Elinor J Brecher | A remembrance; A bullet sends a cousin home.
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A remembrance; A bullet sends a cousin home.

A remembrance; A bullet sends a cousin home.

Originally Published March 15, 1978

We always wondered when Gail would come home. The times have been rare in recent years when the whole scattered family could assemble. Each time it did, Gail’s possible return was discussed.

Whether it was a reunion for Passover, for an important anniversary or birthday, we always talked about how we wished she were there.

Death has been systematic and unrelenting in its decimation of the family. Most of the grandmas and grandpas are gone. Only the laughter and ebullience of the young can fill the melancholy gaps left by those deaths, say the ones in the middle generation.

Gail Rubin, my cousin, was one of those young ones – and now she too is gone, the first victim of the Palestinian terrorist massacre in Israel on Saturday.

She had been an editor at a major publishing house in New York, but she was restless. There seemed to be something missing her life.

As many American Jews did, Gail went to Israel on vacation and never left. Zionism and politics had nothing to do with her move there in 1969. She fell in love with the irrepressible people who, with ceaseless labor, were turning a sandy scrap of desert into fertile farmland.

She picked up a camera for the first time in Israel, and there must have been sorcery at work. Gail and her camera quickly learned to perform amazing feats together.

She captured the merry grins of sun-browned children on the cobbled streets of Israel’s ancient cities. Her color closeups of tree bark rival the most spectacular abstract paintings.

She made tender portraits of relaxed young Israeli soldiers. And she found them also as they lay wounded and dying in the Yom Kippur War.

Gail was walking by the Mediterranean Sea near Tel Aviv Saturday. She had planned to photograph wild birds at a nearby kibbutz. She was alone when the terrorists landed on the beach to begin their murderous drive toward Tel Aviv.

Gail blossomed in Israel. The big-city girl lived simply, in a spare apartment in Hertzlia Pitua, on the Mediterranean. Last summer, she looked as fresh and earthy as the clean Mediterranean sands we strolled together. She certainly didn’t look anywhere near her 39 years.

We talked about her current project – trying to photograph the elusive leopards of the Sinai. And we talked about her future hope – to chronicle on film the vanishing Bedouin culture.

We walked along the beach watching her two dogs – her “children” – dash in and out of the water. It was a family joke that Gail would never come home because her adored “children” wouldn’t be able to adjust to a New York apartment.

Her parents, despite knowing how much she loved Israel, ached for their only child to return. Her visits seemed to last longer every time. When her dazzling color photographs of Israeli wildlife went on exhibit at the Jewish Museum in New York last spring, she stayed for several months.

Just last week, her parents were saying she might return for an extended visit in June. It couldn’t be soon enough for them.

But Gail is coming home tomorrow. With wrenching irony, she now is returning too soon for all of us. A plane provided by the Israeli government is bringing Gail’s body home to New York.

One report said the terrorists asked her for directions after they landed their boats on the shore. She gave them the information and they shot her.

Another report said they asked her nothing. They just fired.

Gail will lie in a New York cemetery next to an especially favored aunt. When her parents first discussed it, they thought Gail would have wanted to be buried in Israel, where she had found such peace.

But we all wanted Gail to come home again.

First published by The Courier-Journal, Louisville, KY