Each of the more than 1,400 murdered in the war that began on 7/10/2023 with the invasion of Hamas militants into the Otaf settlements has their own story, Dr. Marcel Freilich-Caplon from the Weizmann Institute is one of them but it turns out that she was primarily concerned for the safety of her colleagues who were attacked by missiles at the same time
"Marcellus, how are you?" Dr. Zehava Shertz sent a message to her friend and colleague at the Weizmann Institute of Science, Dr. Marcel Freilich Kaplon, on October 7 at 7:55. It was after a particularly heavy barrage of rockets was fired at Kibbutz Bari, where Marcel had lived for the past 40 years.
Marcel texted back line by line: "Fear God!!! / Enclosed in the Madimim / Penetration in Bari / Shots near the house". Her last message to Dr. Shertz was sent at 8:35. It was a scream emoji.
About two days later a relative recognized Marcel and her husband Dror Kaplan in a Hamas video. They were seen being led by terrorists along with a couple of neighbors from the kibbutz. The family members assumed that Marcel was kidnapped to Gaza and prayed for her safety.
Only ten days after the massacre came the bitter news. Marcel was murdered, along with more than a hundred kibbutz members who lost their lives in the attack. As of this writing, Dror is still missing.
"We were always looking for people like this"
Marcel immigrated to Israel from Morocco at the age of three - the 13th daughter among 14 brothers and sisters. She served in the army as a teacher-soldier, completed bachelor's and master's degrees in chemistry at Ben-Gurion University in the Negev and taught chemistry to high school students.
For years, Marcel was a beloved and admired chemistry teacher. In the late 90s, she met Dr. Miri Kesner, then a researcher in the science teaching department at the Weizmann Institute, who worked with teachers in the south. Dr. Kesner invited her to be involved in the institute's projects in the schools. "Marcel was the type that everyone likes to work with - smart, dedicated and gives energy to others - we were always looking for people like that", she recalls.
""Marcel had a sense of drama. She was very modest, but knew how to speak with pathos and authority and demonstrate with hand movements"
Later, Marcel also enrolled in PhD studies at the Weizmann Institute. Her doctoral research, under the direction of Dr. Kesner and Prof. Avi Hoffstein, was designed to allow 2007th grade students to learn basic concepts in chemistry using interactive tools on the Internet - a groundbreaking topic at the time. After receiving her doctorate in XNUMX, Marcel continued to work in the science teaching department at the Weizmann Institute, and for a short period - also at the Davidson Institute for Science Education. "Marcel dealt with all the elements of science teaching - as a high school teacher, as a developer of learning materials, as a researcher and as a teacher's guide - a variety of skills that are rarely combined in one person," says Prof. Hofstein.
"I was so happy that she agreed to be involved in the projects that we were leading at the time in the teaching of chemistry," says Dr. Kesner and says that Marcel participated, among other things, in the development of a website designed to present the contribution of the science of chemistry to humanity and in the founding team of "We Have Chemistry" - a national competition for high school students. In her work, Marcel aimed to illustrate to teachers and students in the most innovative ways how relevant and essential chemistry studies are to our daily lives - from kitchen processes to the industrial production of medicines.
No less close to her heart was the field of teacher training. She was a senior partner in the institute's team that developed professional learning communities for middle school science and technology teachers, and also served as head of the science teaching department at the Kay Academic College of Education in Be'er Sheva ("Kay College"). Throughout its years of activity, it trained generations of teachers and was particularly active in promoting science teaching in the Bedouin sector.
In the last 15 years at the institute, Marcel has been a partner in the development of science and technology textbooks and interactive digital tools for middle schools. She created hundreds of activities for various projects, including chapters dealing with materials science as part of the "New Treasure" and content for the "Raspberry" project - a large-scale project for personalized online teaching and learning. Together with her colleagues, she published scientific articles and book chapters. The last of which dealt with learning through internet tools and was included in a book on digital teaching and learning in chemistry, which was published in September 2023 by the Royal Society of Chemistry in the UK.
"There are people with good ideas who don't know how to implement them, and there are people who are good at implementing other people's ideas - Marcel, on the other hand, knew how to both come up with excellent ideas and execute them perfectly from scratch," says Dr. Yael Shortz, a friend and colleague of Marcel and who led some of the projects during her participation in the institute.
When Marcel walked into the room, everyone knew
"Marcel had a sense of drama," says Dr. Shortz. "She was very modest, but knew how to speak with pathos and authority and demonstrate through hand movements." She recalls that during the corona epidemic, a new department member, who started working with Marcel in Zoom and had not met her face to face, was amazed when she appeared in front of him for the first time in life size. "She was a small woman with a big presence", she concludes.
When Marcel walked into the room, everyone knew. "It was impossible to miss her. Laughter and lively conversation immediately began," says Dr. Zehava Sharatz, who headed several projects in which Marcel participated at the institute.
""Marcel dealt with all the elements of science teaching - as a high school teacher, as a developer of learning materials, as a researcher and as a teacher's guide - a variety of skills that are rarely combined in one person"
The tendency to theatrics not only made Marcel a fascinating lecturer - combined with a talent for dancing and singing, it also led her to the actual stage. Babari still remembers how she played Eliza Doolittle's kibbutznik daughter in a local adaptation of "The Fair Lady" as part of the kibbutz's 40th anniversary celebrations in the 80s.
Marcel was about to retire from the institute at the end of October, but at the age of 64 she had no intentions of retiring from teaching science. She planned to start a series of lectures and activities on a new topic that fascinated her - Maimonides' medicine, nutrition and a healthy lifestyle from the point of view of modern science.
In her last project at the Shakda Institute, Marcel focused on preparing a seminar in honor of Dr. Zehava Sharatz's 40 years of activity. The event was supposed to take place on October 17. Instead, a funeral ceremony for Marcel was held at the institute.
Two of her children spoke on behalf of the family - Mor Strykovski and Ziv Freilich. On the morning of October 7, Ziv and his girlfriend locked themselves in the basement of Ziv's apartment in Bari, close to the kibbutz fence. They were saved from the massacre by a miracle; The terrorists knocked on the door and moved on without trying to break in.
"I mourn the woman who on Saturday morning, being in her own inferno - another concern on WhatsApp for the safety of my son who was jumped to the base. Dr. Yael Shortz paid tribute to her at the ceremony. "We hoped so much that it would end differently... Rest in peace, dear friend."
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