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Eight students at Yeshivat Merkaz Harav were massacred March 6 by a Hamas terrorist.
News and Opinion

Outrage over Jerusalem Shootings

-- A compendium of Jewish news briefs

(Consulate General of Israel, New York, March 7)

Attack on Jewish Seminary is an Attack on all Civilized Peoples

March 6 at about 8:45 P.M. Jerusalem time, a Hamas terrorist armed with an automatic rifle, handguns, a knife, and extra ammunition shot his way into Yeshivat Merkaz Harav, one of the world's most preeminent schools for Jewish education, and wantonly murdered, in the most barbaric way, eight young Jewish students studying the Torah (Old Testament). Seven of the eight students heinously murdered in yesterday's massacre were under the age of 18. This cowardly and deliberate attack on Israeli children, in what should be the safest of places, serves to highlight the barbarity, cruelty, and inhumanity of Israel's enemies.

The world should take swift and concrete action to unequivocally condemn this massacre, but alas, the UN Security Council once again could not bring itself to speak out against terror inflicted on the Jewish people and the Jewish State.

Although the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned yesterdays attack, this is a declaration expected from any decent human being, and should be followed by action to reign in the terrorists who act on a daily basis to kill Jewish citizens of Israel. Israel is committed to the peace process, but can only make peace with people who are also committed to peace in more than words.

(Agudath Israel America, March 6) --Every terrorist act is despicable. But just as there is a special place in hell for perpetrators of attacks on men women and children doing nothing but going about their daily lives there is a special section there reserved for attackers of young men who were sitting and studying Torah.

Those who were killed, not the murderers for whom Palestinians use the word, are true martyrs, holy innocent souls killed only because they are Jews.

(B’nai B’rith Washington, D.C., March 7, 2008) — B’nai B’rith International denounces Libya’s preventing the United Nations Security Council from passing a resolution condemning the March 6 attack on Jewish students studying in a Jerusalem seminary. Libya justified its stance before the 15-nation Security Council by saying any statement must also condemn recent Israeli actions in Gaza.

“This was a terrorist act, plain and simple,” said B’nai B’rith International President Moishe Smith. “Shooting students as they study is barbaric. Any talk of equating this attack with actions in Gaza is unbelievable; there is no moral equivalence.”

This Security Council’s lack of action stands in stark contrast to the actions of others within the U.N. system on this issue who were quick to condemn the attack and offer concern about the long term impact of Libya’s actions in this matter. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the terrorist action a “savage attack” and in a statement, noted his deep concern “at the potential for continued acts of violence and terrorism to undermine the political process.”

U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad noted: “We regret that this makes it difficult for the Council to contribute positively to developments in this region. But those who blocked this possibility bear responsibility for that.”

(Meretz USA, March 7) -- The brazen murder of eight Yeshiva students, mostly teenagers, in a landmark mainstream Orthodox institution in Jerusalem, has convulsed Israel in sadness and outrage. That this has occurred within a week of the massive operation in the Gaza Strip, killing about 120 Palestinians, is no accident. About half, if not more, of this latter toll were of fighters of the terrorist factions, but dozens were non-combatant civilians, including children.

The intent of the attackers was not the same in these two cases. Israel was attempting to end the ongoing rocket attacks on southern Israel; it did not target civilian victims. The lone terrorist in Jerusalem did exactly that.

Still, there is a "cycle of violence," a term that offends many supporters of Israel because it seems to imply a moral equivalence between acts of terror and efforts to end them. We make no such argument. Israel's intentions to defend itself are justified, but the carnage exacted upon Palestinians is much greater, generally by a large order of magnitude. Clearly, these tactics do not work; violence begets violence.

The only way out is through a ceasefire on the ground and a renewed effort to negotiate a peaceful end to the conflict, a viable two-state solution. President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority has offered to broker a truce between Israel and Hamas; Egypt's good offices might also facilitate an indirect negotiation for such a result.

(Israel Policy Forum, March 7) -- Fundamentally, Israel has two options, both bad, but one is better than the other. The first is military. The IDF can go into Gaza, as it did last week, and try to take out the terrorists. Last week’s incursion is considered a success (although two Israeli soldiers and over 100 Palestinians, mostly civilians—including children—lost their lives).

