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Three Years Later: Remembering The Merkaz Harav Massacre

(By: Chaskel Bennett) Just three short years ago today, Rosh Chodesh Adar, our world was shattered. On that day, the unthinkable happened when eight precious Jewish students were savagely massacred in cold blood by an Arab terrorist while innocently studying their sacred texts in Yerushalayim. On that fateful evening, Merkaz Harav, became our Yeshiva. Our school was attacked and our boys were killed ‘Al Kiddush Hashem’.

I did not personally know them in life, nor did most people here in America, but their murders will forever be linked with our generation. Those eight Kedoshim were Korbonos, our sacrifices, clearly taken from this world in their purest form. The shock and disbelief that news brought drove a knife into our hearts sucking the life out of us too. Rosh Chodesh Adar of all days, normally reserved for festive excitement in preparation for Purim, turned to total darkness.

Young and old were forced to confront our nation’s blood soaked history as bone chilling pictures from the scene graphically informed us of the grisly details. Some with floors and walls marked with shrapnel and bullet holes others of bloodied Seforim (texts) torn and ripped apart. The sheer depravity of the killer was irrational the indifference of the world sadly typical. A devastating reminder that un-united, we are all alone.

In the immediate aftermath of that tragedy, thousands joined the Levaya (funeral), including Admorim, Rabbonim, Z’kainum (elders) and Ketanim (the young) from across the spectrum, all openly mourning Klal Yisroel’s collective pain and immeasurable loss. Who could forget the tears and the heartbreak of the parents who stoically and publically embraced the bitter Besura (edict) from their Father in heaven, without questions and sought to comfort and reassure a shaken nation with divrai chizuk themselves. If ever there was a time to come together as a people, these parents sensed it and turned their grief into a lesson in Mi K’amcha Yisroel. We were, though briefly, one nation.

The shattered and bullet pocked windows put our generation on notice. Living as a Yid in 2008, was really not so far removed from the mesiras nefesh and Kiddish Hashem of heroic generations past after all. The Bais Medrash we visited during Shiva, yes the one with the blood stained floors, remains until this very day seared into my conscious as a fiery testament to the evil and bravery that transpired in the room. Hashem Yinkom Domom.

The inspiration and overwhelming feeling of Achdus (unity) created out of that tragedy was palpable. In our deepest travails, we have always risen as one. May the special families of those sacred neshomos (souls) continue to find comfort and in their Z’chus may all of Klal Yisroel see magnificent miracles and salvation on this day of remembrance.

Yehai Zichrom Boruch

YWN PHOTO LINK: Click HERE to see the heart-wrenching photos of the Merkaz massacre (WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGES), and click HERE to see photos taken at the massive Levaya (funeral).

Eight Heavenly Princes

The following article appeared in the memorial book “Shemonah Nisichei Adam — 8 Heavenly Princes,” recently edited and published in Hebrew by the 12th Graders of Yashlatz.
March 6, 2008

On Thursday evening, the eve of Rosh Chodesh Adar II, 5768, the terrorist entered the“Mercaz HaRav” yeshiva grounds. The terrorist came into the front courtyard at around 8:30pm, carrying a cardboard television box. He set the box down on the railing of the steps leading up to the dormitory building entrance.

He took a Kalashnikov rifle out of the box, and opened fire on a group of students from“Yashlatz” and “Mercaz HaRav” who were standing at the entrance to the yeshiva. Among them was Yonadav Chaim Hirschfeld, hy’d, Ro’i Roth, hy’d, and Yonatan Yitzchak Eldar, hy’d.

The terrorist then walked in the direction of the library, and there his campaign of murder continued. He entered the library through the main door, and began shooting wildly in all directions. Most of the students in the library, who had heard the first round of shooting outside, got up from the tables and hid behind and between the bookshelves. Doron Maharate hy’d, the first one targeted in the library, was so immersed in his studies that he never even left his desk.

Unfortunately, the bookshelves were a death trap. The terrorist proceeded to walk down the aisles between the shelves, shooting at the books and anyone hiding behind them. He then went back to the first row of shelves, and retraced his path, shooting again to make sure that each of his victims was dead.

