UPDATE: 6 pm Wednesday: In two hours, all of the flags in Israel will be raised from half-mast to full-mast as the mourning of Yom HaZikaron comes to an end and the celebration of Yom Atzmaut, Israel Independence Day, begins. All of Israel is under highest security alert.
It has been a mournful day in Israel remembering the lives of 22,993 servicewomen and men who have died while defending Israel since 1860 (the year when some Jews living in Jerusalem left the Old City walls to begin communities elsewhere in the land of Israel). Loved ones and friends throughout Israel have visited cemeteries and attended memorial services. Your humble servant knows of no Israeli family that has not lost someone.
This past year has seen 126 more soldiers and security personnel die while serving the Israel. Today, your humble servant thought he would just take one of those 126 heroes and tell his story.
Moshe Naftali was in many ways a typical Israeli. He grew up in the Ofra community of Judea. Raised in a religious family, Moshe attended a yeshiva high school in the Samarian community of Beit El (the same community whose Ulpana neighborhood is now the source of such controversy).
Moshe then moved to the Golan Heights where he spent a year in pre-military studies at Moshav Keshet. After finishing Keshet, he was drafted into the IDF and chose–following in the footsteps of his father Yosef–to become a member of the elite Golani Brigade quickly rising through its ranks to become a staff sergeant at age 21.
On Thursday, August 18, 2011 around noon, Moshe was with his soldiers on patrol in southern Israel near Eilat when an alarm was sounded that a terrorist attack was taking place against a civilian bus. Racing to the scene, Moshe’s soldiers were met by heavy machine gun fire from the terrorists.
According to Moshe’s citation posted on the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs website:
“St-Sgt Moshe Naftali was killed in the first volley of gunfire when terrorists attacked his force while on their way to assist a civilian bus that was fired upon by terrorists. The terrorists exploded a roadside bomb at the patrol and opened fire on the troops as they exited the damaged cars. One of their bullets killed him. The commander of the Golani Reconnaissance unit eulogized Naftali: ‘Moshe was killed leading his troops heroically.'”
Two days later Moshe was buried with full military honors at Har Herzl Military Cemetery in Jerusalem surrounded by his family–parents, two brothers, and four sisters– friends, and fellow soldiers of the Golani Brigade.
His mother Shulamit said this: “Moshe fought for Israel. He believed in Israel and did everything from faith. He did everything with dedication and perseverence. We are proud of him . . . Even if I didn’t see him, I know as a mother that he fought with courage.”
At the family shiva in Omer, Chief Sephardic Rabbi Shlomo Amar told Moshe’s parents: “Your son had a special soul, an angel’s soul. The fact that he sanctified G-d’s name with his death brought him to a very high level.” Others commented that even while in military service he would come home whenever possible on Shabbat to study with his rabbi and friends.
Also visiting the shiva, President Shimon Peres said that “Moshe represents the values of an entire generation of young people who are dedicated, who have a genuine love for the land of Israel, who serve their people bravely and are willing to give their lives for the security of the state of Israel and its citizens.”
One of Moshe’s closest childhood friends, Arva Tamami poignantly lamented: “Moshe was part of our world, someone who was with us from birth. We woke up in the morning and saw his picture on every website and in every paper. We can’t comprehend it, it’s our Moish, we can’t believe it.”
The story of Moshe Naftali is the story of Israel. We all stand in awe and respect for the brave who have fallen to defend this country.
As noted in recent blogs, a list of vocabulary for Israel supporters to begin using is appended to today’s blog (and every blog for the next month).
1. Use ‘Judea and Samaria’ instead of ‘
the West Bank‘.
2. Use ‘Jewish community’ instead of ‘
3. Use ‘construction of Jewish homes, schools, and hospitals’ instead of ‘
4. Use ‘new Jewish communities’ instead of ‘
5. Use ‘Jewish community member’ instead of ‘
6. Use ‘conservative politicians’ instead of ‘
7. Use ‘PLO’ or ‘Palestine Liberation Organization’ instead of ‘
8. Use ‘Palestinian Islamic Terrorist Organization–HAMAS’ instead of merely ‘
9. Use ‘Israeli men, women, and children’ instead of ‘
10. Use ‘Palestinian cities’ instead of ‘
Palestinian refugee camps‘.
11. Use Palestinian ‘settlements’ instead of Palestinian
‘villages’ or ‘hamlets’.
12. Use Palestinian ‘settlers’ instead of Palestinian
‘farmers’ and ‘villagers’.
13. Use international ‘lawbreakers’ instead of international
14. Use ‘the suicide bomber prevention fence instead of the
‘separation fence’ or ‘wall’.