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February 27, 2015 / 8 Adar , 5775
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Sorrow, Determination In Wake Of Itamar Horror

The ghastly discovery of her brutally murdered family will haunt 12-year-old Tamar Fogel for the rest of her life. Returning to her home in the Shomron settlement of Itamar from a friend’s house late Friday night, Tamar found her parents and three of her siblings lying dead in pools of blood.

Palestinian terrorists had entered Itamar by evading an electronic security fence around the settlement and breaking into the Fogel home. They stabbed to death Rabbi Ehud (Udi) Fogel, 36, a former IDF tank unit officer and teacher in an Itamar yeshiva; his wife, Ruth, 35; and three children – Yoav, 11, Elad, 4 and Hadas, 3 months. The perpetrators then left without being noticed, taking with them two stolen rifles.

The Fogels’ two other sons were spared by sleeping in an undetected room: 8-year-old Ro’i and 2-year-old Yishai, found crying and lying next to his bleeding parents, soaked in blood while trying to wake them up.

While Gazans under Hamas rule celebrated the atrocity by handing out candy in the streets, the murdered Fogel family members were laid to rest in the Givat Shaul cemetery in Jerusalem on Sunday. Thousands of mourners packed the cemetery, listening to speakers who decried the loss of a selfless family and roused the crowd to continue building across the land of Israel.

“More construction, more life, more hanging onto the land. This is our answer to the murderers,” said Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin. Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger told mourners, “More building, that’s the answer. In Judea we will always settle and [in] Jerusalem from generation to generation.”

Vice Premier Moshe Ya’alon stressed that “We have never given up on our right to this land. Anyone who gives up this right won’t have security either.” He blamed Palestinian incitement against Jews for the attack and accused Palestinians of “teaching their children that from the Jordan [River] to the sea, Jews have no rights.”
 
Colonel Geva Rapp, an IDF reserve colonel and head of the Panim el Panim Jewish awareness program in Israel, is reeling from the tragedy, which took a personal double toll on him. Ruth Fogel was Rapp’s niece and Udi Fogel was Panim el Panim’s coordinator and lecturer of the Shomron and central region for the past six years.

Rapp describes the couple as “modest, down to earth, with a deep love of Eretz Yisrael, always willing to give of themselves.”

He spoke of “Rav Udi,” who taught in yeshivot after studying at Yeshivat Eli and Yeshivat Har Hamor, as “a true mensch who will be sorely missed” and one who had “love for all people, especially his students.”

Rapp recalls Ruth as Udi’s partner in all his endeavors and a very brave woman. “She drove her car all over Israel without fearing anything or anyone,” Rapp said. Noting the irony of the situation, he remembers how Ruth once told her parents that the best way for a person to finish his life in this world is by sanctifying God’s Name.

The Fogel family moved to Netzarim, one of the most dangerous and isolated settlements in Gush Katif, when they had three small children. Shortly before the Gaza disengagement Udi became a coordinator with Panim el Panim. In an attempt to raise public opinion against the Disengagement, Udi went with several hundred volunteers door to door all over the country explaining how Jews “are one family and one nation.”

When the disengagement was implemented and the Fogels were expelled from their home, “they didn’t feel any anger or hatred, even when Netzarim was being destroyed,” Rapp recalls. “They were only full of love for Israel. If you would ask them what they would want, they would say more unity and more love for the people of Israel, Eretz Yisrael and the Torah.”

Rapp, who served as one of the coordinators of Operation Cast Lead against Hamas, was interviewed by the Knesset Sunday because of his close relationship with both family members.

“In the Knesset they are dealing with politics,” he explained. “This is beyond any politics. I had the zechut [honor]to be Ruthie’s uncle, but in Israel we are really all one family. We share the same history, the same vision and ideas, and we are all shaken by what happened.”

The sheer brutality of the Itamar attack shook the nation and galvanized even those seemingly inured by countless previous terror attacks. It also prompted government officials to approve construction of several hundred housing units in the settlement blocs of Gush Etzion, Ma’ale Edumim, Ariel and Modi’in Illit.

David Ha’ivri, director of Israel’s Shomron Liaison Office, which represents the settlement of Itamar, is not satisfied with the government’s response, calling it “an insult to the memory of that holy family and an insult to the community of Judea and Samaria.”

To Ha’ivri the gesture is too little. “What’s more,” he told The Jewish Press, “there’s no reason to connect the two. It’s not as if we deserve a prize because we’ve been slaughtered. We are citizens of Israel and we are being discriminated against in the issue of building permits. Now to tie the two and to give us some kind of gift in return for our neighbors having been killed is insulting.”

Ha’ivri also slams the government’s offering as “non-significant” because it focuses only on those settlement blocs not on the table in future negotiations with the Palestinians and does not include smaller communities of which the Fogel family were a part.

MK Dr. Michael Ben Ari (National Union), who was a neighbor of the Fogels when they lived in Karnei Shomron for a year and knew them to be “very fine, special people,” concurs with Ha’ivri that the homes that were approved were going to be built anyhow.

“This is like sticking a knife in the backs of the residents of Itamar,” he said.

Ben Ari feels Prime Minister Netanyahu deserves a large measure of blame for the massacre due to his sanctioning IDF raids against settlers, taking down checkpoints, and allowing the Palestinians free movement.

But Ha’ivri reserves most of his anger for Ehud Barak, the minister of defense.

“In any government with accountability,” Ha’ivri said, “a government figure who is such a failure in carrying out his responsibility, who uses his position in order to apply his political policies to settlers in Judea and Samaria, and who is exhausting our army enforcing building permits, destroying trailor homes and taking down check points that are needed for our security – it would be natural for such a person to voluntarily resign. He made faulty decisions that have cost the lives of the people he is being paid to protect.”

Ha’ivri insists that Barak resign.

“If Barak does not have the integrity to do that, then Netanyahu should fire him. Everything that’s been said regarding Barak and his accountability applies to Netanyahu as well, because Netanyahu appointed Barak and could at any time release him from that position.”

Noting the futility of putting too much stock in the alleged moderation of PA President Mahmoud Abbas, Ha’ivri and Ben Ari both pointed to reports by, among others, Jewish Press and WND investigative reporter Aaron Klein, that at least two members of Abbas’s security forces have been arrested in conjunction with the Itamar massacre.

This followed an initial claim of responsibility and a quick reneging on that claim by the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the “military wing” of PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party.

Indeed, just one day after the Itamar slaughter Abbas’s Fatah faction named a town square in Al-Birah, a town near Ramallah, after Dalal al-Mughrabi, the Jihadist mastermind of the 1978 bus hijacking that led to the murder of 35 Israelis,.

If Fatah is responsible, it would be one more massacre to add to the group’s long record of carnage against Jews. Slitting the throat of an infant, however, may be a new low in evil, one that compelled 12-year-old Tamar Fogel to promise her relatives, “I will be a mother to my siblings.”

About the Author: Sara Lehmann, a freelance writer living in Brooklyn, was formerly an editor at a major New York publishing house.


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