Jerusalem—The Tenth of Tevet, one of the sadder dates on the Jewish calendar, became even more tragic this year in the wake of the most recent vehicular attack in Israel’s capital. IDF soldiers, all of whom were destined for non-combat positions, were taken on a day trip in the midst of their officers’ course to see the ruins of the city whose destruction was being mourned that day. Meanwhile, a Muslim from the nearby hostile Jabel Mukaber village decided to drive his truck onto the paved area at Armon HaNetziv’s Haas Promenade where they were gathered, running over many of the 20-year-old cadets before he was neutralized by an onlooker. Four were left dead, and over 16 injured, all uniformed Israeli soldiers.
The attacker spilled Jewish blood on a date the Chief Rabbinate of Israel has designated as the annual day of mourning for the deaths of those innocents killed because their only crime was being Jewish—even though they originally intended to memorialize the six million murdered in the Shoah, recent events seem to show that hate crimes against Jews are still an epidemic, even in the Jewish State of Israel. Unfortunately, Asara B’Tevet this year gave us more reason to mourn on this very tragic day.
According to Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sunday’s attack is the latest in a continuous wave of terror that began over a year ago. In fact, the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (ITIC) reported Sunday that, since September 13, 2015, Israel has witnessed 169 stabbing attacks, 124 shootings, 51 vehicular attacks and one bus bombing, leaving 46 dead and 648 wounded. As month number 16 of this terror wave reaches its end, there are unfortunately no signs of the attacks slowing down or stopping.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was on the scene very shortly after the attack, and said in a joint statement with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and senior members of the Israeli Police and the ISA (Shin Bet/Shabak): “We know that there has been a succession of connected attacks... we are fighting this enemy, and we know we can defeat it.”
“Unfortunately, there’s no limit to the cruelty of the terrorists who don’t hesitate to use any means to murder Jews and to interfere with day-to-day life in Israel’s capital,” said Jerusalem’s Mayor Nir Barkat. “Any who incite and support terrorism must pay a heavy price.”
While measures are being taken at the time of this writing to contain the threat coming from Islamic terrorists in Jerusalem and especially in the village of Jabel Mukaber, home to perpetrators of the Israeli capital’s most bloody and violent terrorist attacks, many residents question whether enough is being done to prevent the continuation of this wave of terror.
As the State of Israel is gripped with the pain of Sunday’s losses, perhaps most difficult to come to terms with is the youth of those murdered in the attack. All four victims were in their early 20s, preparing to begin a career as intelligence officers in the IDF. All had a bright future ahead of them, and could’ve made a world of a difference for the Israeli people. Let us learn more about each of the four victims of Sunday’s brutal attack.
Corporal Erez Orbach, 20, was born and raised in Alon Shevut in the Gush Ezion Bloc of Judea and Samaria. Orbach was the oldest of six children, and is survived by his parents and family. He is unique among his peers in that he was completely exempt from military service, yet fought for and succeeded at being accepted to the IDF’s Intelligence Corps, into which few volunteers are accepted. Orbach was completing his officer’s training course at his untimely death, and was posthumously promoted to Second Lieutenant. He was buried Monday in K’far Ezion Military Cemetery.
Lieutenant Shir Hajaj, 22, was native to the Jerusalem suburb of Ma’aleh Adumim. Also the oldest in her family, she is survived by her three younger sisters and parents. Unlike some of the victims, Lieutenant Hajaj had already completed the officer’s course, and was serving as an educational advisor to the cadets in training. Meirav Hajaj, Shir’s mother, describes her as being a “flower, a crown jewel,” who inspired all of those around her with “high hopes.” Her friends from Ort Dekel Vilna’i High School remember her fondly as an amazing honors student, “top of her class,” and an even better friend. She was posthumously promoted to First Lieutenant, and was buried Monday in the Har Herzl Military Cemetery in Jerusalem.
Lieutenant Yael Yekutiel, 20, of Giv’atayim, was also an educational officer guiding the officer’s course cadets at the time of the attack. Her childhood friends described her on Channel Two as someone who was “full of light and joie de vivre; it’s hard to describe a person like that.” At shiva, her family remembered her as someone who “loved life, loved everyone and everyone loved her.” Lt. Yekutiel leaves behind a sister and her parents, and was buried Monday in Kiryat Shaul Military Cemetery in Tel Aviv.
Cadet Shira Tzur, 20, grew up and lived in Haifa. She began her service in the IAF, but was then transferred to the intelligence corps, where she was completing officer’s course at the time of her murder. Her family described her to Times of Israel as being “full of life, she liked to give to others and contribute. We’ll always remember her smiling and looking ahead to the next challenge. Shira’s song will never be stopped.” Tzur was posthumously promoted to Second Lieutenant, and was buried Monday in the Haifa Military Cemetery.
By Tzvi Silver, JLBWC Israel