FOUR HOURS OF
AN EXTRAORDINARY FAMILY
Beating Back Fear
EVENT TO HELP CHILDREN
peration Iraqi Freedom had just begun and 18-
year-old Simcha Tzippy Cohen, a friend of my
family, was sitting in a sealed bomb shelter in
Jerusalem, wearing a gas mask. She and other
seminary students were poised for a possible missile attack
by Iraq against Israel.
"I remember experiencing a tiny drop of fear, but for the
most part, I felt safe," said Simcha Tzippy, daughter of
Golda and Rabbi Avraham Cohen of Southfield.
She's a 2002 honors graduate of Beth Jacob School for
Girls in Oak Park, part of Southfield-based Yeshiva Beth
Yehudah, where her father teaches.
Simcha Tzippy's fearlessness surprised me
at first. Palestinian terror has killed at least
760 Israeli and foreign civilians over the
past 30 months, sending ripples of shock
and anguish across the Jewish state.
But then I understood what spurred her
candor: In Israel, she's at peace with God,
despite the risk.
"Israel is the closest place in the world
you can be to God," she said. "There is so
much holiness in this land that it's hard to
We spoke last Sunday, the same day the Israeli newspaper
Ha'aretz reported that Palestinians in the West
Bank refugee camp of Jenin had renamed their
main plaza Na'mani Square to honor the memory
of the Iraqi suicide bomber who murdered four
U.S. soldiers the day before.
Also Sunday, Islamic Jihad took responsibility for
a nail-studded suicide bombing that injured more
than 40 people outside Cafe London in mid-town
Netanya. The Syrian-backed terror group hailed
the blast as "Palestine's gift to the heroic people of
Sim c ha
Iraq." Such barbarity harkens to the Holocaust
when, as Israeli writer Naomi Ragen writes, "1,000
German Jewish young people, all beautiful, strong
and healthy, were rounded up and sent to Auschwitz as a
`birthday present' to Hitler."
What Drives Her
An upbeat outlook, no matter how troubled the times, is
hardly out of character for Simcha Tzippy, a bright, aware
"On days when we hear about suicide bombers and
shootings," she said, "we intensify our prayers to God and
pray for those who were hurt. But it only strengthens the
fact that I know I am so privileged to be here now."
Since Aug. 25, "here" has been the Bnos Chava Teachers
Seminary at Neve Yerushalayim College in Har Nof,
Jerusalem's westernmost neighborhood.
"We study Torah subjects and about our role as Jewish
mothers," she said. "I love it so much, but I miss home ter-
Yeshiva Beth Yehudah President Gary Torgow describes
her as "a wonderful, committed daughter of Israel" whose
"heart and actions are fully committed to her family, her
community and her people."
Simcha Tzippy plans to leave for Detroit on June 9 and
teach at Beth Jacob. The oldest girl in a large family, she
has been a big help to her parents in caring for the younger
children and creating a home nourished by Judaism's tradi-
tions and ideals. The Cohens moved from Brooklyn to
Southfield in 1992.
Despite terror in Israel and war in Iraq, Simcha Tzippy is
strong enough to embrace not only her studies, but also the
environment in which they are taught.
"On the many tours that our school has taken us on," she
said, "I've seen unparalleled beauty — and it is all connected
to my Jewish history and what I learn each day."
Ten days after Allied bombs began to pelt Baghdad and
she had to don a gas mask, she welcomed Shabbat by pray-
ing in Jerusalem's Old City at the Western Wall, Judaism's
In the shadows of that historic treasure, in the land where
our forebears once prayed, she suddenly was awestruck.
"I actually was standing in the same place where the Holy
Temple used to stand," she said. "This is the holiest spot in
the world! As this thought washed over me, I felt a warm
feeling envelop me."
In that inspired account is the secret of Israel's tug: a
4,000-year-old history and heritage of one people, our peo-
ple, linked by Torah's divine light.
A participant in the Partners In Torah program her father
runs from Yeshiva Beth Yehudah, Simcha Tzippy is eager to
share her sense of God's will. She tells about consoling a
friend who saw the No. 20 Egged bus blow up in a
terrorist act that killed 11 and wounded 50 near
Hadassah Hospital-Ein Kerem on Nov. 21.
"I was up with her late that night as she tried to
get those horrible images she saw that day out of her
mind," Simcha Tzippy said.
The two finally realized that God spared the girl.
"Even though she will always carry that picture in
her mind, she loves this country perhaps more than
Tzippy most of us after having experienced the special favor
from God," said Simcha Tzippy, unwittingly teach-
ing me about Israel's mystical influence.
Islamists, the fundamentalists who hijacked ele-
ments of Islam and brushed it with terror, obviously don't
understand the depth of Jewish spirit they must overcome to
claim Israel as theirs.
Says Simcha Tzippy: "The more they attack this little,
beleaguered country, the more we love it — the more we
appreciate our special Jewish heritage and close connection
Love is important, but let's remember that it alone won't
give Israel the resolve to confront a reeling economy, scant
tourism, a freshwater shortage, rising unemployment, hous-
ing demds, drug trafficking, hunger, poverty and grave
threats to national security.
Israel's spiritual vigor personalizes its call. Torah calls to
As she put it, "This thought revolves in my mind each day
as I perform mitzvot: praying twice a day, reciting blessings,
dressing modestly, eating kosher food and learning Torah.
We also help families here in Israel and do little things, like
returning a lost object or just being nice. I thank God for
giving me this opportunityto learn and grow in Israel."
With warfare raging in the Mideast, the burden falls to
Israel's leaders to repel the attempted expulsion of Jews from
their ancestral homeland. I urge them to fortify their arsenal
with the bulwark of faith, support and zeal that diaspora
teenagers, like Simcha Tzippy Cohen, hold for the ancient
land of hope. ❑
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