Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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6 Adar II 5768 - March 13, 2008 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Eight Merkaz HaRav Kedoshim Buried Erev Shabbos

By Yechiel Sever

Last Friday morning, 30 Adar I, the eight yeshiva students Hy"d murdered at Yeshivat Merkaz HaRav in Jerusalem during the heinous massacre in the yeshiva library the night before were laid to rest.

The names of the victims are Neria Cohen, 15, of Jerusalem; Segev Peniel Avichail, 15, of Neveh Daniel; Yonatan Yitzchak Eldar, 16, of Shilo; Avraham David Moses, 16, of Efrat; Ro'i Roth, 18, of Elkana; Yochai Lifshitz, 18, of Jerusalem; Yehonadav Chaim Hirschfeld, 19, of Kochav Hashachar; and Doron Mehereteh, 26, of Ashdod, Hy"d.

Segev Peniel Avichail survived a shooting attack on Telem Road a few years ago. The hundreds of friends and relatives on hand for the funeral held at Mount of Olives Cemetery were slow to take in the terrible tragedy. He left behind his parents and two younger siblings, a boy-girl set of twins. "He was a gift we received 15 years ago," said the uncle of the niftar in his eulogy. "A pure and good-hearted boy. He was exceptionally diligent in his studies and he very much loved his siblings and parents."

A friend at the yeshiva recalled: "When I saw his name on the death notice at first I couldn't believe that Segev was among those killed, but then when it dawned on me I began to cry. Segev loved learning gemara and tried to rectify and improve everything around him. When he was accepted to the yeshiva he ran to tell everybody and was very excited."

Yochai Lifshitz, who had been studying in the library at the time of the attack, was eulogized by his father, Tuvia Lifshitz: "Yochai, we want to say one thing to you: thank you. Thank you for everything you did and everything you gave over the course of 18 years. Now you're together with your friends, the kedoshim, Hashem yikom damam, and Hakodosh Boruch Hu is coming toward you, like a groom to his bride."

His friends said, "On the night of the attack Yochai was in the library and for hours was listed missing, but we knew he had been killed. It's a real blow to us." A resident of the Jewish Quarter in the Old City, Yochai is survived by his parents, four brothers and a sister. Following the funeral procession he was buried at Har Hamenuchos Cemetery in Jerusalem.

The levaya for Yonatan Yitzchak Eldar, 16, set out from the beis knesses in Shilo for the section of the local cemetery set aside for the other kedoshim from the community. He was the sixth of eight siblings.

His eldest brother, David, said in his hesped, "It's so fitting for you to die while learning. What a happy lot for you that you died while engaged in divrei Torah. I admired you for everything you did. For us, Adar will no longer be joyous. But do everything you can, Above, so that this month will be happy for all of Bnei Yisrael." Another brother, Yair, also eulogized him: "You're buried with your gemara. The pages of the gemara will testify for you."

Avraham David Moses, 16, of Efrat, was eulogized by his father. "He's a tzaddik from the shoulders up," he said, choked with tears. "He always made every effort to achieve perfection. He had an amazing sense of integrity." He recalled that on Thursday night, when they heard about the attack, the family looked for the boy in vain. "I heard about the attack while I was at an alumni gathering at the yeshiva I attended. We knew he didn't carry a phone with him most of the time, because he didn't want it to ring in the beit midrash. He didn't answer, but we weren't worried at first because we thought he was busy studying. That's typical of him. We called a friend of his, who didn't answer either. Later it turned out that friend had been killed, too. And then came the stage so many people here go through — the lists from the hospitals and the negative replies from each of the hospitals, and then the hardest moment. Facing the truth we didn't want to hear. Even now we're in a kind of denial."

Hundreds, including many residents of Kochav Hashachar, took part in the levaya of Yehonadav Chaim Hirschfeld, 19, who is survived by his parents and 12 siblings. "He was a serious young man, a lamdan who was constantly at his studies," recalled his friends, through bitter tears. "On Thursday," recalled his neighbor, "his parents tried to reach him and were reassured by the fact that he doesn't have a cellphone. He didn't usually call to update them. They assumed he had hidden away somewhere and therefore was out of touch, and then later they thought he couldn't call because the phone system was overloaded. They tried to contact his friends and acquaintances, but nobody knew anything.

"Eventually they called the emergency center at the yeshiva, and in a brief conversation were told he had been seen. The parents didn't ask who had seen him because of the flood of phone calls on the other end of the line, and that gave them hope. Later they called to ask who had seen him and where. It was after 11:00 p.m. and then they answered with less certainty. They sensed they were trying to avoid saying what had really happened. Their panic level started to rise. Eventually, shortly after midnight, they got a knock on the door from the rav of the town and the doctor and community representatives, who told them there had been a positive identification."

At the home of Doron Heherteh of Ashdod, who was 26 at the time of the massacre, there was also a sense of dread until they received the bitter news their son had been murdered, three years after losing another family member in a tragedy.

"At night we heard from friends about what had happened at Merkaz HaRav," recalled his sister. "We started to make calls to find out what had happened, but nobody could provide us answers. We went through six very difficult hours, during which you have no idea where he is, whether he's injured, whether he's alive, whether he's hiding in one of the rooms. The whole time you don't know what to expect, and just think, `I hope he stays alive.' Only at 2:00 am did we receive the bitter news."

Representatives from the Ashdod Municipality and numerous residents from the neighborhood who wanted to offer the family emotional support arrived. His sister said he would constantly say, "I'm going to learn Torah" and that he loved learning. A ZAKA volunteer told the family that indeed he was killed while learning: he was found on the open book he had been studying from.

Thousands took part in the levaya of Ro'i Roth at the cemetery in Elkana, where the sense of grief was overwhelming. "All of us are weeping," said a family member during one of the hespeidim. "You used to always tell us to be happy, that everything is for the best. You used to teach us middot and derech eretz. Now it's Rosh Chodesh Adar, and you were the one who loved to be happy most of all."

His family members said when they heard about the attack the family was at home in Elkana and despite efforts to calm him the father began sobbing bitterly, though he didn't know at the time that his son had been killed.

All of the eulogizers noted his love of Torah and the happiness he would instill in everyone, especially when he saw someone was melancholy. "He was always in a good mood. Whenever he saw somebody was down he wouldn't leave him until he had recovered. All he wanted was to sit and learn Torah. That's what was important to him."

Neria Cohen, 15, was laid to rest at the Mount of Olives. He is survived by his parents and 11 siblings. "Neria is a candle of Hashem. He was always surrounded by kedusha," said his rav. "He was a ben Torah who toiled in Torah. Divrei Torah were sweeter than honey for him." His friends also recalled, "He was an industrious boy, a diligent learner. He loved learning. He always strove to ensure whatever he did turned out well." Following the hespeidim he was buried at the cemetery on Erev Shabbos to the sound of thousands weeping.


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