“While everyone is busy preparing for the Pesach (Passover) holiday, our family is busy preparing for our beloved son Daniel’s Yarhtzeit (anniversary of his death)…”
This is the story of a gentle soul, Daniel Viflic, who was brutally murdered in a terrorist attack, just before Passover 2011. This article was written one year after Daniel’s passing and was republished with the permission of the Viflic family.
by Tamar Viflic (Daniel’s mother)
Daniel Aryeh Viflic was born in Hong Kong to Itzak and Tamar Viflic, on the 17th of January, 1995. Hong Kong had previously been a British Colony for 99 years under colonial rule but, was handed back to China in 1997.
I, Daniel’s mother, was an only child who was also born and raised in Hong Kong. His father Itzak who was born in Poland, came to Israel when he was just 10 months old and grew up on Kibbutz Ruchama, in the south of Israel.
Daniel was born a cute and healthy baby. He was 2 ½ weeks early and weighed only 2.5 kilos. As with Jewish tradition, he had a Brit Milah (circumcision) on the 8th day and after 31 days, we had a *Pidyon Haben, where a firstborn son is redeemed by silver coins, as is required by the Torah.
Daniel had been a very easy baby…. And we have many lovely fond memories of him.
At the age of 2, he went to the Shuva Yisrael kindergarten, where I worked as a kindergarten teacher. It was a small Jewish school and Daniel enjoyed it very much. Being an only child, Daniel had many friends and was excited every day about going to school.
In 1997 The Viflic family – Itzak, Daniel, and I made aliyah to Israel. I was 3 months pregnant. We lived in Jerusalem for two years in Ramat Shlomo where we were renting an apartment. Daniel adjusted right away to the new country and surroundings and became very good friends with the children of the neighbors. The neighbors were a very warm and loving Moroccan family. Looking back on it, the family was very simple and had never been outside of Israel, their children did not even have many toys. The first time they came to our house and to Daniel’s bedroom, the children’s eyes almost popped out. I remember the mother later telling me that the children had said that Daniel’s room was like a “Toys R Us” shop!
In September, 1997 Adina was born at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem. She was also born 2 ½ weeks early and weighed only 2.3 kilos. The first time Itzak brought Daniel to the hospital to meet his new sister, he had a “huge” smile on his face that I will never forget. He gave her a little hug and a gentle kiss on her cheek. His excitement and joy simply lit up the room – he was just so proud to finally have a little sister.
The first day Itzak brought Adina and I home, I remember Daniel waiting eagerly. He used to have two favorite baby pillows and a dummy, which he usually wouldn’t part with, however as soon as we put Adina on our bed he immediately put her little head on one of these pillows. He tried to give her the dummy also, but it was too big for her mouth. He was a very caring big brother…
Daniel and Adina had a very special close relationship, unlike most brothers and sisters. They were literally “two peas from the same pod.” Everywhere Daniel went Adina went. Daniel was very protective of his little sister and when Adina grew older, she in turn became protective of her older brother.
Daniel went to a private kindergarten for a year, not far from where we were living, and then he went to the Chabad kindergarten in Ramot.
In 1999, we moved to Ramat Bet Shemesh, where we are living up to the present day. Daniel joined Talmud Torah “Magen Avot” and was there for 10 years, up until 8th grade, when he graduated. This was a very special school and Daniel had many fond memories from it. The teachers were warm and caring and he had many friends, from all over the world. There Daniel spent most of his growing childhood. Daniel was very sad to leave the school and at the class graduation party he was chosen to make a speech, which to this day I still remember. Despite Daniel being shy he delivered the speech beautifully, to his teachers, fellow classmates, and parents, making us very proud parents.
I also told his principal Rabbi Simon that Daniel’s heart was and always will be with Magen Avot and that he never really left the place. About a month ago Magen Avot hung in the main entrance of the school, a huge and beautiful picture of Daniel, from his Bar Mitzvah. Underneath is a wooden plaque with his name and special middot (character), which was written by Rabbi Kobernick, who is the assistant principal.
Recently in the school newsletter they wrote that every child that has been and will go through Magen Avot will always remember and never forget Daniel Viflic. He was and still is in our hearts and is a shining example for all generations to come. He will always be part of this school…
Unfortunately, most of Daniel’s friends from school went to different high schools, however, he did keep in touch with many of them. One of his closest friends, Baruch Katz, (who he had only known for a few years) used to meet Daniel almost every Shabbat, they were like brothers. It’s funny as I used to call Daniel the “Gentle Giant” as Baruch was very small and Daniel tall so they looked kind of funny together, but they had a special friendship and I know to this day it is very hard for Baruch.
