Tearful teachers mourn loss of 'priceless students of pure gold'

Eight slain Mercaz Harav Yeshiva students buried.

merkaz pigua funeral 224 (photo credit: )
merkaz pigua funeral 224
(photo credit: )
Wrapped in prayer shawls, the bodies of eight slain yeshiva students were laid out on stretchers in the stone plaza outside the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva in Jerusalem on Friday morning. The night before, Ala Abu Dhaim, from the city's Jebl Mukaber neighborhood, killed them and wounded nine of their classmates in the yeshiva's library. Under the beating sun, thousands filled the adjacent street, while others squeezed onto nearby rooftops and porches to bid farewell to the young men. "These priceless students were the best of the best, pure gold. Each one of them had unique and different good values in Torah studies, at work, in charity and kindness," a tearful yeshiva head Rabbi Ya'acov Shapira said. "These gentle souls were slaughtered in a massacre that constitutes the continuation of the Hebron Massacre [of 1929], and the blood of the prophet is still boiling," Shapira said in a eulogy carried into the Kiryat Moshe neighborhood via loudspeakers. "The heads of the nation understand that the heart of the nation is not glad. It is time we understand that an internal and external struggle is taking place in front of our eyes. The time for a spiritual change has come and it will happen only with a strong, good and believing leadership," Shapira said. "We are all in need of mercy, the entire country. And you, the [slain] holy ones, pray for all of us and give good counsel to the families, to the anguished friends." Rabbi Yerahmiel Weiss also cried as he spoke of the young victims; he knew six of them personally. "We live in our limited and small world and we keep presenting our questions to God, and He answers us with a godly depth and the answers are so hard and painful! My heart is dead inside after such a horrible sleepless night. How can one eulogize at Rosh Hodesh [the beginning of the Hebrew month of] Adar, not one student, not two or three, but six students?" he said. "They say it is a mitzva to be happy when the month of Adar begins, and in what joy, God, you took these saints, out of their Torah studies you took them... and left us in great want," Weiss continued. "Let me tell you, God, who you took from us," said Weiss. "Yehonadav [Haim Hirschfeld, 19, from Kochav Hashahar], who graduated from the yeshiva, whose godly kindness, innocent perfection, talent, good mental strength, simplicity and inner beauty made him sanctify himself to you. "You took Yochai [Lifshitz, 18, from Jerusalem], from us, a diligent student. You took Segev [Peniel Avihail, 15, from Neveh Daniel], who excelled in Torah. "You took Yonatan [Yitzhak Eldar, 16, from Shilo] from us, a pleasant young man who loved to sit in the library, from where you took him. "You took Avraham [David Moses, 16, from Efrat], with whom I sat for a long talk only two days ago. He was an honest student and a gentle soul who amazed us with his singing as he read from the Torah. "And you took Neria [Cohen, 15, from Jerusalem], the youngest in the group, who comes from a great family and whose light we already miss." Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar said: "Only after looking into their holy eyes does it become clear what pre-messianic pangs means. This is a terrible blow. "We have paid with our best boys, who were sitting by their Talmuds... Torah was their entire world. "They are the roses that have been picked," he said, in a reference to Song of Songs. Turning to the bereaved relatives, Amar said: "You should know, dear families, that this is a mourning of the entire House of Israel, as one person and one heart, crying as one for the dreadful calamity that has befallen us. We will not be cruel at this hour when we are faced with such a great crisis, and we will rise up to cast away strife to further increase Torah study." Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski also addressed the mourners: "Lord, nations have invaded Your land, desecrated Your holy hall. Eight of our sweet loved ones, may God avenge their blood, who only yesterday were living among us, are no longer with us. Their lives were cut short by lowly murderers... but the murderer did not wish to target them alone, but rather each and every one of us, each and every resident of the holy city of Jerusalem. "For many years our enemies have been trying to ruin our lives, to harm us as much as they can. Jerusalem has paid heavily in blood, and the long, long list was joined last night by our eight sons." The victims were buried in separate ceremonies. Mourners parted from Lifshitz at the Givat Shaul cemetery in Jerusalem. Cohen and Avihail were laid to rest at the Mount of Olives cemetery, also in the capital. Moses was buried in Kfar Etzion, Eldar in Shilo and Hirschfeld in Kochav Hashahar. The funeral of Ro'i Roth, 18, took place in his hometown of Elkana. Doron Meherete, 26, was buried in his home city of Ashdod. The Mercaz Harav Yeshiva is the flagship seminary of the national religious movement, with graduates that include leading rabbis and IDF officers. It was founded in 1924 by the first chief rabbi of Mandatory Palestine, Avraham Yitzhak Hacohen Kook. In September 2007 the yeshiva lost its long-time leader, former chief rabbi Avraham Shapira.