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Yehudit Katz

Female 1932 - 1972  (40 years)


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  • Name Yehudit Katz 
    Born 15 Sep 1932  Israel Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender Female 
    Biography Rabbi Shlomo Kook, his wife Yehudit, their two youngest children, and a cousin had been killed. The crash took place on the Hulda road during their return journey to Rehovot from Jerusalem. It was a rainy night with poor visibility and they must have failed to identify the exact location of the rails. The car in which they were traveling was hit by an oncoming train with the consequences listed above. Had there been a barrier at the intersection it is almost certain that the tragedy would not have occurred.

    A One and Only

    By Yedidia Meir

    There are some people who find the Bituach Yashir (Direct Insurance) commercial funny: A helpless driver is stuck in his car on railway tracks. Desperately he tries again and again to start the engine, but the starter is gone. The camera zooms in on the driver's panic-stricken face. Sad music. Deathly fear. And then, as the train lumbers into view at the edge of the screen, a miracle: The engine starts. The driver breathes a sigh of relief and shifts into reverse, the train barrels ahead - and then comes the tragedy. The miracle was not perfect. It turns out that the road barrier has crushed the car's hood. Narrator: Life is not always fair, click on the 5.

    When I see this commercial, I want to shut off the TV.

    One Hanukkah morning in 1972, my grandfather, Rabbi Shlomo Kook, got into his new Peugeot 405 in order to go to Jerusalem and buy tefillin (phylacteries) for his son, who was about to celebrate his bar mitzvah. My grandmother, Yehudit, and their three small children, Yocheved, Danny, Nachman, as well as a distant cousin, also went along for the ride. In the late afternoon they prayed at the Western Wall and then hurried home, to Rehovot, to light the fourth candle of Hanukkah. At Nahshon junction they looked right and left, and chose the short route to Rehovot, through the fields of Kibbutz Hulda. And then they came to the railway tracks.
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    What happened there, exactly? No one told me. On page 30 of the book that was published in their memory, I read the following words: "On the way back, when it was already dark, the car got stuck on the railway tracks, at the crossing of the road and the railway line. Just then the engine appeared, moving at full throttle. In the shocking collision all the passengers were killed on the spot, with the exception of Yocheved, who miraculously survived."

    I had not yet been born. My mother was 15 and a half. She was the eldest. She had stayed home because she had an eye inflammation and the doctor said it was contagious. She made popcorn for her parents. She wanted to surprise them.

    Life isn't always fair.

    At home, we never talked about the tragedy. Furthermore, even if I try very hard, I am totally unable to remember even one instant in which I saw my mother behave like someone who has undergone a trauma of this magnitude. A normal woman in the extreme. Every evening she goes to moderate parental-guidance groups and passes by railway crossings, of which there are many in our area. When she has no time to cook, she puts a pot on the stove, adds oil and makes popcorn. It comes out tasty.

    What we do talk about - and a lot - is those who were killed in the disaster, Grandfather Shlomo and Grandmother Yehudit. Only recently I discovered that they were far younger than I had thought. Their rich resume misled me. I know that she managed to write two profound books and to teach at the university. I know that he had already been a yeshiva head in England and a military chaplain, was one of the soldiers who captured the Western Wall, served as a judge in the Tel Aviv rabbinical court and was appointed chief rabbi of Rehovot.

    All this, along with the titles of "Grandpa Shlomo" and "Grandma Yehudit," led me to think all the while that they were relatively elderly people - 50-60. And suddenly I found out that he was 42 and she was 38. That's amazing. I have friends of that age.

    But it's not just the age thing that is confusing. For years I have been trying without success to decipher my grandfather's complex personality. I read about him and peruse the articles he wrote, and I become entangled. Here, he is a prodigy in the Lithuanian Hebron yeshiva in Jerusalem, studying Gemara day and night, and there he forgets his pistol under his Gemara on the way to an operation of the Haganah defense force; here he studies to be a religious judge, there he takes part in an officers' course of the Israel Defense Forces; here he writes, "The secular public is losing its originality, influenced by the latest program on radio and television," and there he works to establish an institution to provide enrichment groups for disadvantaged children, declaring: "I aspire to see a child in faded clothes who desires to learn how to play the piano"; here he is the nephew of the sanctifier of Zionism, Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak Hacohen Kook, and there he is the pupil of the historic Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) leader, the Hazon-Ish.

    What was he then, truly? What did he think about the life of those times? What was his world view? My mother relates that he was everything together. "A combination like you don't see today. It just doesn't exist. You can't find something like that. Both Haredi and Zionist, both rabbi and army man, both educated and God-fearing. He was a one-and-only. Something that defies explanation." But then, she is not objective.

