The brother of an Israeli woman who was murdered along with her husband and three children, including their three-month old baby, in the West Bank four years ago has spoken of the attack aftermath at an event in London, writes Alex Galbinski.
Ruth Fogel, 35, her husband Ehud, 36, and three of their six children, Yoav, 11, Elad, four, and three-month-old Hadas, were killed in their home in the Itamar settlement in March 2011.
Ruth’s brother, Elichai Ben Yishai, 25, now a law student, said: “The attack, in which my sister and her family were killed crossed countries and moved the hearts of many Jewish people all over the world, and 25,000 people attended the funeral.
“I remember many things about my sister and her family – the tranquility of their home, the gentle and loving attention given to the children, the meaningfulness and the depth that were so important for them to infuse in everything they did in their lives. My sister Ruth was always a courageous woman.”
Ben Yishai, the son of a rabbi, was speaking at an event last Wednesday at the Independent Jewish Day School in Hendon, along with three other young people who have all lost family members to acts of terror, to mark Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut that was attended by 250 people, including parents.
They were brought to the UK to attend events by One Family UK, an organisation that seeks to improve the quality of life for victims of terror in Israel and joined the children in remembrance.
“The attack changed my life completely,” Ben Yishai said. “Suddenly, at a young age, I was among the close people who had to take care of the physical and emotional needs of my niece and nephews who had survived the attack, Tamar, Roi and Yishai, who moved to my parents’ home.”
The following day, Ben Yishai returned to the school, where the hall was decked in blue and white, memorial candles flickering, as the children filed in for assembly. After prayers, they sang songs to wish Israel a happy 67th birthday. But amid the celebration of the creation of the Jewish state and the indomitable spirit of the Jewish people, the adults, at least, were conscious of the often high price to pay for its security.
Ana Levitas, 29, whose family made aliyah from Russia and now lives in Holon, told the children she was touched by their affirmation of her country. “It is so emotional. The warmth, the happiness and the reception that they have made,” she said.
She later said her feelings were still raw over the killing of her brother Dima, 25, a captain who had done intensive army service for the previous seven years, and was killed in Gaza last summer. Ana said: “I’m still in shock. We don’t feel like he has gone. We are still waiting for him to come home.”
Shir Hahari’s father Dov, a reservist on the Lebanese border, was killed by a sniper five years ago. Hundreds of people attended the funeral of a man about whom no one had a bad word. Harari, 22, said: “He was the best dad. All the things I am today is because of him. He is with me all the time.”
Ofer Shahar, 26, told me his brother Or was also killed on the Lebanon border in 2006 aged just 20. “Or was too young and too talented and too much of a good guy to die at this age. It shouldn’t have happened.”