learning doesn’t stop in the summer but it does change.” It’s this change in learning that may do wonders for your son. In addition to removing your son from the bully, he will be engaged in a totally different style of learning, have different teachers and will be exposed to a multitude of different subject matter.
May Hashem grant you much bracha and hatzlacha! Stay strong and please keep me updated on how your son is doing!
Eilon Even-Esh is the founder and head instructor of Shomer360, an organization whose mission is "to instill strength and confidence through world class self defense techniques within a Torah observant framework." He has served both in the IDF where he was a Staff Sergeant and in the United States Marine Corps where he has a Captain.