A tale of two Israeli heroes

"Sgt. O" and Amir Fryszer Guttman both acted to save lives on the same weekend.

THE JEWISH community of Halamish where three members of the Salomon family were murdered on July 21. (photo credit: REUTERS)
THE JEWISH community of Halamish where three members of the Salomon family were murdered on July 21.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A week ago Friday night, an Israeli soldier on leave for the weekend acted coolly and courageously, rushing to the rescue of neighbors he heard screaming. “Sgt. O.,” whose full name cannot be disclosed due to the sensitive nature of the elite IDF unit in which he serves, ran to the home of the nearby Salomon family to investigate. When he saw through their window that they were being butchered, he promptly grabbed his rifle and shot the perpetrator.
By the time the scene was over, Yosef Salomon, 70, his daughter Chaya Salomon, 46, and son Elad Salomon, 36, were lying in pools of blood on the kitchen floor. Tova Salomon, 68, would only learn of the death of her husband and two of her children upon awakening from the surgery she underwent to repair the multiple wounds she sustained in the knife attack.
The terrorist who maimed and murdered the Salomons was evacuated to an Israeli hospital, where he was treated for the bullet wound from Sgt. O.’s weapon.
The Salomons had been celebrating the birth of a grandson when 19-year-old Omar Abed from a neighboring Palestinian village entered their home through the front door, which was left open for the guests arriving for dinner. As soon as Abed began his stabbing spree, Elad Salomon’s wife (now widow) ushered all the children present into a bedroom, locked the door and called police.
Sgt. O.’s swift action prevented a far more extensive bloodbath. While Abed, who had written a Facebook post about his plan to kill Israelis, is being hailed in the Palestinian Authority as a “heroic martyr” – and will receive a salary of more than $3,000 per month for his actions – Sgt. O.’s commanders are recommending that he receive an official citation for bravery from the IDF chief of staff.
Such an honor would be more than well-deserved, as this is the second time that Sgt. O. risked his life to save a family in his community. Three years ago, he physically restrained a terrorist who had infiltrated another home in Halamish, holding him until the arrival of security forces.
Sgt. O. is an Israeli hero whose identity cannot be published, but whose life is intact. A different Israeli hero – one who has been a household name in the country for his decades of musical prowess and gayrights activism – was not so fortunate last weekend.
Amir Fryszer Guttman, 41, died a week ago Saturday of organ failure, after rescuing his nine-year-old niece from drowning off the coast of Atlit. Fryszer Guttman held the flailing child, his brother’s daughter, above the surface of the waves, forcing himself to stay conscious while bobbing up and down in the water until help arrived. It was not until he was told that the little girl was safe that he passed out for good. He was rushed to the hospital in a coma, and died the following day.
Fryszer Guttman’s story gripped the nation more profoundly than the international crisis surrounding the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The ongoing chaos, sparked by an Arab terrorist attack on July 14 – in which two Druse Border Police officers were killed outside al-Aksa mosque – feels like yet another chapter in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. By now, the matter-of-fact heroism displayed by people like Sgt. O. is something that the public has come to take for granted.
But Fryszer Guttman’s death caused everyone – even the most secular of his peers in the entertainment industry and LGBT community – to gasp at its eerily divine significance. This is because he lost his life on the very day that he and his friends and family were celebrating the anniversary of the beginning of his new life.
A year ago last July, Fryszer Guttman, a married father of a young son, received the news that he had been misdiagnosed three months earlier with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. After undergoing heavy doses of chemotherapy for cancer he did not have, Fryszer Guttman – whose career suffered along with his health – was told that a mistake had been made. His joy was mitigated only by the fact that the treatment had managed to wreak havoc on his body. A couple of weeks ahead of the beach party he held in honor of his “first birthday” with a clean bill of health, Fryszer Guttman filed a NIS 5 million ($1.4 million) malpractice suit against Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center for the travesty.
At his funeral on Tuesday, his brother, Eyal Perry – whose daughter’s life was saved by Fryszer Guttman – said, “You ascended in a storm to the heavens, as only you know how. We thank you for every moment you were with us.”
In her heartfelt eulogy, actress Gila Almagor, who had performed Fryszer Guttman’s wedding ceremony to his husband, Yanai, also spoke in religious terms.
“The ways of God are beyond my comprehension,” she said, expressing the sentiment of a nation shaken by the sense that the timing and method of our death is predetermined. The only control we may have – as the tales of Sgt. O. and Fryszer Guttman illustrate – is over how we choose to live. On that score, Israel is doing pretty well.
The writer is an editor at the Gatestone Institute.