Five students were murdered in the library: Segev Peniel Avichayil, hy’d, Yochai Lifshitz, hy’d, Doron Maharate, hy’d, Avraham David Moses, hy’d, and Neriya Cohen, hy’d. More students were injured.

At that very hour, the Beit Midrash in “Yashlatz” was being set up for a Rosh Chodesh party. Those students who didn’t want to curtail their learning went to study in the nearby library, and that is where they met their deaths.

At the first sound of gunfire, the students in the “Mercaz Harav” beit midrash escaped, and were offered shelter in nearby apartment buildings. The “Yashlatz” students took cover in their dormitory building. Approximately fifteen minutes after he fired the first shot, the terrorist was shot and killed by Yitzchak Dadon, an avrech (young student) who studies at “Mercaz Harav,” and Captain David Shapira, a graduate of the yeshiva who lives in the neighborhood.

At that very hour, the Beit Midrash in “Yashlatz” was being set up for a Rosh Chodesh party. Those students who didn’t want to curtail their learning went to study in the nearby library,

The Kedoshim, Martyrs

Neria (ben HaRav Yitzchak HaCohen) Cohen HY”D, 15, of Jerusalem, a 9th Grader at Yashlatz who was described as “full of boundless joy, enthusiastic about Torah and life, and forever asking questions, striving to understand a sugya to its depth.“

Segev Peniel (ben HaRav Elyashiv) Avichail HY”D, 15, of Neve Daniel, a 10th Grader at Yashlatz who was described as “sensitive, serious and diligent, a real Talmid Chacham who was completely devoted to his family and friends”.

Yonatan Yitzchak (ben Dror) Eldar HY”D, 16, of Shilo, a 10th Grader at Yashlatz who was described as “having an incredible love for Torah and especially Halacha, and often the last person to leave the Bet Midrash.”

Avraham David (ben Naftali) Moses HY”D, 16, of Efrat, a 10th Grader at Yashlatz who was described as “blessed with a pure neshama, totally honest and with an unparalleled level of scholarship and devotion to his Torah studies.“

Yochai (ben HaRav Tuvya) Lifshitz HY”D, 18, of Jerusalem, a 12th Grader at Yashlatz who was described as “incredibly perseverant, diligent and organized who never wasted a second of his day.”

Ro’i Aharon (ben Yaakov) Roth HY”D, 18, of Elkana, in his first year at Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav, who was described as “someone truly humble, whose prayer was so devout and genuine that it taught and inspired everyone.”
Yonadav Chaim (ben Tzemach) Hirschfeld HY”D, 19 of Kochav Hashachar, an alumnus of Yashlatz and in his first year at Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav, who was described as “always happy, a ball of energy, extremely intelligent and everyone’s best friend.”

Doron (ben Mekonent) Meherete HY”D, 26, of Ashdod, in his tenth year at Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav, who was described as “having a tremendous desire to succeed in Torah, someone with a large heart who loved helping others, and who never got angry.”

List of murdered

Neria Cohen

Segev Pniel Avihail
Neve Daniel

Avraham David Moses

Yehonatan Yitzhak Eldar

Ro’i Roth

Yohai Lipshitz

Yonadav Chaim Hirshfeld
Kokhav HaShahar

Doron Mahareta

(Chaskel Bennett – YWN / YWN World Headquarters – NYC)

6 Responses

  1. Rav Bennet, thank you for your inspirational and heartfelt article. On a positive note, it did bring together many groups of people and SHOULD HAVE brought even more?!?

  2. I remember it clearly. I came earlier that day for family simcha. And I was staying in a hotel 2 blocks away. I went on shabbos to the yeshiva to see the carnage… Hashem Yerachem.

  3. King 19
    forgive me if i sound obnoxious, did you attend the levaya or perform nichum avelim to any of the families? Seeing the carnage is important it confirms the tragedy and pain, yet bringing comfort is an impt ‘ben adom lechavercah’

  4. Yes. Motzai Shabbat I went to the family of Roi Roth for 10 min and then I went straight to airport for my flight back to USA.

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