“I wish I had died in instead of you,” a tearful Daniel Ben-Gal said on Tuesday as he eulogized his 29-year-old son, a father of four slain by a terrorist the previous day.
“We have no idea how we will continue without you, without your smile and your good face that was always radiant,” Daniel said as he looked at the shroud-covered body of his son, Rabbi Itamar Ben-Gal, laid out on a gurney outside the Har Bracha yeshiva.
Until he was stabbed to death by a 19-year-old Israeli Arab outside the Ariel settlement, Ben-Gal had lived with his family in the small hilltop community in Samaria.
Mourners crowded around the building where he taught to bid farewell to the popular teacher and beloved friend, son, brother, husband and father.
Daniel Ben-Gal said that the moments he spent studying with his son were among the most cherished in his life.
His son put everything he had into teaching the next generation and worried how he could best serve them, Daniel said.
“We received a precious gift [almost] 30 years ago and today we are parting from it in sorrow,” he said.
The head of Yeshivat Har Bracha, Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, said that Ben-Gal had great dreams and was on his way to achieving them.
“You loved your new students... You were a natural leader and we were certain that you would become a principal of a religious boys high school,” Melamed said.
It is hard to believe, but Itamar and his wife, Miriam, had spoken of the possibility that one of them could be killed in a terrorist attack, said Melamed.
They agreed they would do so with courage, Melamed said.
No so long ago, upon seeing a mother mourning for his son, Ben-Gal worried that this could happen to him, Melamed said.
He wanted to tell his mother that she would be strong for the Torah, for the nation and the land, but he did not have a chance to tell her this, Melamed said.
“What are you doing here [laid out on the gurney]? You should be in class,” said Shraga Fruchter, who heads the Bnei Akiva Yeshiva in Givat Shmuel where Ben-Gal had started teaching this year alongside his work in Yeshivat Har Bracha.
“What will I tell your pupils? They are asking me ‘Why? How did this happen?’” Fruchter said to the body of the popular teacher in his school.
“People cried into the night and the morning over your death,” Fruchter said.
To the pupils at the funeral, he said, “We also do not understand why this happened.”
After the main eulogies were finished, mourners walked Ben-Gal’s body a short way down the hill to the community’s small cemetery.
After the burial, Miriam eulogized her husband, saying, “I promise we will stand strong. I will bring up the children to settle the land and we will live the happy lives you would have wanted for us.”
Ben-Gal’s sister, Yiska, recalled how often they spoke and how much he had loved his family.
Last week, Yiska said, she called her brother to say that she missed him, and they agreed that they would spend the Sabbath with their parents, but then it turned out that she was not able to get there.
“And now, where will I go when I miss you?” she asked.
Among her brother’s favorite poems was “If You Desire to, Human Being,” she said, which urged the people of Israel to rise up, by the first chief rabbi under the British Mandate, Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak Kook.
After the funeral, Fruchter and the pupils from the yeshiva gathered around Ben-Gal’s fresh grave.
He told them that helping them had been the reason Ben-Gal taught in their school.
Then they sang a number of mournful melodies including one set to the Rav Kook poem, with the lyrics, “Rise up. Rise up, for you have the strength to do so.”