Little did Zvi Lando know, as he sat during Friday night services at Congregation Ahawas Achim B’nai Jacob and David (AABJ&D) in West Orange on July 21, that when Rabbi Eliezer Zwickler spoke of a terrorist attack that occurred hours earlier at a West Bank settlement, the victims were members of his extended family.
Not until Shabbat ended, nearly 24 hours later, when a guest in his home turned on her cellphone, did he learn the horrifying truth.
Elad Salomon, 36, the husband of Lando’s first cousin, Michal, had been stabbed to death by a Palestinian terrorist in his parents’ home in the settlement of Halamish, along with his 46-year-old sister, Chaya, and their father, Yosef, who was 70. Their mother, Tovah, 68, was seriously wounded.
After hearing of the murders, Lando and his mother, Susan, also of West Orange, raced to Newark Airport and caught a flight to Israel just a half-hour before take-off. They arrived in Israel shortly before the funerals on Sunday evening.
“They were so happy to see us there,” Zvi said. Normally, Zvi and his family gather in Israel to visit his relatives for happy occasions. Despite the heartbreaking reason behind this reunion, he said the four days they spent with the Salomons were comforting.
The stabbings occurred as the family was eating Shabbat dinner before they were to host a shalom zachor, a community gathering to celebrate the birth of a son; the Salomons had welcomed a new grandson the previous day.
The terrorist, 19-year-old Omar al-Abed, a Palestinian from a nearby village was dressed in blue pants and a white button-down shirt — common attire for observant Israelis on Shabbat. He walked into the Salomon home wielding a knife.
At the outset of the attack, Michal gathered the five children in the house, quietly put her fingers to her lips, and motioned for them to follow her into an upstairs room. She barricaded the door and remained there during the entirety of the attack, which lasted 15 minutes, apparently undetected. When a next-door neighbor — a soldier home on furlough — heard the screams, he picked up his gun and shot the intruder in the stomach through a window, wounding him.
Lando’s sister Tali, a pediatric surgeon in Westchester, was unable to travel with him to Israel. She told NJJN she marveled at the way her cousin behaved during the tense and horrifying moments of the murders.
“Most people think that when someone sees their husband being slaughtered she would start screaming, that it would be her natural reaction,” Tali said. “But my cousin is a calm, clear-thinking human being. She and Elad had an agreement. In case of a terrorist attack, she would protect the children while he fought off the attacker. That’s what she did.”
Aware of the pain and trauma that lies ahead for the surviving members of the Salomon family who were in the house during the attack, Tali said she wanted to become “super-duper involved” in their futures.
Michal, now a single mother, will no longer have the income provided by Elad, who was a computer technician; she works as a liaison for people seeking home health aides. She and her family live in a town that happens to be named Elad.
Tali is asking those concerned about her cousin to contribute to the family through either a gofundme campaign or onefamly.com, an Israeli program that provides monetary aid and psychological support to victims of terrorism.
After a recent phone call with her cousin Tali said Michal is a realist.
“She said to me ‘I have to begin a new chapter of my life. I am raising my kids on my own and I don’t have my husband anymore.’”
Tali said her cousin has always been “a giver, not a taker. She doesn’t have money but she is there always actively making things better for other people.”