    Almost 30 years after his death, I suddenly received regards from my grandfather, and from an extremely unexpected direction. In the final days of my army service on the weekly magazine Bamahane, I was sent on a combat mission on the enemy front - to cover the memorial service marking the 30th day of the passing of the poet Yehuda Amichai, held at the Tzavta club in Tel Aviv. Who wasn't there? A.B. Yehoshua, Meir Shalev, Natan Yonatan and all the righteous luminaries of Israeli secularity. But of all of them, I was most thrilled to meet Haim Be'er. A few weeks earlier I had discovered his novel "Havalim" ("The Pure Element of Time") and I was drawn into it as I had never before been drawn into a book.

    I don't know why I did it - after all, an important writer is not a pop star - but I went over to him, waited for him to finish talking to someone else, and told him, "I really admire you. Your book influenced my life."

    He said thank you and asked me what my name was. I told him. Because Haim Be'er is a Jerusalemite by nature, he did not make do with that, and asked what family I was from. I told him that on my mother's side I am from the family of the famous Rabbi Kook. "How are you related to Rabbi Kook?" he asked. I am a grandson of his nephew, I replied. "And what was your grandfather's name?" Be'er pressed on relentlessly. Rabbi Shlomo Kook, I replied, from the train disaster.

    Haim Be'er heard "Shlomo Kook" and was moved. "You are the grandson of Reb Shloime Kook?" he said, amazed. "Your grandfather changed my life. There is something important I have to tell you. I have a message for you from your grandfather. Call me and we'll talk. My number is in the metropolitan Tel Aviv phone book."

    My culture hero did not make do with a phone call. When I called, he said I have to come to his place. And there, over a glass of mineral water, he told me that 40 years earlier, he was assigned to be a religion noncom at Schneller Base in Jerusalem. "At that time," he said, "your grandfather was the military chaplain of the Jerusalem District. He absolutely adopted me. He studied with me every day and we talked a lot. One day he told me about one of the glorious figures of Jerusalem, Rabbi Reuven Bengis, who invited all his students and acquaintances to a festive meal marking the completion of the study of the Shas [the Mishnah cycle]. The truth is that with such awesomely gifted sages, this was standard practice. Every so often, when they finished studying the Gemara again, all six orders of Mishnah, they held a joyous meal like this.

    "The students of Rabbi Bengis, who were used to being invited to this kind of meal every few years, were very surprised. Only a month had passed since the last meal. Had the rabbi genius gone through the whole Shas so fast? It is impossible to study it all in one month. Rabbi Bengis explained to them that this time, it was not just the end of the cycle. In addition to his regular order of study, in which he goes through all the thousands of pages, he had another study track. He studied the Shas while waiting in line: in line at the health clinic, in line for the bus, in line at the post office. Even when he was invited to perform a marriage, and the bride and groom and guests were a bit late, he would use the time to go through a few more lines. In the small fractions of time that people tend to waste, he would take out his small Gemara and study. A little bit every time. A page and another page, and another one. All thanks to the bureaucracy. And now, after many years and numberless lines, he had managed to complete the entire Shas."

    And Haim Be'er looks at me and says: "I was at the end of my military service then, just like you, and that story, which your grandfather told me, simply grabbed me. You really have to take advantage of the time! I feel it is my obligation to convey that message to you from your grandfather. You are about to be discharged from the army. Don't squander yourself. Study, get ahead, do something with life."

    Tell me, I asked him, taking advantage of the fact that I had at last found someone objective. What was my grandfather like? What kind of person was he? And Haim Be'er replied, "A combination like you don't see today. It just doesn't exist. You can't find something like that. Both Haredi and Zionist, both rabbi and army man, both educated and God-fearing. He was a one-and-only. Something that defies explanation." 
    Hebrew Birth 14 Elu 5692 
    Hebrew Death 25 Kis 5733 
    Occupation Writer 
    Residence Rehovot, Israel Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Died 1 Dec 1972  Hulda, Israel Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Person ID I10757  Blank Family
    Last Modified 12 Feb 2015 

    Father Rabbi Dov Katz,   b. 1903,   d. 29 Dec 1979  (Age 76 years) 
    Mother Esther Gold 
    Family ID F10038  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Hacohen Kook,   b. 6 Jan 1929, Jerusalem, Israel Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 1 Dec 1972, Hulda, Israel Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 43 years) 
    Children 
     1. Living
     2. Living
     3. Living
     4. Living
     5. Menachem Dan Kook,   b. 12 Dec 1964, Rehovot, Israel Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 1 Dec 1972, Hulda, Israel Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 7 years)
     6. Nachman Natan Kook,   b. 14 Dec 1969, Rehovot, Israel Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 1 Dec 1972, Hulda, Israel Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 2 years)
    Last Modified 28 Dec 2009 
    Family ID F7425  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Event Map
    Link to Google MapsBorn - 15 Sep 1932 - Israel Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsResidence - - Rehovot, Israel Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsDied - 1 Dec 1972 - Hulda, Israel Link to Google Earth
     = Link to Google Earth 
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