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Op-Ed: Remembering Israel’s fallen soldiers and terror victims on this solemn day

In honor of Israeli Memorial Day, Rachel Avraham tells the stories of individuals who were killed in this present wave of terror over the past year. As Elie Wiesel proclaimed, “For the dead and the living, we must bear witness.”
Photo Credit: Channel 2 News

As we speak, Israelis are commemorating Memorial Day in honor of Israel’s fallen soldiers and terror victims. For Israelis who served in the IDF and the families of Israeli terror victims, this day has special significance for the entire country honors and remembers those who were killed fighting for this Holy Land and who were murdered merely because they were Jewish Israelis. We Israelis put aside a day to remember them for as the late Elie Wiesel proclaimed, “Without memory, there is no culture. Without memory, there is no civilization, no society and no future.”

On this day, my husband’s family usually travels to Zikhron Ya’akov in order to remember Corporal Hanit Arami, a relative of my husband who was murdered at age 19 in a suicide bombing during the Second Intifada while waiting to take a bus home for Shabbat. In my husband’s family, we also remember the fate of Claude Knapp, another relative who was murdered in a suicide bombing during the Second Intifada at age 29. My husband’s family is no different from other Israeli families for everyone who lives here has their own family tragedies for the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict affects everyone.

Unfortunately, within the past year, more Israeli soldiers and policemen were killed. As JOL reported today, 15 additional policemen have fallen within the past year. Other Israelis and even foreigners also fell victim to Palestinian terror attacks. So on this important day, we remember the 49 people who have been killed and the 724 people who were injured in this present wave of terror in Israel, which has been ongoing since September 2015. In particular, we focus upon the life stories of the civilians, policemen and soldiers who were killed during this wave of terror within the past year. These individuals, some of whom were soldiers and others who were civilians that were killed, had names, dreams and aspirations until their lives were cut short prematurely, thus reducing them to statistical numbers of those slain by Palestinian terrorists in the Holy Land. However, today we remember their names and their stories so that their memory will be a blessing and they can thus live on in our hearts.

On this important day, we remember Hannah Bladon, a 21-year-old British exchange student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who was brutally murdered in a terror attack within the Old City earlier this month. According to her family, “Hannah was the most caring, sensitive and compassionate daughter you could ever wish for.” At the time of her death, she was studying theology, archeology and religion at the University of Birmingham: “She was driven and passionate and her death leaves so much promise unfilled. Our family is devastated by this senseless and tragic attack.” Although she was Christian and not an Israeli citizen, it is also important to remember her on Memorial Day for she was killed because a Palestinian terrorist thought that she was Jewish and for no other reason, even if the Guardian and other British media outlets try to minimize this fact.

Today, we remember Sergeant Elhai Teharlev, age 20, who was murdered in a terror attack at the Ofra Junction while on duty in the West Bank. He served in the 13th battalion of the Golani Brigade and was part of the Hesder Yeshiva Track, which enables many religious Jews to serve in the IDF. His father Rabbi Ohad Teharlev, the head of the Israel Program at Midreshet Lindenbaum in Jerusalem, remembered his son Elhai as a lively child who loved to explore the world around him: “You looked for life in everything. You had so much strength and desire. You were a boy with a generous heart. You had such a big heart. When you were young, you grabbed candies during bar mitzvahs in the synagogue and divided them between the children who didn’t catch them. You were happy with your lot. You had a smile that filled hearts. Your magic grace never left anyone without a smile.”

From the depths of our hearts, we remember the brutal terror attack in Armon Hanatziv, which resulted in the slaughter of IDF Lietenant Yael Yekutiel, age 20; Cadet Shir Hajaj, age 22; Cadet Shira Tzur, age 20; and Cadet Erez Orbach, age 20. The friends of Yekutiel proclaimed: “She was a girl full of light and the joy of life. It is difficult to describe a person like this. Everything she did in order to help others.” The family of Tzur in Haifa noted: “Shira was a girl full of strength. She was always smiling. She was always thinking about how she could contribute.” Orbach’s family noted that he fought to serve in the IDF and will be remembered as one “who always smiled as well as his willingness to help and contribute for the good of all.” And Hajaj was described as the smartest girl in her class. So much young potential was thrown away in this horrendous terror attack. But why? These youngsters were brutally killed in a Palestinian car ramming attack merely because they were Jews living in Israel.  Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman proclaimed: “There was no other reason and no need to look for an excuse, not Jewish settlements and negotiations but an attack inspired by ISIS.”