In 2010 Daniel joined the Yeshiva “Hechal HaTorah” located on a Moshav just outside of Bet Shemesh. Most of Daniel’s friends went to dorming Yeshivas, however, we were such a small and close family that we didn’t want Daniel to sleep away, and he really didn’t object. I used to say to him (as a joke) if you go away, who will bring you hot chocolate every morning to your bed?
Daniel really grew up into a fine young learned man, during these few years at the Yeshiva. He became one of the top students and was an example for the school. He had many good friends, however, he was particularly close to the kids from the older classes. Daniel really enjoyed the Yeshiva and it was clear that he had a love and thirst for the learning of Talmud. To this day it is very hard for the Yeshiva, as many of the students’ lives have changed and will never be the same. Daniel was simply an example of how a person should behave. With his special, gentle, and well-mannered character and tremendous respect towards others!
We were very proud of him, especially his father Itzak, as he had never really studied properly Torah or went to Yeshiva, as he had grown up non-religious. Daniel was our little menche (a person who is responsible, knows from right and wrong and who people look up to). He also loved life, nature and sports. He was tall and strong for his age, as he had learned martial arts for a few years (Kung-Fu, which is the main reason why his father went out to the Far East in the first place, all those many years ago) as he had lacked confidence when he was small. However, he would NEVER use his strength and wouldn’t hurt a fly. There is something that I learned from Daniel and took it upon myself, it is kind of silly. But, literally, Daniel wouldn’t hurt a fly, ant, spider etc. he simply loved everything. So, I started doing the same, and when I see an ant or spider etc. I rescue them and put them outside (like Daniel did, as I feel he is watching me…) BUT I do tell him that cockroaches and mosquitoes I have to kill.
On Tuesday the 5th of April, 2011, I took Daniel to stay with his grandmother Eda who lives at Kibbutz Ruchama, in the south of Israel. He had just started his Pesach (Passover) vacation from Yeshiva and he was going to stay just a few days.
His grandmother is a widower and even though she lost her husband more than 5 years ago, she still finds it hard and is very lonely, so Daniel went to be with her. It was actually the first time that Daniel had ever stayed there by himself, as we usually would stay there together.
On Thursday, the 7th of April, it was the day before Daniel was supposed to come home. I remember I had spoken to him quite a few times that day. We were extremely close and had a very special relationship. I love my husband and daughter very much, but Daniel was the world for me, I cannot really explain it. I had spoken with him at around 12 noon when he was about to have his lunch, and I remember him saying that he was going to have schnitzel (fried chicken) and that he was starving. I told him to go and have a little rest, as he had got up very early that morning- around 5am. The neighbor Zion, who had known the children since they were small and was the Kibbutz school bus driver, had invited Daniel to go and see how they set up hot air balloons in the fields. Daniel had been very excited and even though he had been very tired, it was totally worth it.
He said that later he was going on a small trip with Zion to take the children from school and that he would speak to me later. That was the last time I ever spoke to him!
I remember very clearly that at 3:45 p.m. the telephone rang and it was Eda, Daniel’s grandmother. I had asked her why she was not resting, as she always had an afternoon sleep between 3-5 p.m.
This was the conversation:
Tamar: “Hi Safta, why are you not resting?”
Eda : “Did you hear?”
Tamar: “Hear what?”
Eda: “Something has happened to Zion’s bus, there was a terrorist attack.” (I thought she meant there was some shooting at the bus.)
Tamar: “What do you mean? Is everyone okay?”
Eda: “They are taking the children to the hospital.” (She sounded quite confused…)
I had assumed that the bus had been shot at and that there were no injuries and that the children were being taken to Soroka Hospital in Beer Sheva, just for routine check-up. My husband then tried to call Zion, but someone else answered his cell phone and we could not understand really what was going on, there was a lot of noise and shouting in the background and Zion was not able to talk.
So we turned on the news and they had said that a 13 year old boy had been seriously injured and was in critical condition and had been taken by helicopter to Soroka Hospital in Beer Sheva.** Terrorists from Gaza had fired an anti-tank missile on a children’s school bus. I remember myself thinking: “the poor boy and parents, but thank G-d it is not our Daniel, as Daniel was 16!” For some reason I was very sure that our son was okay and that he was just going for a routine check-up, with the other children. However, for some unexplainable reason, my daughter thought differently, and when she had heard all of this she ran into her room and burst out crying. My husband later told me that she had asked if Daniel was still conscious. How did she know/feel that it was him that had been seriously hurt?
We immediately left and dropped off Adina at a friend’s house and said we would hopefully be back soon… It was quite a long drive, about 1 ½ hours and on the way my husband had received a call from the hospital, which he did not tell me. They had said that they could not give any information over the phone but, that we should try and come as quick as possible.
