Four years ago, on a bright, Sunday morning in Gush Etzion, Ari Fuld walked out of his local supermarket like he had hundreds of times before. Ari had been running an errand for his wife when an Arab teenager from a nearby village cowardly stabbed him in the back. Fuld, a trained IDF paratrooper, gave chase and shot his attacker before he was able to hurt anyone else in the crowded shopping mall. Fuld, fatally stabbed, collapsed and died.
Ari was a hero long before this last brave act of his life. Ari had given up a career in hi-tech to defend Israel to millions throughout the world. Harnessing the power of television, print and social media, Ari spoke strongly about the Jewish people’s right to the land of Israel, the evil of Israel’s enemies and most importantly to him, the lessons of the Torah. He spoke around the world, in halls, synagogues, classrooms and online. Until a terrorist attacked him, nothing could stop him from defending Israel.
Ari’s greatest asset was his conviction in his beliefs. Unlike so many who are convinced of the righteousness of their convictions, Ari was not arrogant. His modesty is something that struck you immediately upon meeting him. It was Ari’s modesty that allowed his message to penetrate the hearts of his listeners. Fuld was able to balance modesty and his conviction in what he believed so his listeners felt how strongly he believed in the truth of his lessons. Ari’s lessons were more than well stated ideas, they were the facts his audience needed to understand to fully grasp the world around them.
Activists on social media are frequently derided as “keyboard warriors,” tough behind a laptop but weak in person. Ari was first a warrior on the battlefield, having fought in Israel’s wars and operations both in Israel and in enemy territory. Ari’s heroics in Lebanon fighting Hezbollah were well known. Ari also led Efrat’s security response team. People who don’t live in Jewish yishuvim (towns) in Judea and Samaria (settlements in the West Bank) aren’t usually familiar with yishuvim’s security teams. Each yishuv has its own security team that are the first responders to Palestinian attacks. They are aware of potential threats and respond to them before the army or police can arrive on the scene. When Ari opined about the steps Israel needed to take to defend herself and stop her enemies, he wasn’t a “keyboard warrior,” but someone with expertise born of experience.
Ari grew up in a household known for its Torah and community activism. Ari’s father is the famed Rabbi Yonah Fuld, former principal of SAR Academy in Riverdale, New York. Torah study was a value stressed in the Fuld household and Ari followed in his father’s footsteps, becoming a Torah educator. For Ari, Torah wasn’t a side value, it was his primary interest and he taught it with unrelenting zeal. Torah colored everything he did, from raising his children to talking about political issues in Israel. It is rare to find someone who can combine Israel advocacy, battlefield experience and Torah scholarship – all with the skill set of being an excellent speaker and educator to impart his ideas on multiple generations through several platforms.
Ari’s murder was a tragedy for his wife, children, parents and siblings. His community of Efrat was thrown into shock and his friends were devastated. His loss extended past his immediate family and social circles. The Jewish people had begun to grow accustomed and even rely on Ari. Even his political opponents admired him and enjoyed engaging with him in respectful, but fierce debates. When an event happened in Israel, from disasters like terror attacks, to celebrations like the American Embassy move from Tel Aviv to Israel’s capital, Jerusalem, you could be sure Ari would be live on social media commenting on it.
The world lacks Ari’s truth and clarity. The political and social discourse has become tainted by falsehood and passive aggressive disrespect masquerading as political correctness. In the four years since he’s been gone no one has filled Ari’s place. Our people have many great teachers and advocates, but none were as great as Ari. May Ari’s death be avenged by G-d and may the Jewish people find strong voices to teach truth.