“You didn’t have a gun, but still you ran [toward the attackers] without thinking twice,” Yael Weissman said in a tear-filled voice as she stood by her husband’s freshly filled grave at Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl Military Cemetery on Friday morning. “You are a true hero.”
St.-Sgt. Tuvia Yanai Weissman, 21, was killed Thursday while trying to stop two Palestinian teenage terrorists from stabbing shoppers at a Rami Levy supermarket in Sha’ar Binyamin.
Addressing hundreds of mourners, Yael described how she and her husband had been in another part of the store with their infant daughter Netta when the teenagers pulled out knives.
“I always knew that if something happened you would be the first person to respond,” Yael said.
Her husband of almost two years, who she called by his middle name of “Yanai” had been a combat sergeant in the IDF’s Nahal Brigade and was only able to be with his family on weekends.
“Yesterday, we went shopping so that when you returned to the army on Sunday you would know that Netta and I had everything we needed and that nothing was missing,” Yael said. “You were always like that. Whenever you were with us during the weekends you did everything you were not able to do during the week when you were away.”
At times, as she stood at the podium, she cried so hard it was difficult for her to speak, particularly as she recalled their last moments in the Sha’ar Binyamin Industrial Zone outside of Jerusalem, where the supermarket is located.
“We came to the supermarket. We were together. You were worried the whole time about Netta and made sure she stayed close to me,” she said. “Then, in one moment, everything happened. We heard there had been a stabbing and even though you did not have any weapons, you ran to help without thinking twice.
“I was not able to stop you and I am not sorry. If you had not raced there [to help], you would not be the Yanai that I know, the one I fell in love with,” she added. “I waited for you to return to me and Netta, I waited for you to hug us and say that everything was fine and that you had succeeding in stopping the terrorists. We waited a long time and you did not return.”
Tuvia Yanai had been stabbed in the upper part of his body as he tried to disarm the two 14-year-old Palestinians who had come to the store from Beitunya, the nearby suburb of Ramallah, were they lived. Another shopper with a gun, shot and wounded Ayham Bassam Ibrahim Subih and Omar Salim Rimawi, who are being treated at Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center and Hadassah University Hospital - Ein Kerem.
Tuvia Yanai was evacuated to Shaare Zedek where doctors tried for several hours to save his life.
An Israeli shopper who had been wounded by the terrorists was released Friday from Hadassah University Medical Center on Jerusalem’s Mount Scopus.
“Yanai, my beloved, who would believe that I would sit and write to you when you were no longer with me,” said Yael, who had known him for seven years, first as a friend and then as the love of her life. “That I would not be able to show you the letter, so you could add it to our collection of correspondence.
“Our love was a very special thing. It didn’t matter how much we disagreed with each other or argued, we always did it respectfully,” she continued.
The time he spent in the army away from their home in the settlement of Ma’aleh Michmash had been hard, she said. “Before we left for the store I hugged you and asked, ‘So, when will we be together like a normal family?’ “We were waiting for your release from the army. We had so many plans.
To fly, to trek, to work, to study and most important of all, to be together,” Yael said.
Her husband was so focused and directed in his short life, that it was almost as if some part of him already knew how little time he had, she said and thanked him “for every moment that we were together.”
“Thank you for the best present you could have given me, our daughter Netta. I couldn’t ask for something more perfect. I promise that Netta will know who you were and how much you loved her. We will never part from you. You will always be with me. Even if I am not with you physically, we will not be apart,” she said. “Give me the strength to look Netta in the eyes and tell her that everything will be fine.
I promise to take care of her as best I can. I am sorry that we did not have a chance to realize our dreams. I love you and already long for you.”
Tuvia Yanai’s mother, Orly, brought the mourners to tears.
“I am going to scream. It is a good scream,” she said.
And then she did, yelling out his name twice, loudly and clearly, so the sound almost seemed to hang for a moment under the bright sun before disappearing.
The sound of people sobbing was all that could be heard for a moment or two before she could begin speaking again.
“We are crying because we loved you so much. You came into the world within seconds and you left within seconds. You lived a full life in the short time that you were here.
What you did in a day, I couldn’t do in a month,” she said. “You knew how to be happy, to be angry, to cry, to love.
You were a wonderful husband and father. I am proud of you.”
Like Abraham in the Bible, her son already had left his parents home a number of years ago.
“There is no greater present than to be true to yourself,” Orly said. “You truly went forth as a man.”
She said she was struck, on the way to the funeral, by how strongly the sun was shining and by the springlike weather.
“I asked God, ‘Are you kidding me?’” How, Orly wanted to know, was it possible for the flowers to be blooming while terrorist attacks were taking place? She asked the mourners to briefly sing with her a well known religious song, that is just one line long, about how the heavens will be happy and the land will be redeemed – a song she said she sings, at times, when she is driving alone in the dark, so that she will be less afraid.
Orly relayed to the crowd how she had said to her son before the funeral: “I closed my eyes and asked you to come to me. You did. You kissed me on the forehead and told me that everyone was fine. Then you said, I have to go, I am going to the source.”
Now, she said, her son’s body was in the ground but his soul, which had been filled with love, was eternal.
When the funeral was over, some of the mourners stood around his grave, with their arms around each other and sang.
Later in the day, US State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner condemned the Rami Levy attack that had killed Weissman, who also had held US citizenship.
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms the attack that took place yesterday in the West Bank.... There is no justification for terrorism. This horrific incident again underscores the need for all sides to reject violence and urgently take steps to restore calm, reduce tensions and bring an immediate end to the violence.
“We extend our deepest condolences to his family and friends,” Toner said.