Father of soldier Nathaniel Felber (middle, red shirt) sits next to David Hager (to the right), one of the founders of the Nachal Haredi Battalion at Hadassah Ein Karem Hospital in Jerusalem..
(photo credit: Courtesy)
“The Jewish people should please continue to pray for my brother’s full recovery, because prayer is all we have,” said the brother of Nethaniel Felber, the soldier from the Netzah Yehuda Battalion who was shot in the head earlier this month outside the Givat Assaf settlement.
In an exclusive interview with The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday, Daniel Felber, 26, said he remembers like it was yesterday the afternoon of December 13 – the day a terrorist opened fire on soldiers and civilians standing at a hitchhiking station between the towns of Beit El and Ofra, murdering two people and wounding Daniel’s brother.
“My father sent me a message to call him right away,” Felber recalled. So he walked out of class at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he is a student, and called his dad.
“He gave the phone directly to a soldier, and that soldier spoke to me,” Felber said. “He told me what happened and instructed me to go to Hadassah Ein Kerem as soon as possible, because my brother was in an attack.”
Felber went directly there, beating his parents, who had to drive to Jerusalem from Ra’anana, where the family lives.
The Felbers – parents Joe and Judi; Daniel; Adina, 24; and Nethaniel, 21 – made aliyah in 2008 from Silver Spring, Maryland. An Orthodox family, before moving to Israel they belonged to Young Israel Shomrai Emunah of Greater Washington.
When Felber arrived at the hospital, he had to wait close to 30 minutes for his parents in a too-silent waiting room before he could see his brother and understand the gravity of what had happened. Eventually, a surgeon came out and explained that Nethaniel had been shot in the head.
“It was such a shock to our family,” Felber said.
The family quickly realized they would have to inform their extended family in the US. But before they could do so, family and friends began contacting them – they had read about it in the paper.
Since then, he said, “We have just been at the hospital every day, waiting for visiting hours. In between, people visit with us. His friends come to tell us stories about Nethaniel, and they pray with us.”
Felber said that since the incident, the army, the community and the nonprofit organization One Family have embraced his family. Felber said the army is paying for his brother’s medical care. Nethaniel has also been assisted by the Nahal Haredi Organization, which assists Orthodox soldiers throughout their service.
On December 30, people who served in Nethaniel’s unit will be studying several chapters of Talmud as part of a Yeshivot Hesder communal study event in their comrade’s honor. His father will say a prayer for the soldiers of the State of Israel at the end of the event.
Last Sunday night, several hundred people, including numerous soldiers and the civilian and military heads of the IDF’s Netzah Yehuda Battalion, as well as Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, the municipal rabbi of Safed, attended a prayer rally for Nethaniel at the Western Wall.
The Shabbat prior, hundreds of communities across Israel and the US said special prayers in synagogues for Felber’s recovery, and some 360 Jewish women on five continents participated in challa-making ceremonies on Thursday in honor of the wounded soldier.
“Nethaniel always prayed for all of the Jewish people; now we can repay the favor,” said his father at the Kotel event. Nethaniel’s Hebrew name is Netanel Ilan ben Shaina Tzipora.
Earlier this week, a statement from the Hadassah Medical Center said there has been a slight improvement in Nethaniel’s condition. His condition is still life-threatening, but he has begun breathing on his own. He has also made small movements, including squeezing his sister’s hand and moving his arm when his father was putting tefillin on him.
Felber said that Nethaniel would always help the family with whatever was needed.
“On Fridays, if someone was cooking, he would always be willing to help,” Felber said. “On Shabbat, he would help set the table.... We could always rely on him.”
Now, he said, they are unsure what life will be like for Nethaniel.
“The doctors don’t know how extensive the damage is,” Felber said. “It is really difficult to think about what to do and to plan for the future, when we just don’t know what the future will hold. We just don’t know.”