Family of IDF soldier who fell to friendly fire: 'Everything that happens must be for the better'

Father of Capt. Yonatan Netanel sends message of forgiveness and solidarity to the tank crew that fired the fatal shot.

yonatan netanel 88 (photo credit: )
yonatan netanel 88
(photo credit: )
Rabbi Amos Netanel, whose son Capt. Yonatan Netanel was killed by friendly fire last week in Gaza, told the IDF tank crew that fired the fatal shot he wasn't angry. "You did not kill Yoni," Netanel told them. "Yoni sanctified God's name at the exact time that it was decreed in the heavens. You were the sacred messengers who carried out God's will. Better that your pure hands kill him and not the defiled enemy hand. Evildoers could not have hurt him." At Rabbi Netanel's request, the IDF Chaplaincy helped him contact the tank crew, currently fighting in Gaza, before Shabbat. "The family very much wanted to communicate our message to the soldiers before the Shabbat," Netanel said. "It was something that we wanted to resolve." Netanel told the tank crew that he and his family were conscious of the fact that casualties caused by friendly fire were part of every war. "Under this working assumption Yoni went out to war, under this working assumption we sent him out to battle. We accept this as part of the struggle to overcome the enemy, and we love you and embrace you." Originally, Netanel wrote the tank crew a letter, but was concerned the soldiers would not receive it, said Netanel's son-in-law Gilad Bartal. Bartal added that it was the Netanel family's faith and dedication to Torah study that helped them overcome the natural tendency toward bitterness for losing a loved one in a military accident. "Years of Torah learning and fostering a faith in God help a person reach the realization that God directs everything in this world, and [that] therefore everything that happens must be for the better," said Bartal, 21. "That's what enables us to say to the tank crew 'we love you.' We cannot control what happens in this world. We can only control how we react." Bartal, who has postponed his IDF service to dedicate himself to learning Torah at Har Hamor Yeshiva, said that faith and Torah scholarship were also what made religious Zionist young men such good soldiers. "From a deep understanding of the Torah we understand our role in this generation is to return to the Land of Israel after nearly 2,000 years of exile and rebuild our nation. "No longer will we go like lambs to the slaughter. This is a generation of courage and uprightness," he said. Bartal was referring to the teachings of Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak Kook, who claimed that as the End of Days and the messianic era drew near, fundamentally different Jewish souls had come into existence that could no longer tolerate the passivity of the exile and were taking action to rebuild the Jewish state. Bartal said that young men like himself and Yonatan Netanel were part of this new generation of Jewish souls. "Through the learning of the Torah we become aware of our mission and this is what gives us strength. I do not like to make the distinction between religious and secular soldiers. There are many secular soldiers who sanctify God's name as well. "But it is clear to me that those who learn Torah are more conscious of their destiny and draw strength from being connected to their roots." Yonatan Netanel dedicated three years to Torah study at the pre-military yeshiva academy at Eli. He was enlisted in the elite Maglan unit, which during the Second Lebanon War operated deep in Lebanese territory. At the end his training he was named the most outstanding soldier in his battalion. During a break in service he decided to enter officers' training course, finishing once again with special distinction. Instead of returning to Maglan, he decided to serve in the Paratroopers Brigade as a deputy company commander. Netanel continued to excel, receiving the mark of most outstanding soldier in his brigade. His father Amos, who also served as a company commander, said that Yonatan had loved his soldiers as though they were his own children. "He cared for them and led them to success in every framework in which he commanded."