(JNS) On September 16, 2018, Israel lost one of its fiercest defenders when a knife-wielding Arab stabbed Efrat resident Ari Fuld in the back at the Gush Etzion Junction, south of Jerusalem. Fuld used his last breaths of life to chase down and shoot the attacker, wounding him and saving the lives of other Israelis in the terrorist’s path.
Fuld, 45, not only defended Israel on the battlefield in the IDF’s Golani Brigade, and as a reservist in the Second Lebanon War in an elite paratrooper unit, and as a member of Efrat’s emergency first response security team (Kitat Konenut), he was known worldwide for using his keyboard and video camera on social media to share the truth about the Jewish state.
Another one of Fuld’s passions was giving back to IDF soldiers. He often traveled the length and breadth of the country to visit with troops and provide them with any gear they were missing.
Two weeks ago, Fuld was posthumously honored with the Defender of Israel Award at the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) annual leadership meeting in Las Vegas, funded by the Steven M. Mizel Foundation “In Recognition and Gratitude for Ari Fuld’s Courage and His Dedication to Defending Israel and its People.”
Fuld’s widow, Miriam, made clear to JNS that “while I traveled to the conference to accept the award, it was given to Ari, and I accepted on his behalf.”
She said that “the award was most appropriate. Ari’s entire purpose in life can be summed up in one sentence—to defend the People of Israel, in the Land of Israel, through the Torah of Israel.
“He just loved this country so much and its people so much,” she continued. “He spent his time fighting antisemites online, and doing interviews, and making videos, and giving Torah sessions. He tried to reach as many people as he could as far and wide as possible to spread our truth, unapologetically, stressing that we aren’t going anywhere. That was his way of defending Israel and its people. Ari had this deep Jewish pride and I think that is what really pushed him to do everything that he was doing.”
Steven Mizel, the chairman of the eponymous foundation, which is dedicated to supporting Israeli soldiers, border police and emergency response personnel in Israel, told JNS that Fuld was most deserving of the honor. “His actions speak for themselves. The fact that he was stabbed and was able to chase down the terrorist and shoot him before he died says it all.”
For the past several years, the foundation has been honoring exceptional heroes of Israel with its Defender award, at the RJC meetings. Fuld’s bravery was to be recognized several years ago, but due to COVID-19, the award was only presented to Miriam this year.
Shortly after the murder, Miriam and a group of close friends established the Ari Fuld Project in his memory to continue defending the State of Israel and help IDF soldiers, while spreading Fuld’s love of Torah, Judaism and the Jewish People.
Efrat resident Stephen Leavitt, CEO of the Ari Fuld Project and Editor in Chief of JewishPress.com, was a longtime friend of Ari. They met in Yeshivat Hakotel, were drafted together into the IDF and served together in Efrat’s Kitat Konenut. Leavitt told JNS, “The mission of the organization is to continue the projects Ari was working on and was dedicated to—helping soldiers and first response security forces, while teaching Torah and the love of the Land of Israel.”
He said the organization would also focus on getting Ari’s messages out to the world via social media.
Leavitt detailed a few of the organization’s current projects. “We have been supplying first-response volunteer counter-terror units in various communities with gear including tactical helmets and water backpacks. We also have put a special emphasis on providing gear to reserve units, since just like Ari, these are people who pick up and leave their lives—jobs and families—and put the IDF uniform back on in order to protect us.”
The Ari Fuld Project recently hosted a barbeque for a reserve unit, and well-known U.S. conservative commentator host Ben Shapiro joined them to address the unit, Leavitt said.
The organization has also raised funds to provide scholarships for students at the Netiv Aryeh Yeshiva in Jerusalem’s Old City, where Ari taught Torah classes on a regular basis. Through the support of the organization, some of the students have started transcribing Ari’s recorded Torah sessions with the goal of turning them into a book, Leavitt said.
At the same time, the project is fundraising to complete The Ari Fuld Beit Midrash (House of Torah study) learning center within Efrat’s Zayit Raanan synagogue in Ari’s memory. The Fulds were founding members of the synagogue. They consider this one of their most important projects for this year.
In addition, the Ari Fuld Project will soon be helping Efrat’s Eitam Farm and yeshiva for at-risk youth. Leavitt explained, “The farm was established on the Eitam hill for pre-army teens at risk. It’s a place where they can learn Torah and also learn how to farm. Ari used to do guard duty on that hill for many years, so it’s especially meaningful to see the area develop.”
He is hopeful the organization will be able to help provide the facility with more suitable housing for the youths.
“Ari and I drafted together in the army, served on the first response team together and were neighbors in Efrat. He was doing such important work in his short lifetime, and as a friend who recognizes the importance of what he was doing for the nation of Israel, we have to keep his work going. Ari was always an inspiration for me personally. Working to make these projects a reality is something I feel driven to do,” Leavitt said.
Miriam added, “We called it the Ari Fuld ‘Project’” because it is always ongoing. Ari never rested; he was always aiming higher. And that is what we are trying to do.”