On this day of national importance for the Jewish people, we remember police officer Yosef Kirma, age 29, and retired Knesset employee Levana Milhi, age 60, who were murdered in a Jerusalem terror attack. Kirma was killed while trying to go after the terrorist. “He fearlessly pursued the terrorist in order to neutralize him and prevent further harm to innocent bystanders,” the police statement said. He was married merely 5 months before he was brutally killed. Milhi was a grandmother of 6, who worked in the Knesset for over 30 years. “Veteran workers remember a very warm woman, loved by all, dedicated, caring and modest,” the Knesset said.

Today, we remember the late Rabbi Michael Mark, the Director General of the Otniel Yeshiva, a father of 10 children, who was murdered in a terror attack in the Hebron Hills. According to Israeli President Reuben Rivlin, “Miki, who was the director of the Hesder Yeshiva (Torah College) in Otniel, saw the school as his life's project and one of the most important projects in Israeli society. The Yeshiva in Otniel has known sad times and to our sorrow, the list of its alumni, who have fallen in Israel's conflicts, is long.”

On this day, we remember 42-year-old Ido Ben Ari, 39-year-old Ilana Naba, 58-year-old Dr. Michael Feige and 32-year-old Mila Mishayev, who were slaughtered in the Sarona Market terror attack in Tel Aviv. Dr. Michael Feige, a sociologist and anthropologist, headed the Israel Studies program at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. His illustrious career researching ancient Israeli society and political myths has made him well known throughout the country. A book he wrote won the 2010 Shapira Award for the best book written in the field of Israel Studies that year. According to a relative, Mishayev was a woman who always laughed and smiled: “She was a smart and educated woman, an academic. There were always a lot of friends around her. It was always nice to be with her. People loved her in the family and in general. She didn’t deserve this.” Ben-Ari was murdered in front of his wife and two children in this terror attack.  His wife, who was also wounded, was taken to Ichilov Hospital.  Ido, a manager at the Coca Cola Company, served in the IDF’s elite Sayeret Matkal commando unit. And Ilana left behind 4 children, whom she will never see again. All of these people are no more thanks to the Sarona Market terror attack. They went out for dinner and never returned.

And of course, we all remember 13-year-old Hallel Ariel Yaffa, a young Israeli girl murdered by a Palestinian terrorist in her sleep after returning from a dance recital. She did not get much of a chance to live at all. She did not live to finish high school, much less to go to the university, serve in the IDF and to get married.  And what was her crime, this poor youngster who loved to dance? She was murdered only because she was Jewish and living in Kiryat Arba.  

As George Elliot proclaimed, “Our dead are never dead until we have forgotten them.” In fact, Elie Wiesel declared that to forget the dead is akin to killing them a second time: “For the dead and the living, we must bear witness.” Thus, on this very important day, we remember all of the around 25,000 Israelis, who have lost their lives since the Israeli-Palestinian conflict began in the 1920’s and whose memory serves as an inspiration for numerous Muslim dissidents including Mohamad Adnan Hussein of the Syrian Peace Movement, who proclaimed: “23,544 martyrs have passed away in order to build a democratic and humanitarian country, which is not similar to any other in the world. It is the only democratic country in the Middle East and the only humanitarian country that supports the Syrian people, who seek freedom and democracy. Israel opened her heart and doors for our people in the South and taught the Syrian regime a lesson they won’t forget through bombing their most protected and important locations. And we, the Syrian people, congratulate the Israelis on their 69th Independence Day and we hope that they will keep supporting us to reach freedom and independence.”

JOL Blogger | Rachel Avraham

Rachel Avraham has an MA in Middle Eastern Studies from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.  She received her BA in Government and Politics with minors in Jewish Studies and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Maryland at College Park. She worked as a content manager and writer for United with Israel and had a blog in the Jewish Press. She has over 4 years of experience working for Zionist non-profits.

Avraham specialty is counter-terrorism, women's rights, minority rights, Middle Eastern affairs and international relations.  

She is the author of Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab Media, a ground-breaking book on terrorism in the Middle East that was endorsed by former Israel Consul General to Miami, former Israel Consul General to Chicago and former Deputy Mayor of Netanya Yitzchak Ben Gad. Click here to purchase the book

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