Families recall sons' 'inner flame'

amihai rubin 224 (photo credit: )
amihai rubin 224
(photo credit: )
"Ahikam's love for the Land of Israel was so great that there was nothing we could do to stop him from hiking, even in the most dangerous places," Ahikam's father, Rabbi Yehuda Amihai, recounted Sunday. "The last thing he said to me before he left was, 'Don't worry, dad, this time we're taking rifles with us,'" added Rabbi Amihai, dabbing at the corner of his eye with a tissue and sitting close to the ground, his shirt collar torn, in accordance with Jewish mourning customs, as dozens of visitors crowded the small apartment in Kiryat Arba. It was here in this modest flat that Rabbi Amihai, head of the Torah and Land Institute, raised Ahikam and his nine siblings. And it was here that Amihai now tried to come to grips with the depth of his loss. Ahikam and his friend David Rubin, off-duty soldiers serving in elite combat units, were shot dead on Friday afternoon while hiking in Nahal Telem, not far from Kiryat Arba. "He was so full of life," said Rabbi Amihai, who is also the rabbinic authority of Otzar Ha'aretz, a kashrut organization that provides kosher fruits and vegetables grown only by Jews in the shmita (sabbatical) year. Otzar Ha'aretz does not provide kosher supervision to Arab-grown produce so as not to encourage the growth of non-Jewish agriculture in Israel. "Ahikam was so motivated and had such courage. But none of his strengths were channeled to the right aims," added Rabbi Amihai, hinting that the present government was holding the IDF back from winning the war against Palestinian terrorism. Rabbi Elyakim Levanon of Eilon Moreh, who came to offer his condolences, spoke of the folly of the US-backed road map plan. "That is a dangerous document," said Levanon. "It aspires to uproot everything that we have built here." Meanwhile, in an adjacent apartment complex, educator Rabbi Michael Rubin of the Shavei Hebron Yeshiva was sitting shiva for his son. Ahikam and David managed to kill one of the terrorists and seriously wound another. The young woman hiking with them, Na'ama Ohayun, hid from the four terrorists who ambushed the group. She escaped physically unharmed, but is suffering from severe shock. David and Na'ama served together in Kiryat Arba's Youth Council, a body within the municipality that helps decide how to allot taxpayers' revenues for youth group activities. Outside the Rubin and Amihai residences, groups of young men - many in army uniforms, on temporary leave to visit the mourning families - stood smoking and talking. "We won't stop hiking in the Land of Israel," said Aviya, a bearded young man who went to the Makor Haim high school in Efrat with David and Ahikam. "As soon as the seven-day mourning period is over, I know that a group of us will [get together] and head out to wadi Telem where the incident took place. There is no value to the Land of Israel if we cannot explore it, hike it." Avia said that before David had decided to answer the IDF's call to join the elite Naval Commandos (Shayetet 13), he had seriously considered pursuing his Torah studies. But David's desire to serve his country as a combat soldier won out in the end. "He was a real idealist," said Avia. "Not only was he intimately familiar with the Land of Israel, including parts of Jordan, he also knew all the lyrics to the old-time Zionist songs." Ro'i, a close friend of Ahikam, said that he could not believe that his "sweet buddy" was dead. "Ahikam was a fearless trekker," said Ro'i. "He would hike by himself, sleeping alone out in the wilderness. He knew every single hill, creek, wadi and thicket, and he had a photographic memory. "Ahikam was not your classic yeshiva student," added Ro'i. "But he knew large parts of the Bible by heart, and he was uncompromising when it came to adhering to Halacha." Rabbi Amihai noted that neither David nor his son swayed when they prayed. "One of the reasons that Jews sway when they pray is because they need external stimulus to help them get in the mood better. But David and Ahikam were burning with an inner fire. They didn't need anything else."