The two Jewish men who died following a terrorist attack outside Jerusalem’s Old City walls on Wednesday afternoon, one by a stray bullet from Border Police who killed the assailants, were laid to rest in the capital Wednesday night and Thursday afternoon.
Funeral services were held for Rabbi Reuven Birmacher, 45, a teacher at the Aish HaTorah yeshiva, several hours after being stabbed to death by two Palestinian assailants, while Ofer Ben Ari, 46, was buried on Thursday after succumbing to a bullet wound in his abdomen.
A third man, who sustained serious wounds in the bloody attack, remains hospitalized.
Born in Argentina, Birmacher, who resided in Kiryat Ye’arim, immigrated to Israel five years ago after becoming increasingly observant. He devoted his life to Torah study and teaching in recent years, regularly studying at the Belz Hassidic group’s Torah V’Emuna yeshiva, Chabad.org reported.
The married father of seven children, who died following emergency surgery at Hadassah-University Medical Center in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem, was buried at a cemetery in the capital’s Givat Shaul neighborhood, surrounded by family and friends.
“He was a beloved rabbi and admired greatly by the Spanish branch of our yeshiva,” said Rabbi Steven Burg, director-general of Aish HaTorah.
“The rabbi used the morning to teach Torah and was murdered on his way out of the Old City. The entire yeshiva will attend the funeral. May God strengthen us in this difficult time, and we pray the rabbi will be an atonement on behalf of all of Israel.”
Zvi Klor, director of the Spanish-language program at the Aish HaTorah yeshiva, described Birmacher as a man “full of joy and life,” NRG reported.
The Delegación de Asociaciones Israelitas Argentinas (DAIA), an umbrella organization representing Argentina’s Jewish community, condemned Birmacher’s murder in stark terms.
“The DAIA firmly condemns this abominable crime against a defenseless citizen, which happens daily in Israel, but this time took the life of a spiritual leader belonging to the Argentinean-Jewish community,” the group said in a statement.
Ben Ari, 46, died Wednesday night following surgery at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem. He is survived by his wife and two children.
During his packed funeral Thursday afternoon at the Har Hamenuhot cemetery in Givat Shaul, Ben Ari’s teenage daughter, Yael, sobbed as she eulogized him, Arutz Sheva reported.
“A 16-year-old girl buries her father. It’s unbelievable,” she said. “I can’t talk about you in the past tense. It is simply inconceivable.”
“You won’t accompany me at my wedding,” Yael continued.
“You won’t see my children. It makes no sense. The home is sad and Mom is broken.
And me? I can’t breathe, because a huge part of my life has gone. I can’t fathom that I don’t have a father. I am an orphan now.”
Environmental Protection Minister Avi Gabbay, a childhood friend of Ben Ari, eulogized him as courageous and compassionate.
“I grew up with Ofer, and he was always a courageous person,” said Gabbay. “You were always first, you always cared. I can imagine how you saw the hubbub and ran to take action.”
“The only consolation to the family is that Ofer prevented the terrorist attack from being bigger than it was,” he continued, noting the fortitude of the Israeli people.
“We are a strong nation, and we will stay here forever,” Gabbay said. “May God avenge your blood.”
Indeed, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, who attended the funeral, described Ben Ari as “a true Jerusalemite through and through,” adding that he personified the courage of the Jewish people.
“The courageous heart of Ofer, who went into action bare-handed, is a testimony to the determination of the Israeli people.”
The terrorists, identified as Anan Hamad, 20, and Issa Asaf, 21, who carried out the attacks with knives, are both convicted felons from the West Bank’s Kalandiya refugee camp.
Hamad was imprisoned in 2010 after entering the Kalandiya checkpoint with a knife to attack security personnel, and Asaf was incarcerated this year for participating in unspecified terrorist activity.