We arrived at the hospital at around 5.30 p.m. and were greeted by the hospital social worker who had tears in her eyes. When I saw this, I couldn’t believe it and burst into tears myself and realized that my confidence that Daniel was okay had all suddenly faded away and that a mother’s worst nightmare was just about to begin. I knew now that something bad had happened to our dearest son, it was just so totally unexpected. She took us into a small room and said that Daniel was in the operating room and that the surgeon would come out when he was finished. It seemed like hours had passed (all the time I was reading Tehilim (Book of Psalms).
Eventually, the surgeon came out with a very grim look on his face. He explained to us what had happened. The missile had hit the bus without actually exploding in the bus, however, there was such a powerful impact on the bus that there was a lot of shrapnel from the bus seats, etc.
The surgeon said that he had just operated on him to try and remove the shrapnel from his brain, but his condition was critical and he was not very optimistic. I could not believe what I was hearing, I felt sick and almost like I was going to faint! They wheeled Daniel out of the operating room and he looked so peaceful like he was sleeping, he hardly was injured, except for his head.
They moved Daniel to the Intensive Care children’s ward. During that time we never left his bedside. Every day Daniel had many visitors, the hospital was kind enough to allow this. The doctors had really tried their utmost, but after a few days they had given up hope and said it was just a matter of time. It could be hours or days, they simply didn’t know.
People from all works of life- religious, non-religious, in Israel and around the world*** were praying for our son, he had made such a positive impact. The Rabbis from his Yeshiva were coming on a daily basis and praying by his bedside. They say that even when one is in a coma, he can still hear, and since Daniel loved music and singing, they often sang to him. They were sure that with their prayers he was going to recover, Daniel could not give up and they were not going to give up on him!
Our daughter came almost every day to visit, however she did not want to see Daniel. She had written him a letter in Hebrew which I still keep and she had requested that we put it by his bed. She waited outside his room and my husband and I would take turns to go outside and be with her. It was very difficult for her not being with us, as we were such a small close family that we were never so long apart.
My husband used to say that whenever I left the room, his vital signs from the machine would drop and when I came back again they would go up. I would hold his hand for hours and rub his feet with oil to try and get some sort of reaction. But deep down inside I knew by now the chances of Daniel’s recovery were not good, and even though I prayed for him to get better and that we would look after him no matter what, I knew that if he did get better, he would never be the same and maybe even a vegetable, and that was not our Daniel. And it would not have been what he would have wanted, as he was such a happy child and full of life…
People were asking us where we would be for the Passover Seder and we were trying to arrange possibilities near the hospital. However, I felt that I couldn’t leave Daniel and that we would be doing the Seder in the hospital. It was just like Daniel to say to Hashem take me now, so my parents will not have to suffer anymore and spend the Seder not in a hospital. Incidentally, we had spent our 17th wedding anniversary in the hospital.
At 6 p.m. on יג ניסן, April 17th 2011, Erev Pesach (Passover Eve) Daniel passed away, after 10 days of fighting for his life. Thousands of people attended his funeral, including the British Ambassador to Israel, Matthew Gould. Since he passed away Erev Pesach, there was only half a day to sit Shiva (seven days of mourning).
The only comfort that we have from all of this, is that we know Daniel did not suffer. He immediately went unconscious when the shrapnel hit his brain. I still have not been able to bring myself to talk to Zion the bus driver to find out exactly what were the final moments of Daniel’s life, but I will one day, when I feel stronger. I cannot even begin to imagine how he must feel.
Daniel’s clothes and suitcase are still on Kibbutz Ruchama, we have not been able to go there since it is just too painful for us with too many memories of Daniel. I wanted his Tefillin (phylacteries), Siddur (prayer book), Gemara (Talmud) and clothes (even dirty laundry) left as it was. I will go and pick them up one day.
Instead of 30 children being killed that day, there was a miracle and a KORBAN PESACH (Passover sacrifice), Daniel Aryeh Viflic z’l was taken, as minutes earlier the bus was completely full. Daniel and Zion had just dropped the children off at Kibbutz Nachal Oz. Daniel was sitting all the way in the front (next to the bus driver) and the missile entered from the back of the bus. If the bus had been full of children, Daniel’s injury may have in fact been more minor, as they would have shed the shrapnel. The bus driver miraculously had only minor leg injuries.
My parents passed away at a fairly young age, I am an orphan, and now my son has been taken. I could ask, “why is Hashem punishing me, I have been through enough suffering in my life.” However, I feel that Hashem does not give you suffering unless he knows you can handle it. It is very difficult for me, but I feel Hashem has given me tremendous emuna (faith) and strength to carry on day by day and be strong for my family. I know it is what Daniel would have wanted and not for me to fall apart.
