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CNN Access

Mother of bombing victim recalls a 'ray of light'

Keren in Hebrew means, "ray of light," says Keren Shatsky's mother, Chava.  

Editor's Note: CNN Access is a regular feature on providing interviews with newsmakers from around the world.

(CNN) -- On Saturday, an hour after the Jewish Sabbath ended, a Palestinian suicide bomber set off a nail-filled bomb at a pizzeria frequented by teenagers in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Karnei Shomron. Keren Shatsky, 14, and Nehemia Amar, 15, died in that bombing, the first such attack on a West Bank settlement since the Al Aqsa Intifada began.

Wednesday morning, two days after burying her daughter, JoAnne Poliquin talked to about her youngest child's death, violence in the region and how Keren's family and friends remember her. Poliquin, a native of Maine, and her New York-born husband, Shabtai Shatsky, moved 17 years ago to Israel where she is known by her Hebrew and married name, Chava Shatsky.

CNN: Do you have other children?

Chava Shatsky: Yes. I have five older children… Keren was our baby. Keren was born here. This is the only house she has ever known.

Keren Shatsky was "friendly with everyone and always smiled" 

CNN: What led your family to decide to move to Israel?

Shatsky: When my husband and I first came in '76, we had just always had a dream of coming and visiting. We came and went to a kibbutz and decided to stay. We went back to the States, but we had always planned on coming back. We felt that it was a place where Jews could be Jewish and not be different, that this was a place we ought to be. This was the historical, biblical homeland.

CNN: Did your family have any concerns about violence and did you instruct your children about what were safe places to visit and what they should avoid?

Shatsky: In the beginning we never really worried about their safety. People here used to go do fruit and vegetable shopping in local Arab towns. We never really worried about it too much when we first came here. …

But you know what it's been like here in the last year-and-a-half. So now the kids have to call when they get somewhere to let us know they are safe.

You know teenagers don't like to do that very much. But I told them it has nothing to do with that you're a teenager and I'm a controlling mother. My husband calls when he is going to be home 15 minutes late from work because he knows that I will worry.

CNN: On Saturday: was that a regular event for Keren to go out for pizza with her friends?

Shatsky: She used to go fairly often, sometimes during the week. We loved it as parents because it meant they didn't have to go into … Kfar Saba, into town. We never really worried about them here in our own little town. It maybe takes 10 to 15 minutes to walk there, maximum.

CNN: Did she have an opportunity to call you Saturday to tell you that she arrived there safely?

Shatsky: No. Here, she didn't have to call. They only had to call if they were going somewhere out of town. In fact, she didn't even take her cell phone with her. She just said, "I'm going to pizza with my friends."

She loved pizza. In fact, one of my older daughters just found a birthday card that Keren had made for her on the Internet two years ago. And it said inside, "Miriam, I love you more than pizza, and you know I like pizza a lot."

CNN: How did you find out about the bomber and what happened to Keren?

Shatsky: I didn't hear the explosion, although some of my neighbors heard the explosion. I was at home. One of my daughters was talking on the phone to one of her friends. His mother is a social worker so she was notified on her beeper. …So my daughter came downstairs and she said, "I was just talking to (the friend) and she said there was an explosion at the mall."

But with the word in Hebrew for "explosion," I just didn't make the connection that it was any kind of an attack. It didn't enter my mind. The town itself is so calm and peaceful and happy. Kids go all around and go to their friends and we never worry.

Then my husband was leaving to bring my older daughter to the bus stop to go back to Jerusalem, and he's in a local civil defense group. And as he was leaving the house, he ran into a friend who told him, "Get your rifle and come out to the mall." Then I knew something was going on, but I didn't know what.

And then I started wondering where Keren was. She said she was going for pizza, but they usually have so many friends, and they go from house to house and collect each other and congregate and go out. So I had no idea where she was and, even then, it still didn't sink in. Maybe I didn't want it to. But I started making phone calls to see what friend she was at. … Each one of my kids was trying to call a different one of her friends, trying to get through to find out where she was, and nobody really knew. She hadn't been to any of the ones we were able to reach. The ones we weren't able to reach turned out to be the friends that were with her at the pizzeria.

Eventually they went out to the mall. But after a while, as time goes by and you aren't able to find her and nobody calls you to tell you she's OK, little by little things start sinking in. My husband came back and I told him we still hadn't found out anything about Keren, so we got in the cars and started heading out to the hospitals. She doesn't carry any identification -- she's a 14-year-old kid. So we grabbed some pictures and started heading out to hospitals to see if we could track her down.

At one point on the way we got a call saying we should go to this particular hospital, and that there is staff waiting and a psychologist waiting for us. So that kind of gets you pretty hard, although you still hope beyond hope that she is in one of the hospitals.

CNN: Did any of her friends talk about her at the funeral?

Shatsky: Oh, yes, they did. Actually, the whole group had gotten together and written something together that one girl read at the funeral. They said they would always remember her.

Keren, in Hebrew means a "ray of light," and they focused on that, and her smile and her beautiful blue eyes and the rays that she sent out to everybody, and how happy she always was and little things like when they went to play basketball, she never stopped. She always kept going and kept encouraging them to keep playing. And how after the Sabbath ended on Saturday night and they walked home from wherever they were, they said goodbye, and they never, ever dreamt it would be their last good-bye.

CNN: Is there anything else you want to say to represent your family's viewpoint about your daughter or the violence?

Shatsky: I feel like … there isn't anything I could say to do her justice. Her class at school has taken this really hard, and they have been giving the girls a chance to express how they feel. They said one girl cried out to God and said, "You know you have so many angels up there. Why did you take our angel?"

And the other thing I would like to express is that what happens very often is that there is a tendency to try to understand and explain these terrorist attacks. And I think at a certain point that there is a limit to the attitude that you have to forgive and you have to forgive and you have to forgive.

Sometimes there is such evil in the world and we are not supposed to try to understand it and we are not supposed to try to forgive it. We have to try to get rid of it somehow. …

(Keren) has a friend in the hospital with a nail in her brain, and another friend has a nail in her heart. They put nails in these explosives that do untold damage to the little kids. They purposely go after what will cause the most pain. A human being does not do that.

… I know people are hurt when Israel does something and Arab children are hurt, but we do not ever go out and purposely do this to beautiful, young, innocent children. And any human being who tries to excuse or explain such a thing to me is morally wrong.




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