Soldier killed by Gazan shell buried in Jerusalem

Eighteen-year-old Cpl. Yosef Fartuk, son of haredi family, always wanted to serve state.

MOURNER kisses the grave of Cpl. Yosef Fartuk 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
MOURNER kisses the grave of Cpl. Yosef Fartuk 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Cpl. Yosef Fartuk could easily have skipped out on doing army service. The son of an ultra-Orthodox family who lived in the Emanuel settlement, the expected path in his community would have been to go to yeshiva and get an exemption from serving in the IDF.
But Fartuk insisted on being inducted, despite his family’s reluctance.
He was five months into his service in the 7th Armored Brigade when a mortar shell killed him on a base in the Eshkol region, not far from the Gaza Strip, on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, Fartuk, 18, was buried in the Givat Shaul Cemetery in Jerusalem, in a funeral attended by a wide mix of Israelis: Young and old. Religious and secular. Soldiers and students. Settlers and citydwellers.
“Yossi!” the soldier’s father, Avraham, cried out as his son’s body was lowered into the ground and mourners from the immediate family began to toss shovelfuls of soil into the grave, in accordance with Jewish tradition.
Women stood on highperched levels at a significant distance from the grave, from which they could only hear Avraham’s cry, the shoveling of the earth and the sounds of kaddish, the prayer for the dead.
Fartuk’s mother, Amalia, stood on the road far above the gravesite fighting back tears, surrounded by other women and held up by her teenage daughter Leah.
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It wasn’t just that Fartuk, one of eight children, insisted on being drafted and serving in a combat unit. He’d left the haredi lifestyle several years earlier, but continued to identify as a religious soldier – one of the few in his unit. He appeared to be keen to be sent into Gaza, and posted messages on his Facebook page to that effect, including: “Gaza, I’m on my way.”
Several people interviewed at the funeral, as well as interviews on several Israeli websites, indicated that Fartuk had been hoping for a ground invasion of Gaza. “They should either send us in or send us home,” he wrote in one Facebook post.
His commanding officer, who could only be identified as Amitai, said that Fartuk was one of the most promising young soldiers in his unit and was given an award for outstanding behavior during training.
“He was always first, up front. He worried about others’ needs, and I never once heard him complain. He was an excellent soldier, and had he lived, he would have received a very important assignment,” the officer said.
Fartuk’s parents, known as Avi and Amali, did not start out as religious, and had met at Kibbutz Magen in the Eshkol region – the same area where their son was mortally wounded on Tuesday. After marrying, the couple decided to become Breslov Hassidim and moved to Mea She’arim in Jerusalem.
Afterward they moved to Emanuel in Samaria.
Many of their old, secular friends from their childhood and from their army days – Avi grew up in Beersheba and Amali in Holon – were present at the funeral.
“They are very good people, but in these days, with all the news, I’m worried that they will be forgotten,” said Yitzhak Brand, a family friend who used to live near them in Emanuel. “In these tragedies, the people of Israel must come together.”
The family has more than once been touched by war and terrorism. Amali’s father, Shlomo, was seriously wounded in the Park Hotel bombing in Netanya in March 2002.
“Even when he was a young teenager, when he was still wearing his peyot [side-curls], he was saying that he wanted to serve the state,” Miri Ozeri, a neighbor, said of Yosef. “I can remember once getting off the bus with a lot of heavy things, and he insisted on helping me with them. He was the kind who wanted to help.”
Esther Fartuk, a relative who left the rain of rockets on Beersheba Wednesday to come to the funeral, listened to the sounds of her cousin being buried and expressed hope that a cease-fire would be reached – and would stick.
“This can’t continue this way,” sighed Fartuk, who said the family name had come with them from Tunisia. “With a ground operation in Gaza there would only be more and more losses like this, so a ceasefire is our only hope – for now.”