On March 6, 2008, sixteen-year-old Avraham David Moses decided to study late at night with his chavruta, learning partner, at Yeshivat Mercaz Harav Kook. At 8:35 p.m., a terrorist from a nearby neighborhood in Jerusalem entered the building and, shooting more than 500 rounds, killed eight students, including Avraham. As soon as his father, Naftali, heard the news, the questions began: Was he wounded? Was he at the hospital? Where was he?
The terrorist, a school-bus driver, began his attack by shooting at three boys, including Yonadav Chaim Hirshfeld, who were standing outside the Mercaz HaRav dormitories. He then killed Roi Roth and Yonaton Yitschak Eldar. He entered the building and made his way to the library. He killed Doron Maharate, an Ethiopian student, who was sitting immersed in his studies. Then he stalked through the library shelves and hunted down four boys who were huddling between the holy books: Neria Cohen, Yochai Lifshitz, Segev Pniel Avichail and Avraham David Moses. The terrorist was killed by Rav Yitzchak Dadon and Captain David Shapira who had rushed towards the sound of the shooting.
After hours of driving back and forth between hospitals, Naftali received confirmation that Avraham hadn’t been brought to any of them. Together with his eleven-year-old son Elisha, he drove to the yeshiva. The noise, the lights and the crowds created what Naftali describes in his book as “a surreal carnival scene.” Here, as he was being ushered to a quiet corner by two social workers, Rav Yerachmiel Weiss, the Rosh Yeshiva of Mercaz HaRav, pulled Naftali into a hug and uttered the words that confirmed what he had refused to contemplate: “Hashem gives; Hashem takes away.”
Asked what gives him the strength to continue in the face of such tragedy, Naftali answers quickly: “One Family – and it’s not a pat answer. Here you’re given the chance to be with people who have been through it and you don’t need words to build bridges. Ayelet, my younger daughter, says that her best friends are the girls she knows from One Family…and she sees them only three times a year.”
Teenaged Son not Martyr
Naftali has four children: Avraham David z”l and Elisha Dan from his first marriage; Ora Dina and Ayelet from his second. Avraham was learning at Yashlatz (Yeshivat Yerushalayim L’Tzeirim) Mercaz HaRav’s high school, one of religious Zionism’s top institutions. During his last year, he had been learning about eighteen hours a day, barely eating or sleeping. Both the administration and his parents were worried: he was obviously struggling with something. Yet, Naftali, who refuses to have the memory of his son usurped into the role of a martyr, remarks that Avraham was “a teenager, with all the problems that come with the territory.” He still knew how to roughhouse with his brother Elisha!
In one of Naftali’s last conversations with Avraham David, they talked about the connection between the physical and the spiritual worlds. Avraham David felt that he could afford to ignore his body and focus entirely on his soul. Naftali, however, using the parable of a musician creating music, explained that just as a musician needs his fingers, an instrument and the notes to create a melody, a person needs, and can use, his body to refine his soul. Father and son never had the chance to reach an understanding.
But Naftali found a way to continue the conversation. During the year after the attack, he organized two concerts: the first in Avraham’s memory; the second, held at Hebrew University, as a memorial for all eight boys. On Avraham’s first yartzheit, Naftali organized a concert in Efrat, where he lives. He opened with the following words: “This is a night to reflect on loss and to ask for God’s mercy, in the place of those who can no longer ask…I need the Holy One to help heal the hole torn in my heart a year ago.”