A Stone for Shmuel by William Luse

A Stone for Shmuel

The Killing We Live With & the Hell We Enjoy

by William Luse

My twenty-year-old daughter sat at the other end of the couch from me one night a couple of years ago, reading a magazine while I watched TV. She glanced up every now and then to capture what was happening on the tube, but by and large was quite absorbed in her reading, which usually amounts to a lot of page flipping, so that I had gotten into the habit of asking, “Do you ever read anything or just look at the pictures?”

But at the moment I paid her little attention, so absorbed was I by the news of the Palestinian murder-suicide bombing of a bus in Jerusalem. Apparently there were an unusual number of child victims. I saw one infant lying motionless in the street, being worked on by guys with funny beards and black caps, ultra-orthodox medical personnel I suppose. Then a girl came on the screen, seven or eight years old, wearing a red and black striped jumper over a long-sleeved white shirt, reminding me of the Catholic school uniforms my girls used to wear. She stood erect, adorable, and seemed not in peril of dying, but there was a lot of blood running down her face.

The camera moved to a hospital, where six-month-old Shoshana Nathanzon lay wired, taped, cut up, one arm in a cast, but alive. The youngest victim was Shmuel Tabenfeld, five months along in this life. He and his mother, Goldie, were from New York, and she died with him. I thought you might like to say good-bye to Shmuel, whose picture is above.

I sat there trying to think of a name for people who think it’s all right to blow babies to bits. We humans often think that if we can hang a name on something, we can open it up, understand it, reveal the mystery. We can’t, and nothing came to me. Maybe you could think of one if shown a picture of the guy who did it.

I have the picture, but don’t want to give a child-killer the honor. Let’s just say that he looks so . . . normal, so swarthy middle-American, as he stands there dressed in slacks and a sport shirt. I like the delightful children’s mural in the background. The two kids propped on each arm are his own, for whom he was just trying to set a good example by exterminating someone else’s.

He has a name but I hope never to remember it or ever to hear it again. Besides, it’s sure to be long enshrined within the Palestinian Pantheon of Martyrs Who Have Gone to Heaven in a Thousand Handbaskets. I wonder if he believed in the seventy-odd virgins reward, like Mohammed Atta, who at this moment is finding that the reward for mass murder is not at all what he expected.

Never Seen the Ocean

“Oh my God!” my daughter cried. “Awful, isn’t it?” I responded. But she was not looking at the television. I could tell by the magazine’s thickness that it was one of those women’s things.

“Listen to this,” she said, and started reading from an article entitled, “Are You Ready to Really Understand Abortion?” It was a puff piece. One of the great rewards of my life has been this child’s militancy on behalf of the unborn. She was especially upset that one of the protagonists in the piece was a 32-year-old dental hygienist named Bernadette, who had come to a clinic for an abortion.


William Luse is an adjunct professor of English at Valencia Community College in Orlando, Florida, and host of the Catholic website Apologia.

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