Stories of Courage: Odaya Arbel Remembers her Father

Odaya with father
My name is Odaya. I am 18 years old and I don’t have a father.

My father was murdered 14 and a half years ago in a terrorist attack on his way home, when I was three years and ten months.

His name was Roi, he was 29 years, one month, ten days old, and he was a father to five children.

They say he was an amazing person, he was a good father. I have heard many stories and I remember all of them. They are with me every day. I know exactly who he was, what he would say if he were here today. I know who his friends were, what he was like when he was my age, what his grades were on his final exams, how happy he was when all of us were born and learned to crawl and say “abba”. I know everything, and yet every passing day I add a new piece of information to what I already know.

So I am Odaya, and I have a father.
Oday arbel close up
I mean, I had a father.

I understood that he wouldn’t come back when I was ten and a half and my mother got remarried. That was about 8 years ago, but who’s counting? Suddenly, I heard less about my father, and every word was worth gold to me. I secretly collected pieces information every time I heard someone say something. If it was a story my mother told my brothers, or someone mentioned something in passing, or my aunt remembered him during a holiday, or a picture that was always there I hadn’t noticed before.

I took a book with stories about my father and I read it from cover to cover, and I put a picture of him under my pillow, so it would always be with me. So he would always be with me.

At some point I started to speak with him at every opportunity, especially when I needed help. And he would always be there to help, with something that sounded like a cliché. When I would tell him something, he would always listen, and it was like he sent me the right answer when I was wondering what to do.

A year ago my mother got divorced. I took this was an opportunity to start over, to connect with my father, and to investigate him more.


In the last half year I discovered a lot about my father, and more than that – I discovered who we were. Two of us together. Father and Daughter.

I heard many more stories from everyone who knew him, but what surprised me was that suddenly something opened up inside of me, and the stories began to reach me within, it came from me. Things that I didn’t know about him, about us, suddenly became clear.

I don’t know if it was always like that, or if something changed in the first few years after my father was murdered, but I had no memories of my father.  No concrete memories of anything. Not of something that happened, not his picture, and not his voice. Today I only have one memory like that, that is only my own, that surfaced a few months ago.

I discovered that I also had a special connection with my father, even as a child of three and a half years old. My father had a special way to my heart, that was open exclusively to him, and not to anyone else.

Through these discoveries I created a new picture of my father, bigger and nicer, that fits the reality of where I am. My memories are not something that are fixed, they change based on the present. And I want my father to continue to live with me everywhere that I am.

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