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The story behind this book began early one bright and beautiful spring morning when two young boys decided to skip school. After all, how could they sit behind a desk and do math when a whole world was out there beckoning to them?

This sounds like the classic beginning of the beloved adventure stories of our youth like Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn — or the Israeli Chasamba series for that matter. In many of these stories the boys hide their books under a bush, take out their fishing rods, and sneak off to a stream or waterhole. Resting on their backs in the sun with flies buzzing around their carefree faces, they wait for that first tug of a trout, enjoying that sense of the fullness of life that comes with spring and youth are combined. Even now, many of us can't help but smile when we think of those stories — or recall similar episodes from our own pasts.

Youngsters who don't live near a brook find other magnets to draw them away from school in the springtime. For those who live at the edge of the desert, it could be wild flowers growing on the hillsides or the mystery of caves just begging to be explored.

But what happened to the two young boys who lived at the edge of the Judean Desert that fine May morning was far from a nice adventure story. The brutal and inhumane murders of Koby Mandell and Yoseph Ishran sent waves of horror, pain, despair and dread throughout the small community of Tekoa, which echoed over an entire country, found their way across the sea, and touched the deepest fears of every parent. An unspeakable nightmare — that happened in the bright spring sunlight.

The double tragedy that rocked the people of Tekoa was almost beyond belief, but they found the strength to reach out from the depths of their own tortured pain and give comfort and help to others when every instinct told them that they were the ones who needed it.

This is not a book about the boys, Koby and Yoseph. Nor does it deal with the horror of their murders. Rather it is about the aftermath that had to be faced, which had its own horror. It is a book that grew out emotional trauma, and the need people felt and the strength they found to put aside their own pain in order to reach out and help others.

Sudden tragedy can strike anybody at anytime — and it's side effects can be almost as destructive as the event itself. The goal of this book, which grew out of the experience of coping with the devastating tragedy, is for it to be a resource that can help others deal with similar situations- should they God forbid occur.

I have changed the identities of many the people quoted in order to protect their privacy. In a few cases, the characters are composites — but all the content is true.

This book is dedicated to the people of Tekoa. They are ordinary people. None of them would stand out on a street corner. None of them are famous in the conventional sense. They are just people who were going about their daily lives, who early one morning were confronted with every parent's worst nightmare come true. They have given a new meaning to the word "chessed" — and by doing so have made all of us become that much more human in the best sense of the word.

A very special thank you to a few very special people: To Valerie Seidner and Shira Chernoble, whose thoughtful suggestions helped enormously, and especially to Terrye Pico, who encouraged and bullied me into writing this and whose criticisms and editing skills made this readable. Each of them in her own way has taught me and many others the true meaning and depth of quiet compassion. To Shifra Paitken, who painstakingly pulled it all together, asking all the right questions and re-editing the editing. To Sara Rivka Ernstoff and Robin Treistman for their ideas. And naturally to my wife Leah for simply putting up with me.

Late at night when I reflect on why I began this, I realize that I am first and foremost writing this for myself. Trying hard to put into some understandable form, the madness of dealing with the grief and horror that began for me at six o'clock one morning when my eldest son ran into the house with the news, "We found Koby!"

Since that nightmare of a morning, none of us in Tekoa will ever be the same. We have mourned together with families, and alone in our rooms for ourselves. We have walked at night under the star-studded desert skies of Tekoa, choked with tears. What unites all of us is the need to search for an answer - without any of us understanding the question.

Eli Birnbaum