The father and husband of three British-Israelis murdered in the West Bank this month has told Sky News that he is immensely proud of his wife and daughters, and called on the international community to come together to bring peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
In an exclusive interview at the family home in the Israeli settlement of Efrat, Rabbi Leo Dee said he has faith that some good could come from the tragedy and praised the British government for changing its response to the attack.
The Dee family were driving up the Jordan Valley in the West Bank on Friday 7 April, en route to a Passover holiday on Lake Galilee.
Leo Dee was ahead, in a separate car with two of his children.
Palestinian gunmen shot at the car containing Lucy Dee and two of their daughters Maia, 20, and 15-year-old Rina.
Their car was forced off the road, and the terrorists stopped and fired at it again. Twenty bullet casings were found near the car. Maia and Rina were pronounced dead at the scene. Lucy was airlifted to a hospital outside Jerusalem for emergency surgery.
“I called Lucy, no answer. I called Maia, no answer. I called Rina, and no answer. We were slightly panicking at this point and I looked on Google family link and found that they were at the Hamra Junction and that seemed to be where this attack was.
“My son received on this website a photo of the car. Just the car, and we spotted our suitcases in it, covered in blood.”
They turned around and drove back to the junction but police wouldn’t allow them to go to the car.
However, they were shown Maia’s ID card. At that point, they knew the worst had happened.
“We bombed back down the motorway to Jerusalem, went to the hospital, she [Lucy] had just been taken into intensive care and was being prepared for an operation.
“The Friday night of the attack, I was in hospital and I had nightmares and then I woke up and my reality was worse than the nightmares, so I went back to sleep and then I had another nightmare. All I could picture was the moment of the crash and the terrorists and the bullets.
“The next night, I decided to focus on the good and I suddenly focused on my two remaining daughters and my son and I thought about them, and I felt a sense of calm and I was able to sleep.”
Lucy never regained consciousness and died of her wounds three days later. She donated her organs after her death and five people’s lives have been saved as a result.
“She was declared dead on the Monday and we spent that afternoon, one after another we had half an hour, an hour each to talk to her, we sang to her together and we had a lot of time to have her in front of us,” Rabbi Dee said.
One of the recipients of her organs was an Arab.
“I think that is significant to us because Lucy was very much into peaceful relations with our neighbours and I think she would have been very proud that she saved the life of an Arab.”
Thousands of people have travelled from across Israel and the world to pay their respects and bring food to the family Shiva, the seven-day period of mourning in the Jewish faith.
As we arrived, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had just flown in by military helicopter to see the family.
“Lucy was an exceptional human being,” Rabbi Dee said. “She was a community builder, she was someone who gave and that was really her defining feature.
“The kids picked up from that and they’ve learnt to give.”
Maia was working as a counsellor in a school and Reena was at boarding school.
“She [Lucy] would stay up all night talking to girls, particularly girls who were struggling in the group and she would try and help them through their difficulties. She was just busy, busy the whole time. I’m extremely proud of all of them.”
Rabbi Dee was born and grew up in England. He went to Cambridge University and Lucy studied at Oxford – they met in Oxford and married shortly after.
Later he was an assistant Rabbi at a synagogue in north London before moving to Radlett in Hertfordshire. They moved to Israel in 2005.
Rabbi Dee praised the British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly for hardening the initial British response to the attack and said he was calling it the “Cleverly Declaration”, comparing it to the Balfour Declaration of 1917 which said Britain would support the formation of a Jewish state in Palestine.
“I feel that statement, saying that Britain stands unequivocally against violence and against terror, is a landmark in British history in terms of the way it’s dealt with the State of Israel.
“Up until now, there’s not been unequivocal condemnation of violence, there’s actually been a very sort of wishy-washy condemnation of violence which I think is slightly the Foreign Office’s fault,” he said.
“He [Cleverly], did the right thing, he did the true thing and I can only thank him from the bottom of my heart. This may be the beginning of a new cycle of peace.
“We need to stop giving terror any possible window of goodness, we have to condemn it outright, it’s outright evil, terrorists are outright evil. They have to be told that and treated as such.”
The Israeli military and security services are still hunting for the attacker, so far without success.
“I don’t hold any hate towards them. I feel that the Israeli security forces will do what they usually do which is to track them down and bring them to justice which I think is right because it prevents the next attack that they might do.
“I have faith, I have hope and I believe that the violence is actually caused by a small percentage of the Palestinian population and the vast majority of Palestinians are good people.
“They are prime victims of the Palestinian regime, as are the people in Gaza victims of their regime.”