Rabbi Yehiel Rothman, 55, died Saturday from wounds sustained almost a year ago in the terrorist attack at the Bnei Torah Synagogue in Jerusalem’s Har Nof neighborhood.
Thousands attended his funeral at Har Hamenuhot Cemetery in the capital Saturday night.
Four other rabbis, Aryeh Kupinsky, 43, Avraham Shmuel Goldberg, 68, Kalman Ze’ev Levine, 55, and Moshe Twersky, 59, also residents of Har Nof, were all killed in what became known as the Har Nof massacre.
The attack was perpetrated by two cousins, Uday Abu Jamal and Ghassan Abu Jamal from Jebl Mukaber in southeastern Jerusalem on November 18, 2014, when they entered the synagogue shortly after 7 a.m. and attacked the men at prayer with knives, meat cleavers and a pistol. A cousin of the attackers killed Rabbi Yeshayahu Krishevsky in an attack in Jerusalem two weeks ago.
Policeman Zidan Saif, 30, died from wounds sustained when he was attacked by the terrorists after he arrived at the scene.
Rothman, originally from Canada, was severely wounded in the attack and never regained consciousness. At the time of his death, Rothman was at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem where he was originally treated following the attack.
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He also was treated at Beit Lowenstein in Ra’anana and Herzog Memorial Hospital in Jerusalem.
During the attack, Rothman is reported to have thrown objects at the terrorists and tried to fight them before he himself was fatally wounded.
The rabbi worked in the State Comptroller’s Office, but would pray and study at the Bnei Torah synagogue and study center. He was a regular participant in the 6:25 morning prayer service and served as a sexton.
“He was one of the most special people in the community,” a Har Nof spokesman said following his death. “He always had a smile on his face.
He was much loved and his death is yet another blow to the community, which suffered such a harsh blow last year.”
Rabbi Ephraim Stein, 57, was at the morning prayer service in the synagogue that was targeted by the terrorists on that day last November. Stein knew Rothman well and they had prayed together at the same service for many years.
“He was very cheerful, very outgoing, full of life and he was always enthusiastic about everything he did,” Stein told The Jerusalem Post Saturday night.
“He would actually sprint to synagogue in the morning, pray and then go to work, while in the evening he would come and study Torah.”
Stein said that in one of his recent visits to the hospital where Rothman was being treated he sensed that Rothman was aware that people were with him in the room.
“The hospital staff said that at times he was more aware of his surroundings than others, even though he was in a coma,” said Stein.
“He looked, to me, to be very peaceful, he looked like a ‘tzaddik,’ a righteous person.”
According to Stein, in the year since the attack, Rothman’s wife Risa spent much of her time at her husband’s bedside, while also taking care of their children still at home.
She also has spoken to the community, together with the widows of the four other men, about her life since the attack and about maintaining one’s faith in such circumstances.
Stein said, for him, life has returned to normal since the attack.
“I thank God for every day he gives me life and health and I try to be deserving of this gift,” the rabbi said.
Writing on Facebook on Saturday night, Rothman’s daughter’s Yaffa, one of his 10 children, said her father “was murdered by inhumane beasts.”
She added, “He fought them and saved others. May his memory be a blessing.”
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