A Dozen More Orphans

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20 Mar 2019

Watching footage of the security camera’s video of this week’s terrorist attack at the Ariel junction and seeing the Arab perpetrator walking towards the bus stop where nineteen-year-old soldier Gal Keidan was patrolling, a voice inside me screamed at Gal to do something, to somehow avoid the tragedy about to occur.

I learned of the attacks late Sunday afternoon. One of our two married children who live in the city of Eli called me and asked if I had heard the news. I braced myself.  “A terrorist attacked people in a few places and a chayal was murdered,” she informed me. She asked me to recite Tehillim on behalf of a rav from Eli, Achiad Ettinger, father of twelve children, who had been critically injured.

Rav Ettinger had been on his way to work in Tel Aviv when he witnessed the terror attack. He turned his car around, pulled out his gun and fired at the terrorist. Rav Ettinger got off four shots before the terrorist shot and wounded him in his head and neck, with the rifle stolen from the murdered chayal.

Rav Ettinger was hospitalized in critical condition and lingered for one day. Nadav Arabel, a brother-in-law, stated, “The family wants to thank all of Am Yisrael for the many tefillot that were prayed since yesterday throughout Israel for the recovery of Rav Ettinger. Since yesterday morning’s terrorist attack, we have discovered that the [good] characteristics of Rav Ettinger in his lifetime, also appeared in his last moments, in that he steered towards the terrorist and attempted to prevent an additional murder—without thinking about himself or his family. This mesirat nefesh characterized him throughout the years.” The family decided to donate the rav’s organs in order to save other peoples’ lives.

For many years, the Ettingers lived in the town of Kedumim. The family then moved to Tel Aviv because Rav Ettinger worked in Tel Aviv as a rav. Four years ago, he founded a yeshiva in the run-down Neve Sha’anan neighborhood. Three years ago the Ettingers left Tel Aviv and relocated to Eli.

Our son, Naftali Yehuda, who lives in Eli with his family, knew Rav Ettinger. On Shabbatot in the evening, the rav would often walk a few miles from his home to a new Eli neighborhood called Neve Shir, which is comprised of about forty families. He was the unofficial rav of the shul. Our son had the zechut to hear the short shiur that Rav Ettinger would deliver between mincha and ma’ariv. Naftali Yehuda told me that they were always very interesting. “The rav sometimes spoke about midrashim about which hardly anyone had ever heard,” he related.

The hespedim for the beloved Rav Ettinger began next to the main shul, Mishkan Eli, continued at the site of the terrorist attack at the Ariel Junction and culminated at the Segula Cemetery in Petach Tikveh, where the late Rav Ettinger’s parents live. Several thousand people attended the funeral.

Rav Avraham Schiller, the rabbi of Eli and of the Mishkan Eli shul said, “You are a hero in your love of Israel, in strengthening southern Tel Aviv…How will Tamar raise twelve children alone? … How will she bring them to the chuppah on her own?…  How does one raise twelve children without a father? … In your heroism, you became an emissary for the entire nation of Israel. Everyone will learn from your actions, both civilians and soldiers.”

Their daughter Efrat cried, “Abba, the accursed terrorist thought that he would make your life cease, but he did not know how much you left here. Abba, you accomplished so much during the time that you were here. All of the time you were at work—at work on yourself and at work for others. You fought to do good…We promise to watch over Ima whom you honored and admired so much, whom you couldn’t live without for an instant. I will take care of the life you left here, all the children will know exactly who you were…It will be difficult, but I promise you that we will do everything in order to continue life with growth and simcha.”

Their oldest son Elyashiv, who is a soldier, eulogized his father, “Abba, all the time you spoke with us about doing more and you showed us how by being a personal example…I promise that I will continue your legacy. They took you, but not your spirit. We will continue it.”

One of the late rav’s projects to help Am Yisrael is the Oz Ev’muna yeshiva he established in a crime-ridden neighborhood in South Tel Aviv. The yeshiva received permission to use an abandoned shul which had been built about 80 years ago. There is a hesder yeshiva, a beginner’s program for men, a post army program and a Kollel.

Following the rav’s murder, one of the yeshiva students said, “He used to always tell me, ‘I’m not impressed by success. I’m impressed by hard work.’ He called me fourteen minutes before the attack, but I was studying, and I missed the call.”

The first victim of the terror attack at the Ariel Junction, nineteen-year-old Gil Keidan from Be’er Sheva, was posthumously promoted to the rank of staff sergeant. He had served in an artillery battalion. He left behind his parents, who had made aliyah from the Soviet Union in the 1970s and two brothers. He was a gifted science and technology student as well as musician.

Soldier and new immigrant from Moldova, Alexander Dvorsky, was injured when, following the attack at the Ariel Junction, the terrorist drove to the nearby Gitai Avisar Junction and shot Alexander. He remains in serious, but stable condition.

Rav Ettinger leaves behind his wife Tamar and twelve children: Moriah, Efrat, Elyashiv, Harel, Elyasaf, Yehuda, Techiya, Tzofia, Benaya, Eliav, Hadas and Roni.

His brother-in-law Nadav noted that the attack occurred a few days before Chag Purim. “Purim is a time of simcha that arrived after the tremendous pain from our enemies’ attempt to destroy us,” he said. “After such heavy mourning and great unity of our nation, the deliverance arrived and with it the simcha as well. We hope that after the heavy mourning we will merit to see this nation unite, and from this great unity we will also merit to see great simcha.

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.