Renana Meir was on the phone with a friend on Sunday afternoon when she heard her mother scream. At first, the 17-year-old thought her mother had seen a cockroach, but quickly realized something terrible was happening.
The teenager rushed to investigate, and found her mother wrestling with the Palestinian teenager who had fatally stabbed her.
“When I walked in, she was already on the ground, I saw them struggling and I screamed in panic,” Renana told the Srugim news website on Wednesday.
“He was trying to get the knife out of her body to attack us, but she wouldn’t let him,” Renana said. “She wouldn’t let him take the knife out of her, she didn’t let him hurt us,” she said.
Renana and her father Natan gave several interviews on Tuesday and Wednesday, speaking tearfully of Dafna’s joy and positivity, insistently refusing to entertain bitterness or express hatred in the wake of her murder.
Natan Meir also revealed that he had invited a long-time Palestinian friend, who is a relative of the murderer, to come to the home Wednesday, and that this friend indeed visited.
Speaking to Channel 2 on Wednesday night, Renana said she hoped her own screams had helped scare off the killer, later identified as Morad Bader Abdullah Adais. He was arrested at his home overnight Monday-Tuesday morning. His father, who denies knowing that his son was planning the attack, has reportedly told Palestinian news outlets he is proud of his son, but relatives denied this to Israeli TV.
Renana said that after the terrorist ran off, leaving her mother for dead, she initially tried to remove the knife. “But then I remembered my Magen David Adom training, that you don’t remove any ‘foreign object’.”
“She was still breathing,” Renana said of her mother. “I asked her to keep breathing and not to stop no matter what, but already I knew that it was over,” she told Srugim. “My mom tried to keep breathing, and I felt like she heard me talking to her even though she didn’t respond.”
“I really hope that she didn’t hear all my screaming,” Renana said. “First I called the paramedics, and then I called my father.”
“It felt like forever before the ambulance came,” she told Channel 2.
“She really was like a best friend to me; we didn’t have the regular mother-daughter relationship,” Renana said of her mother. “We talked about everything; she was always there for me. Our family, us, her children were her entire world.”
Dafna, 38, a nurse by profession, left behind her husband Natan, and four children aged 11 to 17. The Meir family was also fostering two children, both below the age of five. “Obviously” the two foster children would remain with the family after Dafna’s murder, her husband said Wednesday.
Natan Meir told Srugim that he heard his wife was dead on the radio.
“I was at the doctor’s office with our youngest when Renana called me to tell me a terrorist stabbed her mother,” he said. “And when I called her back, all Renana told me was ‘they’re taking care of mom.’
“I got in the car and turned on the radio, I heard on the news that a woman in Otniel had been murdered. I turned off the radio, I knew it was her,” Natan said.
“I’m thankful for every minute I had with Dafna,” he said tearfully.
“I loved her from the minute we met when we were both soldiers until her very last day,” he said.
“I’ll always remember her curly hair peeking out from under her winter hat.”
Natan said he knew he wanted to marry Dafna a few days after meeting her.
“She wanted to bring grace and kindness back into this world,” he said, referring to their desire to foster children from troubled homes. Dafna herself was taken into a foster home at age 13.
In an interview to the Hebrew-language Yedioth Ahronoth daily on Tuesday, Natan said he harbored no anger towards Palestinians in general for his wife’s death.
“We don’t have anger,” he said. “I am not angry at anyone. We don’t fill ourselves with that. We don’t curse Arabs. I sit and talk with my kids and I haven’t heard a single word of that. We’re not people who hate. Dafna and I weren’t brought up that way.”
Natan Meir told Channel 2 on Wednesday evening that a Palestinian who lives in a nearby village came to the home to pay a condolence call earlier in the day, at his invitation. This Palestinian, a long-time friend, Natan said, is a relative of the 16-year-old who killed his wife.
“I am certain that had he known, he would have stopped that terrorist from coming here, even if it cost him his life,” Natan said of this Palestinian friend. “Our friendship is much stronger than that. I asked all my friends, everybody, Jews and non-Jews, to come (to the shiva). We are good friends. The tears in his eyes showed that.”
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.