‘An incredible mother’: friend reveals her admiration for murdered Lucy Dee

Tributes from Israel and Britain have flowed for West Bank terror attack victims


It’s a routine selfie of two friends on a day out at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, the bedrock of the Jewish people’s bond with the Land of Israel.

But the image, of Rebbetzin Lucy Dee on the left and her friend from Efrat, Elana Abelow Kronenberg, on the right, now represents almost unimaginable loss.

Lucy died on Monday after being shot by a terrorist on Friday, caught in the same atrocity in which her daughters, Maia and Rina, were killed.

“It’s very hard to speak of Lucy in the past tense,” Abelow Kronenberg, 45, told the JC. “She was very idealistic, an incredible mother, an incredible wife, and an extraordinary friend.

“I will miss her knocking on my door on Shabbat afternoons, when we’d go on walks, and being part of the classes for women she’d ask to join her studying the Torah.”

Lucy had succumbed to her wounds on Monday afternoon, three days after terrorists killed their daughters 20-year-old Maia and 15-year-old Rina in an attack at Hamra Junction in the West Bank as they drove from their home in the settlement of Efrat 70 miles away.

The gunman had forced the three women’s car off the road as they headed north for a family holiday in Tiberias, firing 20 bullets into their vehicle.

Palestinian security forces hunting the attackers said they had found the car that had been used by the gunmen abandoned in the West Bank city of Nablus and that they were believed to be hiding.

The sheer scale of the grief that has followed the shooting has been exceptional, with thousands attending the girls’ funeral on Sunday and their mother’s on Tuesday.
It has also spanned two countries.

The sadness and horror of those who knew them in Britain, where Rabbi Leo Dee served congregations in first Hendon then Radlett, before the family made aliyah in 2014, has also been immense.

“They are just the loveliest, most intelligent, bubbly people you could ever meet,” Hendon’s Rabbi Mordechai Ginsbury told the JC. “Above all, full of life, and always very giving. They kept an open house, were always ready to welcome guests. They made a difference.

"Their murders are a huge source of shock. There was and is so much warmth and love for the Dees.”

Another of the family’s UK friends is Lord David Wolfson, formerly both a government minister and the chair of the JC’s board. The Dees, he said, “have an ability to connect, a warmth that is quite rare. I tried to watch the girls’ funeral online, but I had to turn it off.”

Attending Lucy’s funeral, he added: “Before the service began, the hall was filled with song: quiet songs, led by the women and girls, about the land of Israel, the people of Israel and the God of Israel, the three pillars of Lucy’s life in Efrat.

“The children spoke of a lost mother as only children can. And Leo spoke of a lost wife as only Leo can. The funeral hall was full. But so were the grounds.”

Having made an impact in the City, it was Rabbi Dee’s desire to study for the rabbinate that first brought him to Efrat, where he was a yeshivah student between 2004 and 2008.

Located eight miles south of Jerusalem with a population of about 12,000, Efrat is regarded as the “capital” of the Gush Etzion block of West Bank settlements. It was seen as likely to become part of Israel proper when a two-state solution to the conflict was negotiated.

“The kids got a lot of their strength from Lucy, and she had a huge influence on so many other children through teaching English at the Orot Yehuda high school,” Efrat’s mayor, Oded Revivi, told the JC.

“Maia and Rina were also very influential and admired, because they were counsellors for the Ezra youth movement. All the Dees’ children are very impressive individuals. You can see how well they were raised.

“And their deaths have touched so many. Ten thousand people came to the girls’ funeral, from all over Israel. People were standing and singing for more than hour before it began, seeking comfort from each other.”

Johnny Finn, who also made aliyah to Efrat from Britain, said the Dees believed that Israel was the right place to be.
“They gave up a great life in England to live their dream,” he said.

“They were blessed with easy-going kids who were successful in school, successful socially. There are no words to describe what has happened. It’s too painful.”

Like their parents — Leo went to Cambridge, and Lucy to Oxford — their murdered daughters were clever. Maia, recalls Abelow Kronenberg, who has a daughter the same age, was a gifted performer.

“When she was in eighth grade, I had the gift and honour to direct her in a school play, a Hebrew version of Mary Poppins, except Mary became Miriam.

"She was very sweet and caring, but she was also a star – not because she sought the limelight, but because she had incredible poise. She made a fantastic Miriam Poppins.”

She knew Rina less well but could see that she too “was an amazingly devoted friend, very responsible and grown up”. Through their involvement with Ezra, Abelow added, both girls were “admitted and respected, role models for everyone who knew them”.

Another of Lucy’s close friends in Efrat is Mori Sokal, who also taught English at the Orot Yehuda school.

Once, she said, she was attending a Torah study group when the subject turned to the halachic view of medical ethics.

“I was just getting to know her in those days,” she told the JC, “and I found it difficult because I’d recently lost my mother. I walked out and she followed me and sat down to talk to me about my loss, and that was the start of our real friendship.

"We would meet in each other’s homes for Shabbat, and go for walks. We’d talk about everything: the stresses of family life that everyone faces and how to deal with them. She would always be there for you, supportive and warm. Rina and Maia took after their mother.”

To anyone watching Leo Dee’s address on Monday, his inner strength seemed palpable. Those who knew him were not surprised, as he has never avoided the bigger picture.

Until 2020, he was attached to the Interfaith Centre for Sustainable Development. Its director, Yonatan Neril, told the JC that Dee was an exceptional colleague.

“He organised major inter-faith conferences on the environment, in Jerusalem and Los Angeles,” he said.

For the three long days before Lucy died, communities in Israel and in Britain were united in prayer. Hundreds attended services in Hendon and Radlett, with more online.

In Efrat, Elana Abelow said, those days were “absolutely agonising, heart-wrenching.

She had such a big heart. I’m grateful she was my friend and I’m deeply saddened for all her family, for all of Efrat, for all the people of Israel.

"Three special lights have been extinguished, and I will do whatever I can to emulate their beautiful qualities.”

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