In 2003 a fateful call changed Batsheva Sadan’s life forever.
It was a Saturday night. The holy Jewish Sabbath had ended.
The phone rang and her world crumbled.
It was Batsheva’s sister.
Their parents, Dina and Eli Horowitz were dead. Murdered while enjoying their festive Friday night dinner.
“They were special people. Friday night dinner, their table was normally filled with guests. Their home was so warm and welcoming. It so happened that on that Friday night, they were alone, the children were all out, they were enjoying a peaceful meal in each other’s company.”
The peace was soon shattered. Two terrorists, broke into the area by cutting through the perimeter fence. Dressed as Orthodox Jews, they stormed into the Horowitz’s building and shot them at point blank range.
Dina and Eli were a remarkable couple. Both had moved to Israel as teenagers and separately found their Jewish identity. They met, married and moved to Kiryat Arba where, as educators, they impacted the lives of thousands in their own quiet but powerful way.
“It was a very difficult time. As the oldest of my siblings I felt a real responsibility to make sure everyone else was coping. But I had my own children to worry about. I was pregnant. I had relied heavily on my own parents for both emotional and practical support. Now that was gone forever.”
2003 was a very hard year for Israel, with 213 Israelis murdered by terror attacks. The political climate in Israel was at boiling point. Batsheva was one of many mourners grieving for loved ones.
“Our friends and family were just amazing. We were incredibly supported by the community. However there was no worldwide outpouring of love. There couldn’t be. Terror had simply become a normal part of life here.”
15 years later Batsheva received another phone call.
Once again her sister; once again another tragedy.
A 19 year old Israeli woman, Ori Ansbacher, had been murdered whilst walking in the Jerusalem forest.
“I didn’t know her personally.” recalls Batsheva. “But I was suddenly transported back to that Saturday night all those years ago.”
An old deep wound was reopened. “Those feelings I had felt then came flooding back to me. I was engulfed by a sense of loss. Ori was a young, beautiful and radiant person. She was killed at the peak of her youth when all the doors of opportunity were open to her.”
Amid the suffering, Batsheva decided to do something proactive. To cast light over a period of immense darkness. A symbol of solidarity to give strength and hope to Ori’s family. The ‘Embroidering Light’ project was born.
It started with a simple Facebook post encouraging women to embroider a square or patch in memory of Ori.
Batsheva thought she might get a hundred or so. She underestimated.
Batsheva’s rallying call was heard. Women from around the world responded. Eager to join her quest to brighten the bleak present and illuminate the future.
Astoundingly, she received over 5,000 pieces of embroidery which have all been stitched together. The lives of thousands entwined.
“A woman of valour who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands…she extends her hands to the needy.” (Proverbs 31:10-21)
On the one hand, these squares were born out of a desire to show universal solidarity and public support for a grieving family.
On the other hand, each square is uniquely personal and deeply cathartic. One square was embroidered onto a piece of material that survived the Bergen-Belsen Death Camp. Another embroidered onto a piece of the army uniform worn by a brother killed on active service. Biblical verses, images of Ori, prayers, feelings…
This one large tapestry tells a thousand tales; a thousand stories forever entwined in thread. The ultimate artistic exhibit of national solidarity.
As well as the tapestry, 150 pieces were separately attached to create a wedding canopy.
Batsheva explains, “The wedding canopy is booked for months in advance. It is used daily. It’s an amazing thing. Two people at the start of their lives together bear witness and remember a young woman who was brutally killed before she had the opportunity to truly start hers.”
The ultimate vengeance. Terror maims the present and threatens to destroy hope. Through this project, the Jewish world responds with faith in strengthening the future.
The tapestry bears witness to the pain shared after Ori’s murder. It represents the powerful unity of the women who came together in the aftermath. One person’s pain became an entire nation’s.
The main tapestry is 22 meters long and 3 meters high. The contributors come from different places reflecting the spectrum of the Jewish world, which is bound together by our deep-rooted heritage.
It weaves together varying narratives to tell a single story of strength and solidarity.
“Every skilled woman put her hand to spinning…all who felt an urge to give something…brought a donation for G-d.” (Exodus 35: 25-29)
Batsheva has arranged for the tapestry to be hung as an exhibition in the Jewish Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem. A place where people from all over the world flock to pray and reflect.
The display is portable and could subsequently be moved to other popular locations in Israel and around the world.
So far, the project has been run entirely on a voluntary basis and has incurred high costs. Funds are still needed to cover the costs of displaying the tapestry and explanation boards, which allow for a meaningful experience for all its viewers.
People around the world united to create this unique and meaningful piece of art. Let us unite once more to help make it accessible to those in need of comfort and inspiration. Help Batsheva shine more light onto a sometimes very dark world.
Watch this short clip of Batsheva and her amazing initiative.
(Jenny Mays participated in writing this article.)