Our Beloved Bella
Inbal (Bella) Sharfstein - the youngest daughter of Paulina and Eli, and sister to Yael, Aviad and Amichai - was born on Kibbutz Maagan Michael on February 16, 1986. Inbal's parents made Aliyah from the former Soviet Union in 1971 and joined the kibbutz in 1980. The letters 'bet' and 'lamed' in her name were taken from the name of her mother’s father, who died just one year before Inbal was born. In nursery school, her friends started calling her Bella, and this became her name at school, on the judo team, and everywhere else. At home she had many names: 'Inbalush,' 'pitzki,' 'little one,' 'Inbis,' 'Businka,' 'Bosik,' 'Buli,' 'Bulik,' 'Bella,' and 'Inbali.'
It was also in nursery school that Inbal's spunky character started to emerge. It quickly became clear that she was a natural leader. She was both physically and spiritually strong. She always knew what her goals were and what she wanted. Her kindergarten teachers knew how to channel Inbal's energies into the things that most benefited her and the group.
When she was in second grade, she joined her older brother Amichai (her senior by three years) in Judo training Patricia and Orit Bar-On. It was the beginning of a wonderful experience. Inbal's natural athletic talents were discovered almost immediately. In her first matches, she was proud to be known as “Amichai's sister.” Her serious approach to training, and the help and support she provided to those with whom she trained, earned her a great deal of respect in the Bujin-Kan Judo Club. She knew how to win and lose gracefully. She never fell apart after losing a match, but rather always looked ahead to the next one.
One of Inbal's greatest achievements was taking 1st place at the Israel National Judo Championship in the youth-category. But she also took 3rd place in the adult-category two years running, despite her young age. Inbal was a member of the Israel National Judo Youth Team and also completed Wingate College’s judo coaching training program.
Throughout her athletic career, Inbal took part in countless training camps and competitions, in Israel, England, Ireland, Germany and Holland. She worked with a large number of trainers in addition to her regular training team, including Trish and Orit Bar-On, Yael Arad, Rafi Tanai, Liad Echo, and many others.
When Inbal was not training, she was playing basketball and soccer (she was on her high school’s victorious team) or bowling. At the age of twelve, Inbal went skiing with her father and fell in love with that sport as well. When it came to sports, she was a natural at every thing she put her mind to.
Despite her heavy judo training schedule, Inbal's social life was lively and full, with parties, trips and celebrations. Inbal was ‘the life of the party.’ Everything she did she did intensely and completely. Whether it was falling in love or disliking someone, she gave it her all.
Although she was a natural leader, she did not like to stand out in a crowd. Even when she won her gold medal, she kept it modestly tucked away in order to not be conspicuous and to prevent fellow competitors from feeling bad.
During the last year of her life, she accomplished a great deal, as usual. At the beginning of the year, she went to Holland with the club for training and competition. Two months later, she visited the concentration camps of Poland and Lithuania on a class trip. While in Lithuania, she visited her father's childhood stomping grounds. She also visited the grave of her aunt, her father's younger sister, and lit a special commemoratory candle that she brought with her from home especially for that occasion.
Inbal had a special relationship with her family. She loved her brothers Aviad and Amichai and her sister Yael a great deal, and they loved her too. She always found it difficult to be away from them during long trips. She had a special relationship with each one of them.
Inbal had an especially strong bond with her father’s parents in Netanya. She called, visited and wrote letters to them regularly. Sometimes, when she called on the phone, they would speak Russian and try to imitate new Russian immigrants. She knew how to show her grandparents lots of love, support, honor, and respect.
Unfortunately, Inbal was an aunt for only one year – the aunt of Adiyah, the daughter of her sister Yael and Yael’s husband Geremy. It is hard to describe how proud and loving an aunt she was. A month before Inbal’s death, she videotaped Adiyah's first birthday party. She filmed and filmed with great dedication, as if she was trying to capture every last detail. Adiyah adored her, and knew how to return the love that Inbal showed her.
When Inbal met Gal, her first sweetheart, a new kind of joy entered her life - something shared by the two of them alone. It was shattered suddenly by her death. All her friends - from nursery school through high school, and from her many courses and trips – and all of her counselors, trainers, and instructors - from Judo, skiing, and camps - had a special place in Inbal's heart. She kept in contact with them all by phone, e-mail, ICQ, and letters. It is difficult to count all of Inbal's friends. She loved them and they loved her.
Inbal’s pain appeared suddenly and quickly became intense. Suddenly, she needed doctors, medications, and repeated visits to the hospital. Her strong body surrendered to something unexpected.
Inbal died on July 27, 2003 from a blood hemorrhage in the brain.
When it was clear that nothing more could be done to save her, the family was asked to donate Inbal's organs for transplant to save the lives of others. When we decided to donate her organs so that parts of her could live on, we made the most difficult decision we ever had to make. She was always there in heart and soul to lend a helping hand and support those in need.
We knew she would have made the same decision.
Inbal will remain within our hearts forever.