May Their Memories be for a Blessing

Over the past week and a half, 11 people were murdered in Israel by terrorists marking it as the deadliest time period within Israel since eleven people were killed in a Tel Aviv suicide bus bombing in 2006.

Jewish tradition teaches that ‘anyone who destroys a life is considered by Scripture to have destroyed an entire world; and anyone who saves a life is as if he saved an entire world.’ Today, 11 entire worlds lie in ruins. Each life taken is a calamity. Each name is worthy of the dignity of being mentioned, if even briefly before we shift our collective gaze to the next outrage.

This most deadly week began last Tuesday, March 22, with a terror attack in the southern city of Beersheba. The eldest of those murdered was Menahem Yehezkel, 67, a brother to four. ‘He never bothered anyone. He just went out for a walk,’ said his nephew. ‘It’s a heavy blow, a terrible tragedy.’

Rabbi Moshe Kravitzky, 48, a father of four, was killed when the terrorist rammed the bicycle he was riding with a car. The rabbi was the director of a Chabad House in the city. Renowned for his kindness and generosity, Rabbi Kravitzky ran a synagogue, as well as a local soup kitchen for the poor and elderly.

Two mothers, each of three children, were also murdered on the streets of Beersheba. Doris Yahbas was 49 and Laura Yitzhak, 43. Survived by her husband and three children, Yahbas was first identified by her nephew, a paramedic who rushed to give aid to the stabbing victims. While on the scene he was stunned to discover that one of the victims was his own aunt.

Laura Yitzhak was the sister of a police officer serving at the local Beersheba station. Like Yahbas’ nephew, he too was called to attend the scene of the stabbing. Yitzhak was on her way to meet her husband when she was stabbed at a gas station. Video shows that she was stabbed multiple times while trying to fend off her attacker. After she fell, the terrorist continued to plunge his knife into her before heading off to attack others. So much blind hatred.

In Hadera, Yazan Falah and Shirel Aboukrat, were just 19 when they were murdered this past Sunday, March 27. Both fulfilling their national service as Border Patrol officers. Like so many before them, these brave teenagers lost their lives saving others by battling heavily armed terrorists who were well equipped to kill far more. Falah, was a resident of the Druze village of Kisra-Sumei in the Galilee. He leaves behind grieving parents, a brother, and a sister.

Aboukrat, a resident of Netanya, grew up in a family which immigrated from France. She joined the Border Patrol just six months ago and is survived by her parents and a brother. According to media reports, Aboukrat’s mother lamented to friends that ‘we fled France to have security and here she died, in our country. It does not make sense. I wanted to give [our children] a good life and security.’ A few years back the JCRC hosted journalist Jeffrey Goldberg whose provocative Atlantic cover story asked if given the rising tide of violent antisemitism in France and other western European nations was it ‘time for the Jews to leave Europe?‘ But if Jews are murdered for being Jewish in France and in Israel then where is it safe for Jews to go?

Most recently, on Thursday, March 29, in the Tel Aviv suburb of B’nei Brak, Victor Sorokopot, 32, and Dimitri Mitrik, 24, were murdered while getting a bite to eat. Both Ukrainian nationals they had moved to Israel a few years back to work in the construction trade. They leave behind friends and family who openly wonder where on this earth is it safe to be Ukrainian?

Avishai Yehezkel, a 30-year-old yeshiva student, had taken his 2-year-old son for an evening walk in his stroller. Yehezkel was murdered while heroically shielding his son with his own body. He leaves behind his wife, who is eight months pregnant, and his son who was left alone in the street after his father was killed. Their grief is unfathomable.

Amir Khoury, age 32, was a Christian Arab, a citizen of Israel, and a police officer from the northern town of Nof Hagalil. Khoury died a ‘hero of Israel.’ Khoury was part of a team of two motorcycle officers who caught up with the gunman and killed him, ending the deadly shooting rampage. Fatally shot while saving the lives of his fellow Israelis, Khoury is survived by two sisters and his parents. Thousands, including hundreds from B’nei Brak’s Ultra-Orthodox Jewish community attended his funeral.

Finally, the eldest Israeli murdered in B’nei Brak was Yaakov Shalom. Only 36, Shalom was the son of Rabbi Meir Shalom, a prominent leader of the Jewish Yemenite community in Beni Brak, who died last year of COVID. Notably, Israel is home to roughly 435,000 Jews whose families escaped discrimination and horrific persecution from Yemen. Murdered while simply driving home, Shalom is survived by his mother, wife and four children.

In a few weeks Israelis will observe Yom HaZikaron, which memorializes not just those Israelis who died while serving in Israel’s defense forces, but also those who were murdered by terrorists. In a nation where there aren’t truly any front lines or impenetrable borders it makes sense to honor together everyone who were killed simply because they were Israeli, be they Jewish, Christian, or Druze, a rabbi, mother, father, wife, husband, beloved uncle, or police officer. May all their memories be forever for a blessing.

We had hoped that with the rare confluence of Ramadan, Easter and Passover now would be a period of tranquility and spiritual renewal in the cradle of the world’s monotheistic religions. Horribly, however, year over year this has become a time for Palestinian terrorists to engage in wanton and murderous violence against Israelis. Nevertheless, we take comfort in the Israeli commitment to the free and safe practice of religion in the mosques, churches and synagogues in the Holy Land—and the determination of Israelis to defeat terrorism. May their hands be strengthened for this effort.