I still go every week to visit Daniel who is buried in Eretz HaChaim Cemetery just outside of Bet Shemesh. It is a kind of therapy for me, I read Tehilim (Psalms) and it is where I feel closest to Daniel. It is just so beautiful up there, peaceful and quiet with the birds singing, the bees buzzing, and a place where Daniel would have liked. I carry photos of Daniel around with me and show people and talk about him all the time. My husband, on the other hand, is very different from me, in that it is difficult for him to see photos of Daniel and he does not talk about him as much or go up to his grave, but I leave him be. He has his own way of dealing with his pain and loss. Adina has a tremendous support from her teachers and friends. She has not been up to the grave, since we buried him. In fact, she never saw Daniel in the hospital because she did not want to. She wanted to remember him the way he was, the day he left home. I am worried though, for Adina as she has not really grieved enough for her brother considering they were so close and that one day it will suddenly all come back to her and that she may realize that her brother has gone forever, and that all her pain and sorrow that she is keeping inside her will come out.
Our lives have totally changed. We used to have a Chinese Restaurant business, however as a result of all of this we have closed. The loss is just too much. I tell everyone now that they should always APPRECIATE what they have and never take things for granted. Life is simply too short and one never knows when his time is up.
I miss Daniel tremendously and I would not want to change the 16 wonderful years we had with him. I understand why Hashem took him back; he was just too good for this world. He is definitely in a better place now and we feel that he is really watching over us every minute of the day, just a few footsteps away… They say that G-d takes the good ones, it is like picking flowers in a field, only the good ones are chosen.
There is something lovely that I wanted to share with others, that I once heard on the radio about Tzaddkim (righteous people) that have gone to the Olam Haba (the next world) — The stars at night are bright and shinning, but in the day you do not see them, but that does not mean that they are not there, you just don’t see them. Daniel is still with us and will always be, he will never grow old and will always be a handsome young 16 year old.
The number 16 – Daniel’s age – has special meaning!
-Daniel’s birthday was ט ז בשבט /the 16th of Shvat (Jewish date)
-Daniel died on Sunday, the 1st day of the week at 6:00 pm
-When I was in my 9th month one Friday night I walked up with my husband 16 floors for a Shabbat meal. The people who had invited us were not so religious and they were so impressed that I had walked up all those flights of stairs that they became inspired to be observant.
-The Friday after Daniel was buried we were taken to Bnei Brak to visit the tzadikkim (righteous people) there. Rabbi Shteinman, The Rosh Yeshiva (Head Rabbi) of Ponovitz, Rabbi Edelmann, Rabbi Lefkowitch z’l and Rabbi and Rebbetzin Kanievski. We went to get brachot (blessings) and had one question to ask, “What can we do for the neshama (soul) of Daniel?” They all said nothing.
-A month before the attack the Mashgiach (spiritual advisor) of Daniel’s Yeshiva, Rabbi Levenstein (who grew up next door to Rabbi Shteinman) took my husband aside at the last parents meeting and said:
שתדע לך שהנשמה של דניאל לא שייכית לדור הזה, תשמור עליו- You should know that Daniel’s soul is too pure for this generation, watch over him
* Pidyon HaBen is a mitzvah (commandment) associated with the birth of a baby boy and comes from the ancient custom of dedicating a “firstborn son” to the service of G-d in the Bet Hamikdash (Temple).
** It wasn’t enough that the Arabs sent an anti-tank missile, but when the army tried to bring a helicopter to take Daniel to the hospital they started firing more missiles in order to prevent the helicopter approaching. They had to bring an ambulance as it was too dangerous for the helicopter to take Daniel a few yards/meters away where it was safe for the helicopter to land.
*** I did not think that this terrorist attack got enough international publicity. My relatives in England were not even aware of it. Gaza terrorists firing an anti-tank missile at a children’s school bus should have been the main headlines and front page news. If it happened in any other country besides Israel, I’m sure it would have been. What they did is simply despicable and unforgivable, trying to kill innocent children.
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Watch this video with Rabbi Yehoshua Landau, who spoke about Daniel’s incredible middot (character traits) as part of a special pre-Passover Shiur (class) last week, in Ramat Bet Shemesh, Israel:
Tamar Viflic welcomes personal notes, letters and comments about her beloved son Daniel and all that her family has been through. Notes may be emailed to Mrs. Viflic at:
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Please ‘SHARE’ this very special, uplifting Story of Daniel with your family and friends…