Relatives and friends carry the coffin of Youssef Othman, one of three guards killed in yesterday’s terrorist attack, during his funeral in Abu Ghosh..
(photo credit: RONEN ZVULUN / REUTERS)
With security guard Youssef Othman’s relatives reeling following his death just hours earlier during an attack in Har Adar that killed two other people, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan sought to comfort them by elevating the 25-year-old to the status of a national hero and symbol of coexistence.
Joining in the circle of mourners seated on plastic chairs outside the Othman house in Abu Ghosh, Erdan told Youssef’s father, Issam: “I am filled with amazement at your strength and that of your family and your great contribution to the security of the state. It has to be said in every place that the path of Youssef and the Othman family will win, not the path of the cursed terrorists. We will do everything so that Youssef’s heritage of love and cooperation will win.”
Moments later, Erdan visited the separate area near the back of the house where the women were mourning, and told Youssef’s grandmother. “I am filled with sorrow. We will do everything so that many people see Youssef as an example, so they will see what a person he was, a person who loved people.”
What may have impressed Erdan so much is that Youssef volunteered for the Border Police, served in the territories and received recognition for being an excellent fighter. Although Abu Ghosh is remembered for siding with the Jewish forces during the War of Independence and is known for its friendliness with and hospitality toward Israeli Jews, his path was unusual. Most Abu Ghosh youths take advantage of their exemption from the military and do not serve.
“He is a person who gave to the state from himself, who shielded with his body citizens of Israel,” Erdan said. “It is possible that he prevented an attack in which the cursed terrorist would have entered and shot children on their way to school.”
Issam Othman works in security at nearby Kiriyat Ye’arim (Telz-Stone) and used to work in Har Adar. In fact, it was he who made the connection between Youssef and Har Adar, according to Youssef’s younger brother Suhaib, who himself is about to join the Border Police.
“We are educated in the home to love the State of Israel,” Suhaib, 19, said. He added that Youssef wanted to rejoin the Border Police in a permanent capacity.
Issam Othman described his late son as “an exemplary child, a good child. Everyone loves him. The residents in Har Adar are crazy about him, they consider him one of their own. Also here in the village they all love him. He was a good young man with thoughts of the future and how to advance in life. He served in the border police and was responsible for a security unit at Har Adar. Today he completed his mission in this world.”
He told The Jerusalem Post
that only his belief in the hereafter was keeping him from collapsing from the grief. “I believe the holy one blessed be he will take care of him properly because he is a guardian of Israel, that [God] will open his arms and embrace him. I have no doubt about this. It gives me strength to hang on.”
Summing up his visit, Erdan said: “I know it sounds like a cliché, but I emerge encouraged from the people here. With people like the people in Abu Ghosh you know there can be a better future.”
But not all of the people Erdan met seemed pleased with the hard line posture of the government toward the Palestinians, which, they implied, perpetuates the cycle of violence.
Osama Othman, Youssef’s relative, told Erdan that 20 years ago his brother was murdered in an attack at Jerusalem’s Mahaneh Yehuda market. “It was the same government as today and the conflict still continues. We are not satisfied.
We want a solution. With all due respect to [the] ministers, it is the citizens who are suffering, Arabs and Jews. What is needed is to take responsibility and solve this conflict once and for all. We are asking for solutions. There are many incidents. You should work on it.”
Erdan replied: “I understand you. Everyone wants to solve the conflict. But we need on this difficult day to unite.” He said it was the “interpretation of religion” that causes assailants to carry out attacks like the one that killed Youssef. But then he added: “What caused it is still being investigated.”
Abu Ghosh Mayor Issa Jaber called on his town’s residents not to take reprisals: “What is needed is to exercise restraint, be patient and let the security forces do what is needed. We are a state of law.”
Jaber, from Meretz, voiced criticism about the government’s approach to the Palestinian issue to Erdan: “The majority of the people on both sides want peace. We call on the government to make every effort to achieve the great vision of peace between the two peoples.”
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