Nearly two months after St.-Sgt. Ron Yitzhak Kokia, 19, was murdered in a terrorist attack in Arad, a Torah scroll was donated in his name to a high school in Ramat Gan.
The event took place as part of a larger project that was started a year ago by Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan in cooperation with the Oz Vehadar Association, headed by Uri Duppelt, and Yad Labanim, which brings Torah scrolls from abroad to Israel in memory of IDF soldiers who have been killed.
The ceremony was attended by Kokia’s parents, Boaz and Levana, as well as by Ben-Dahan, MK Yehudah Glick, Ramat Mayor Gan Yisrael Zinger and his deputy Mr. Avihu Ben Moshe, Rabbi Aharon Katz, the acting chief rabbi of the city, as well as Zevik Bar-Lev, the director of Usha School in Ramat Gan.
Soldiers from Kokia’s Nahal Brigade as well as parents and students of the school also attended.
“The Torah we are introducing today is in memory of Ron’s life and it is part of a larger Jewish project that I have been promoting in the past year,” said Ben-Dahan at the ceremony on Thursday
“Dozens of Torah scrolls have been brought to Yad Labanim schools and synagogues throughout the country in memory of fallen IDF soldiers and this ceremony takes place at the Usha School because it connects all shades of society in Israel and unifies them into one nation,” he added.
A total of two Torah scrolls were donated by the school by the Utopia Jewish Center in New York, whose community has shrunk in recent years, thanks to the generous donation by David Ivy Itzhaki of West Hempstead, New York, who financed the costs of repairing and transferring the Torah scrolls to Israel.
“We are a family that likes to give, and when we were contacted during the shiva mourning period for Ron we thought that it would be a good mitzva to do,” Boaz told The Jerusalem Post
before the ceremony began on Thursday
“Ron was not religious but he liked to go to synagogue. It was important to him to respect our traditions,” he continued, adding that Ron’s grandfather, after whom he got his middle name, used to take him to pray in a synagogue in Jerusalem on the High Holy Days when he was younger.
The family is also currently helping renovate that Jerusalem synagogue in honor of both of them.
Kokia was stabbed to death while he was waiting at a bus stop outside a shopping mall in the southern city of Arad on November 30
. Two Israeli Beduin men from an unrecognized village near Arad, Khaled Abu Jouda and his half-brother Zahi, were indicted for his murder in late December.
According to Boaz, the family is planning to do more in Ron’s honor, including introducing a scholarship in his name, donating money to renovate a school, and funding a pre-army program for high school students in Arad.
A strong believer in the integration of communities, Boaz told the Post that he also hopes to work with a Beduin organization, which encourages the youth to pursue a higher education.
Kokia’s parents continue to demand the harshest punishment for their son’s killers. Boaz told the Post
that he and the entire family “believe in [being] very tough with our enemies, even those inside our country.”
During the indictment of the two men behind the attack, Boaz Kokia called for the death penalty, saying that “The punishment has to be comprehensive. The death penalty is what the murderers deserve, or at the very least a very long sentence.”
According to Boaz, while the father of the two accused may not have done anything directly related to the murder, “he has committed several other crimes, including marrying several women. That is illegal in our country,” he said.
“I want to be harsh with the close family of the murderers, but I want to bring the others [in the Beduin community] closer to the Israeli community,” he continued, adding that “We [the Kokia family] are not professors. We don’t have Nobel Prizes, but we believe in education, in respect and tolerance.
“I call on people from all sectors and religions in Israel to respect each other, to help each other more,” Boaz continued. “Ron, like everyone in our family, loved and cared for people. He respected everyone, regardless of religious culture or race.”