On Thursday, following the horrendous terrorist attack in Ofra last Sunday where a young mother lost her baby, two soldiers; Sgt Yosef Cohen and Staff Sgt Yovel Mor Yosef were gunned down by another Palestinian terrorist. Yehi Zichro Baruch- May their memory be a blessing.
Also, on Thursday, Israeli forces apprehended the killer of the new born baby. Doctors performed an emergency caesarean in an attempt to save the unborn child, but he died on Wednesday. His mother remains in hospital in a serious condition.
Salah Barghouti who carried out the shootings outside Ofra was killed in clashes with Israeli forces.
Another Palestinian was killed by Israeli forces on Thursday who had shot two Israelis dead two months ago. Ashraf Naalwa, 23, was killed when forces tried to arrest him near Nablus.
So, on one day we have two Israelis murdered, and two terrorists killed.
Then came the Guardian headline:
“West Bank Violence – Two Israelis and Two Palestinians killed”
The fact is that the headline is correct.
The shocking thing is that a mainstream paper can equate the cold-blooded murder of two soldiers to the killing of terrorists. Nothing surprises me anymore. However, I don’t want to focus on the disgraceful anti-Israel focus of the Guardian but more on the two soldiers who were killed.
They were part of Nachal Charedi, a unit in the army created to allow Charedi men to serve in the IDF. It began in 1999 with only 30 people. Today almost 20 years later over 6000 Charedi young men have been part of the IDF as full combat soldiers.
At the funeral Rabbi Eliyahu Merav, Cohen’s stepfather tearfully said in his eulogy “Yosef, sweet child, righteous child, I never believed we would come to this moment, for years I raised you, you great, holy, pure child… full of love, giving and soul.”
Cohen’s father, Eitan, had died when he was young, and Rav Merav raised him as his own. “Dear Eitan, are you happy with your dear child, now? Are you dancing with him up there?” Rav Merav addressed Cohen’s late father in a moving hesped.
I was sent an interview on Israeli news where they spoke to Rav Eliyahu Merav later that night. It was a beautiful moving interview. Rav Merav has a long white beard and payot, he is not your typical father of an IDF solider. He spoke about last Shabbat when Yosef told him during Friday night dinner ‘I am so thankful to Hashem that he has given me the merit that I can protect Am Yisrael’.
Yosef Cohen and Yovel Yosef – two holy men who fell in the line of duty. Two men who believed as Charedi Jews that they had an obligation to defend the State of Israel. They died al Kiddush Hashem.
They understood the idea of the concept of Am Yisrael – one nation of different shapes and sizes, different religious observances but united in our defence and love of the State of Israel.
Another Yosef also understood this.
At the climax of the confrontation between him and his brothers he cannot hold back and he says:
‘Ani Yosef – ha od avi chai? I am Joseph – is my father still alive?
His second phrase makes no sense – Joseph KNOWS his father is alive he has been told countless times by the brothers– why does he need to ask?
Rav Sorotzkin – a Rav from pre-war Europe and later the modern state of Israel gives what I believe to be a beautiful understanding of the verse.
What had occurred up to this point? The brothers had not come to see Yosef but had come to see the viceroy of Egypt, second to Pharoah himself. The brothers could well have been saying things to the viceroy to score political points – to evoke sympathy in their cause. People are prone to saying things in a political arena that may not be exactly accurate.
So, Yosef says – Ani Yosef – I am Joseph – talk to me as brothers, as family not as servants grovelling to a viceroy – tell me truly now – is Dad really still alive? Because family is different, family should be different.
This week we lost two special members of our family, two men who realised that we are one family, who devoted their lives to protect that family. Their families are mourning this shabbat because once again those who hate our family have struck.
However thankfully since 1948 we now have our army that can and will protect its citizens and hunt down its enemies.
The true headline for this Thursday therefore was:
Two Jewish heroes murdered, two enemies of the Jewish people who will never murder again.
Rabbi Andrew Shaw