The pain goes on for mother of Har Nof hero


For Bracha Kupinsky, the anguish of losing her son in the Har Nof massacre has not subsided a year on.

Rabbi Aryeh Kupinsky, a 43-year-old father-of-five, was one of five worshippers killed during the attack by terrorists on Jerusalem's Kehilat Bnei Torah shul in November 2014. His attempts to fight off the gunmen had enabled some congregants to flee.

"He restrained one of the terrorists and yelled for people to run," explained Mrs Kupinsky, 72, from Kiryat Arba, one of a group of victims of terror brought to London by the One Family charity. "He threw things at the other one until he was shot. And he still threw things until he collapsed.

"I don't think he was sacrificing himself. I think he thought he was going to overcome them. He had served in the army. He was the only one of the rabbis who served."

She recalled how a woman whose husband had been able to escape the attack because of the rabbi's efforts had come to the shivah to express her gratitude. "She kneeled down in front of me, crying and asking me to give her a berachah because her husband was saved. She thought he'd been a coward.

"Aryeh would have been pleased that he died a Kiddush Hashem [sanctifying God's name]. His whole life was dedicated to Hashem. It's said that if anyone saves one life, it's like saving the whole world. That's what he did, my boy."

But her son's heroism was little consolation, she added, her eyes welling with tears.

After his funeral, one of her young grandsons had asked why the rabbi had tackled the terrorists. "I didn't want him to fight them, I wanted him to run away. He could have. No question. I didn't realise until I saw the place. He could have run out.

"He could have just knocked them over and run out.

"He was my son. Everyone talks about this baal chesed, this person who acted out of kindness, but he was my son, who I raised. He was my little boy. If I could have run in there and that would have saved his life, I would have done it. He had his whole life ahead of him."

The night after the funeral, "my boys, they were all joking, saying: 'Well now we know why he was always fighting with us. He was practising.'

"He was the middle son - they were all tall, 6ft 2in, 6ft 4in - but he was stronger than them. My mother, rest in peace, was in a wheelchair and he would lift her in the wheelchair. He would do so many acts of chesed. He helped us out tremendously."

The family had previously experienced tragedy when Rabbi Kupinsky's 14-year-old daughter died following a heart attack three years ago. Rabbi Kupinsky's death impacted greatly on all of them.

"All four of my sons have turned grey in the past year," Mrs Kupinsky said. "Even the 34-year-old. I couldn't go to the Har Nof street afterwards. I still avoid it.

"It's like a raw cut. It has to heal. Part of it is that I've been busy taking care of everyone. There are 40 of us in the family and I feel like I'm the matriarch, that everyone looks to me and I can't break down or they'll get scared."

Another in the group brought here by One Family was fellow Kiryat Arba resident Molly Palmer, whose 24-year-old son Asher and baby grandson Yonatan died in 2011 after terrorists threw a massive rock at their car, causing it to flip over.

Holding hands with Mrs Kupinsky, she said that although they were "both strong, with strong families", they had needed the support of One Family.

The London trip had been "an amazing experience. We both have our families to care for and there's been no time for ourselves.

It was nice to have "someone take care of you for a change, instead of feeling that you have to take care of everybody else, which is what a mother does. This whole year, I've been kissing all my children and grandchildren. This week, I've got back so many hugs and kisses."

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