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As Shteiner picks through leaves, 22-year-old Moshe Zackles stands next to a small table on the building’s other side, offering a pair of tefillin to passers-by. Unlike Shteiner, Zackles wears the traditional Chabad uniform – a black wide-brimmed hat and matching suit.
The tefillin serves, he says, as a spiritual antidote to the raw physical tragedy – the “expression of the Jewish people, a symbol.”
Now Chabad needs some outreach as well. Two of the three victims – Aharon Smadja and Mira Scharf – were Lubavitchers. Along with her husband, Scharf had been a Chabad emissary in New Delhi, India, where four years earlier to the day terrorists had killed the Chabad emissaries in Mumbai, Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg, as part of a broad terrorist attack.
Shteiner says he feels shaken but undeterred.
“This is holy work,” he says. “We feel we are on a mission. When you’re on a mission, you get strength from the people who sent you and from above.”
Minutes later, a siren blares across the neighborhood, growing louder as the seconds pass. Shteiner and his crew leap over a ledge and press their backs against the building’s rear wall, taking cover under an overhang. For the moment it is the safest place they can find.
After half a minute that feels like 10, they hear the boom, nowhere near them. Shteiner exhales.
“They don’t give us rest,” he says. The crowd is already dispersing. The third victim’s funeral begins in 10 minutes.
The slow procession to the cemetery brings together Lubavitchers in suits and young Sephardic men in T-shirts and jeans. Elderly religious women wearing headscarves walk alongside secular Russian immigrants.
Shteiner calls Kiryat Malachi “one big neighborhood,” and more than 100 residents pack a small, exposed building to mourn 24-year-old Itzik Amsalem, a newly religious yeshiva student.