But it didn’t solve the problem. The rocket fire can resume at any time and, just going by the law of averages, one of these rockets is going to kill a lot of people. That is, of course, the goal of those who are firing them.

Once that happens, if past patterns are repeated, the Israelis will be forced into a full-scale invasion. This is something on which there is general agreement. If something terrible happens, Israel has to invade Gaza and perhaps re-occupy it.

Of course, if an invasion would solve the problem, Israel should do it now, before a catastrophe takes place. I’ll repeat that: if an invasion of Gaza would end the missile onslaught, the Israelis should not wait until a school or a hospital is blown up but should invade Gaza now.

However, the reason the Israelis have not invaded, and are not invading, will remain just as valid after a catastrophic attack. An invasion will not eliminate the Hamas threat from Gaza, could very well strengthen Hamas and weaken Mahmoud Abbas, and would result in the loss of many Israeli soldiers and innocent Palestinian civilians. It could also lead to the long-term re-occupation of Gaza which nobody in Israel wants.

(Haaretz, March 9, Jerusalem) His Face Would Glow With Joy

"His face would glow with joy"

Doron Meherete, 26, Ashdod

Friends of Doron Meherete, the oldest of the eight students murdered Thursday at Mercaz Harav yeshiva, say that his face would glow with joy as he studied with them. Meherete, who came from Ethiopia in 1991 in Operation Solomon, studied for nine years at the yeshiva, where he was known for his trenchant mind and kind heart, challenging others intellectually and lending a helping hand whenever needed.

He was also a counselor at an after-school program for immigrant Ethiopian children. Three years ago he joined the army, under a special arrangement for advanced yeshiva students, served nine months in the armored corps, and fought as a reservist in the Second Lebanon War. He was preparing to become a rabbi, and had already taken some of his ordination exams. Hundreds attended his funeral in Ashdod on Friday. Meherete is survived by two parents and six siblings.

"Like an angel"

Avraham David Moses, 16, Efrat

Avraham David Moses, 16, left behind parents and five brothers aged between two and 11. His parents divorced, remarried and live nearby each other in Efrat. At his funeral, Avraham David's father recounted that his son had visited him at home last Saturday. "I blessed you, put my hand on your head and suddenly grasped how much you had grown in spirit. You did not break. The murderers broke you. You were not a fighter but a loving person - you loved the Torah and studying the Torah. You ended your life studying the Torah."

Avraham David's stepfather, David Moria, said the boy was "like an angel. He had amazing integrity." His mother, Rivka, said thanks for "the 16 years we had the privilege of raising him, 16 years of purity of heart and honesty."

On Thursday night, when they heard of the attack, Avraham David's parents tried to find him but he had no mobile phone. They called all the hospitals in Jerusalem and when they couldn't find his name in any of the lists of the injured, they realized they'd lost their son.

"Everybody always wanted to be with him"

Neria Cohen, 15, Jerusalem

Neria Cohen, who was laid to rest at the Mount of Olives cemetery Friday, grew up in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem's Old City, one of 12 children born to Ayala and Rabbi Yitzhak Cohen. His father is a rabbi at the Esh HaTorah hesder yeshiva in the Jewish Quarter, and was for many years among the heads of the Ateret Cohanim yeshiva in the Muslim Quarter.

Many in Neria's extended family are active in programs that combine religious studies with community outreach and education in poor towns. "Neria's most striking quality was boundless joy. Everyone always wanted to be with him," said Eliezer Avni, a ninth-grade counselor at the Mercaz Harav affiliate where Neria studied. "He was a boy who lived all the ideals in the world, who enlisted for every mission, whether it was activity on behalf of Jonathan Pollard, or on behalf of communities, or the needy."

