Those We Have Lost

Bilha Epstein, 81: Kibbutz elder was eager to meet a 1st great-grandchild

Murdered in Kibbutz Kfar Aza on October 7

Bilha Epstein (Courtesy)
Bilha Epstein (Courtesy)

Bilha Epstein, 81, was murdered by Hamas terrorists in Kibbutz Kfar Aza on October 7.

Her grandson, Netta Epstein, was also killed when he jumped on a grenade to save his fiancé. Another grandson, Nitzan Libstein, was also murdered in the onslaught in the kibbutz, as was Bilha’s son-in-law, Ofir Libstein, head of the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council and Nitzan’s father.

Bilha’s husband, Amos, 81, survived the attack which killed his wife, son-in-law and two of his grandsons.

Bilha and Amos were considered among the kibbutz elders, having lived there for more than 50 years, both holding many positions in the community over the decades.

Her daughter-in-law, Ayelet Shahar Epstein, wrote on Facebook that she found her mother-in-law shot dead on the porch of her home on October 7 after a frantic call from Amos.

“We celebrated my mother-in-law Bilha’s 81st birthday in May,” she wrote. “Her advanced years did not detract from her curiosity about the world. An artist and creator who knew how to find beauty in everything, and good in all people. A loving and caring grandmother, who knew what every grandchild liked and in her freezer was ice cream according to every one’s preference.”

Ayelet noted that her oldest granddaughter, Omer, is slated to give birth next year “and provide her with her first great grandchildren, and Bilha was so excited. She will no longer get to meet him.”

A photography school in Tel Aviv said that Epstein was part of their online community and taken part in their courses over the course of a decade.

“Almost everything Bilha photographed — people and places — she photographed in the kibbutz she loves so much,” the school wrote. “Bilha looked again and again at her world with love, curiosity, and found within it beauty and compassion everytime. Bilha, we already miss you, your childlike curiosity, your honesty, your self humor, the kind look in your eyes.”

Bilha’s son-in-law, Ron Mandelbaum, recalled her as “a woman of action and spirit, a unique mother and grandmother.”

Vivi Ziv, the wife of Bilha’s cousin Yossi Ziv, remembered Bilha in a Facebook post.

“What a privilege it was to be part of your family,” she wrote. “I miss your smile and your wonderfully kind eyes.”

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