Thousands Attend Funerals Of Soldiers Killed In Terror Attack

JERUSALEM, ISRAEL - JANUARY 09: The coffin of Shira Hajaj is carried during her funeral on January 9, 2017 in Jerusalem, Israel. Hajaj was one among the four soldiers killed during the truck attack the previous day. (Photo by Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images)
Ilia Yefimovich/Getty

TEL AVIV – Thousands of mourners on Monday attended the funerals of the four soldiers killed by a terrorist in a truck-ramming attack in Jerusalem the previous day.

“Why do we deserve this? Why?” Meirav, mother to 22-year-old cadet Shir Hajaj, asked in her eulogy.

“What will we do without you?” she added.

Hajaj’s funeral at Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem was attended by hundreds of fellow soldiers from her Military Intelligence unit, and neighbors and residents from her hometown of Maale Adumim. Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat was also in attendance.

Hajaj’s uncle Barak told Army Radio ahead of the funeral that Hajaj had been preparing to to give a lecture at Mt Herzl and instead, the family would now be burying her body there.

“She was our flower, simply a magnificent girl. She was always the pride of the family,” Barak said.

Barak said Hajaj was always responsible, so when the family didn’t hear from her on Sunday in the wake of the attack, they knew something was wrong.

“She hadn’t called by 3 or 4 p.m. and we started to become increasingly worried. It’s very painful, she was like a child for all of us – our flower that was plucked,” he said.

Sunday’s terror attack claimed the lives of Hajaj and three other soldiers as well as injuring 16 others, making it the deadliest attack since the start of the upsurge of Palestinian violence in September 2015.

Earlier Monday, Sec.-Lt. Erez Orbach’s funeral took place at a cemetery in Kfar Etzion. Oren, who volunteered for military service, was enrolled as a cadet in the IDF’s Officer Training School.

“Erez was a boy full of motivation and was very determined, but also delicate on the inside, with principles, values and love for everyone. He had health problems and due to his low profile, he had to fight to volunteer for the IDF and go to an officer’s course. His is a very special family,” Rabbi Yaakov Fisher, the rabbi of Orbach’s yeshiva, eulogized.

Acting head of the Gush Etzion Regional Council Moshe Savile said “at this moment we are all with the Orbach family. The family has long been engaged in public activities and unfortunately this is not the first time the extended family is dealing with pain and loss.”

20-year-old cadet Shira Tzur of Haifa was remembered as a “remarkable girl.” Her former principal, Mandi Ravinovich, said, “Everyone regarded her as an exemplary graduate – an outstanding girl, a social leader and also emotionally sensitive to justice and injustices.”

“My heart hurts that in this crazy country a soldier in uniform becomes a target for radical Muslim terrorism and we don’t know how to ensure her well-being on the day that she goes to see Jerusalem,” Ravinovich added.

Twenty-year-old Lt. Yael Yekutiel of Givatayim, the third female soldier killed in the attack, was laid to rest Monday afternoon in Kiryat Shaul. Yekutiel’s father could barely get through the kaddish mourner’s prayer.

“We didn’t have enough time with you. You were so loved and you knew it. It was so fun to be with you. You were so sensitive, smart, caring,” he said amid tears.

Yekutiel’s two sisters then eulogized their sister.

“You loved everyone so much, you loved the world. You were so brave,” said Yekutiel’s older sister, Noga. “You were everything to me – everything. You were my best friend and I knew everything was ahead of us. If the world had only known you, you could have ruled it. You are so special. I love you so much and I will always be with you.”