"A pure soul with a good heart"

Segev Pniel Avichail, 15, Neveh Daniel

Segev Pniel Avichail, who was buried Friday in Jerusalem's Har Hamenuhot Cemetery, was the grandson of two well-known rabbis: Rabbi Eliahu Avichail, who studied the Ten Lost Tribes and their disappearance; and Rabbi Yehoshua Zuckerman, the founder of the El Ami movement and teacher at Har Hamor Yeshiva. Segev Pniel's father, Rabbi Elishav Avichail, is the rabbi of Adora, in the south Hebron hills. His mother, Moriah, was head of a girls’ art school in the community. A few years ago, Segev Pniel and his father escaped injury in a shooting attack on the Telem road. Segev Pniel was the oldest of four children. An uncle, Yair, described him Friday as a "serious student, a pure soul with a good heart."

"A good soul with extraordinary ability"

Yohai Livshitz, 18, Jerusalem

Yohai Livshitz was the second of six children born to Tuvia, a supervisor in Jerusalem's Kotel Yeshiva and Zofiya, a teacher. They live in the city's Jewish Quarter. "His most outstanding quality was his innocence," said Zvi Yehuda Herling, one of the Kotel Yeshiva's instructors, at the funeral. "He had a constant desire to search for his own truth, whether it was to rise before everyone and go to synagogue to study before morning prayer or practice for his army service."

"Thank you for everything you've done and given for 18 years," his father said at the funeral. Yohai's cousin, Jonathan Kelerman, said: "He was a good soul with an extraordinary ability to persist studying the Torah. Even up to his death he was studying Torah in the library."

"An admired guide"

Yehonadav Haim Hirshfeld, 19, Kochav Hashachar

Yehonadav Haim Hirshfeld was the fifth of 13 children born to one of the oldest families in Kochav Hashachar, a community in the Matte Binyamin regional council. His father, Zemah, serves as a mohel in the community and its surroundings. His mother, Elisheva, is a housewife.

Yehonadav went to a high school yeshiva near Mercaz Harav and later continued to study at the yeshiva itself, where he was killed on Thursday evening. He was a "talented young man with broad horizons, intelligent, and an admired guide in the Ariel youth movement," Haya Meir, a neighbor, said.

When his parents heard of the terror attack on the yeshiva they couldn't get a hold of their son, because he had no mobile phone.

The yeshiva's emergency hotline also couldn't help them and they sent relatives to look for Yehonadav. Finally, after midnight, the community's rabbi arrived to inform them officially of his death.

"Full of joie de vivre"

Yonatan Yitzchak Eldar, 16, Shiloh

Yonatan Yitzchak Eldar was buried with his copy of the Nedarim Tractate of the Babylonian Talmud, soaked in his blood. Despite the celebration scheduled at the yeshiva later that evening for the start of the new month, Yonatan didn't want to miss learning his daily page of Talmud and had taken the book with him to the library. One friend says he saw Yonatan studying alone at 1 A.M. Wednesday.

"Usually you think of someone so young who is so deeply involved in Torah study as being square, but Yonatan wasn't at all like that," said Rabbi Uri Bayar, an educator in Shiloh and a friend of the Eldar family. "He was full of joie de vivre and had many interests," Bayar said.Yonatan Yitzchak was buried in Shiloh. After the funeral, his friends gathered at the home of one of them and told stories about their friend. They recalled his love of hiking but also noted that he learned the rules of orienteering out of a book. Yonatan Yitzchak is survived by six brothers and one sister.

His father, Dror, works in high tech. His mother, Avital, is a teacher.

"He felt very close to God"

Roee Roth, 18, Elkana

Roee Roth's friends described him as very spiritual. "He felt very close to God, and about every problem he would say, 'That, too, is from God' and tried to understand what God wanted from him," Eyal, his roommate and friend from home, related. "He prayed long and loud and everyone in the beit midrash [study hall] could hear his 'Amen,'" another friend from Elkana and fellow student at Mercaz Harav, Menashe Zimmerman, said. "He came late to meals, after his prayers."

Roee's decision to study at Mercaz Harav, with its high demands, was part of a spiritual journey that began in high school. In 11th grade, Roee stopped studying Jujitsu, in which he already had a brown belt, because he felt it was cutting into his study time. Roee was the son of Orly and Yaakov Roth. In addition to his parents, he is survived by four siblings.

For local reactions, see our coverage of the Philadelphia Rally.

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