Relatives mourn studious, kindhearted teenagers

"I thought, 'Oh, he is going to call to say he is fine," Leah Moses, who lost her son Avraham David in the attack on Mercaz Harav Yeshiva, tells 'Post'.

mercaz harav funeral 224 (photo credit: )
mercaz harav funeral 224
(photo credit: )
Leah Moses did not immediately assume the worst when she heard of Thursday night's attack at the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva in Jerusalem where her stepson, Avraham David, 16, studied. "I thought, 'Oh, he is going to call to say he is fine," Leah told The Jerusalem Post on Saturday night. "I couldn't take it in." Avraham David Moses had spent the previous Shabbat with them in Efrat, and on Sunday he did his laundry and left for school, as he had done many times before. Her concern grew, Leah Moses said, as the minutes went by without word from Avraham David. Her husband, Naftali, manned the phone and another stepson, Elisha Dan, 11, stayed glued to the news. He kept giving her updates. Naftali tried Avraham David's cellphone, his friends and the yeshiva, but either he couldn't get through, or he didn't learn anything. The only response they received was, "We do not know where he is," Leah said. With each fruitless call their hopes diminished, she said. Eventually, Naftali traveled to a hospital in Jerusalem and then to the yeshiva, where he learned that his son was one of eight students killed by a terrorist in the school library, according to a neighbor, Natan Siegel. Many of the victims were friends, said Siegel. In Avraham David's bar mitzva album there is a photograph of him with another victim, Segev Peniel Avihail, 15. Both Siegel and Leah said Avraham David had been a special child. "He was a really terrific kid. He was very pious. He was very good with his younger brothers and sisters. He was very involved in learning," Leah said. Although he was only in high school, he already was skilled at reading the weekly Torah portion in synagogue. Avraham David was the oldest of two boys from Naftali's first marriage, with Rivkah, and had two half-sisters from his father's second marriage. From his mother, Rivkah, who is married to David Moriah, he has two half-brothers and six stepbrothers. His mother, Rivkah, made aliya from New Hampshire and his father came from Long Island, New York, but Avraham David was born in Israel and his identity as an Israeli was very important to him, said Leah. "He took very seriously the development of good behavior. He would study about being kind and he would walk into the house and help with the dishes," she said. "If we would gossip at the table, he would politely tell us to stop." She spoke of an incident a few years ago when Avraham David gave his little sister his ice cream because she was crying for it. "He said, 'I can't eat it if she is crying,'" Leah recalled. "I never forgot that." In the Kochav Hashahar settlement, neighbor Haya Meir spoke with the Post on Saturday night in glowing terms about Yehonadav Haim Hirschfeld, 19, who had been her neighbor. He was the kind of student who always asked the thoughtful question and had a good answer in class, she said. Hirschfeld was the fifth oldest in a family of 13 children. He himself was involved with children in the community and had worked as a counselor in the Ariel youth movement. Even after he left the movement he kept up his relationships with the kids, Meir said. She was with the Hirschfeld family when they heard of the attack on Thursday night. They also tried to call and couldn't get through, not to him and not to his friends, she said. At first they chalked it up to the lack of reception that often occurs after an attack. Their hopes rose when someone said that they had seen their son alive. But it wavered as time passed and there was still no word. They sent their son-in-law to the yeshiva but then they did not hear from him. In the middle of the night, a rabbi from the area came to their home to tell them the bad news, Meir said. Yehonadav was buried the next day in Kochav Hashahar. In Jerusalem's Givat Shaul cemetery, friends, teachers and relatives walked behind the hearse carrying the body of Yochai Lifshitz, 18. They crowded around the grave, as his father, Tuvia, said a few parting words to his son. "Yochai, we want to tell you one thing, thank you. Thank you for everything you gave us during your time with us," he said. On the Mount of Olives overlooking the Old City, friends and family said good-bye to Avihail, 15, from Neveh Daniel. They were joined by people who did not know Avihail but who also wanted to pay their last respects. Segev Peniel Avihail was the first-born of Rabbi Elyashiv Avihail, the rabbi of Telem and Ad-Olam. His grandfather, Rabbi Eliahu Avihail, is well-known due to his work locating and bringing to Israel "lost Jewish tribes" such as the Bnei Menashe from India. The young Avihail survived a shooting attack several years ago. "Segev was a gift that was given to me and to the entire family for 15 years. He had a pure heart, was a good son and exceptionally diligent in his studies. He loved his brothers and was close to his father," Avihail's uncle Yair Tzukerman said. "Segev was a person who helped everybody constantly. He was always searching for a way to make things better. He loved to study Gemara and was very good at it. When he was informed that he had gotten into the yeshiva he was the happiest person, he proudly ran and told everyone he was accepted," said Ya'akov Tzukerman (no relation), Segev's friend. Neria Cohen, 15, from Jerusalem, was also buried on the Olives Mount, in the priests' section. "He is God's light, a perfect soul who connects to God all the time. He was a true son of the Torah and spent every moment with his study companion. When he understood the essence of the Torah, he was filled with happiness and joy," Rabbi Ze'ev Schor, one of Neria's teachers, said over his grave.