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Families of the fallen search for the names of their loved ones at the Western Wall Plaza in Jerusalem during an event organized by the 'Menucha v'Yeshua' organization. March 28, 2024

They came to her on a Friday night, long after the Shabbat meal. Everyone was in bed, and Chanie had finally, at long last, managed to fall into a deep sleep.

Her 22-year-old son answered the door. “Where’s your mother?” they asked. Two IDF officers, and a doctor.


“They always bring a doctor,” Chanie Leiter told this weekend. “Because, well … you know.”

They told her son to wake up his mother, a hard-working nurse at a Jerusalem hospital who had been having trouble sleeping since the start of the war.

With just a half hour’s decent sleep, Chanie learned that her son was killed in action in northern Gaza earlier that day. Needless to say, the rest of the night was an endless nightmare.

IDF Major (res) Moshe Yedidya Leiter, 39, was the first Jewish child to be born in Hebron in centuries. Bright from the start, by the age of seven he was already able to differentiate between the different types of gunfire the family heard daily.

“That’s Jewish gunfire,” he would tell his mother. “Nothing to worry about.”

A few years later, the family moved north, to Eli in Samaria, and the boy grew up to become a multi-talented officer, husband to Tzippy and father of six, paramedic and medical student in addition to his involvement in training haredi men to join the IDF’s elite Unit 8200.

The IDF delegation that Friday night could not tell Chanie how her son died. That information was not made available until recently, a wound so raw that tears well in her eyes despite her obvious effort to control it.

“They can’t tell you until after they carry out the full investigation,” she explained. “The place was booby-trapped.”

“I would rather talk about his life than about how he was killed,” she added sadly. “Moshe was born in ancient Hebron in the (Hebrew) month of Cheshvan, and was killed in the same month, Erev Shabbat Parshat Chaya Sarah.”

IDF Major (res) Moshe Yedidya Leiter, hy”d

Through his death, Moshe has since saved the lives of other soldiers facing the same challenges in Gaza. The situation in which he found himself has served one of the “lessons” the IDF has learned as Israeli husbands, fathers, brothers and sons protect those at home, fighting to eliminate the years-long existential threat presented by the Iranian-backed terrorists on Israel’s borders.

“He was a leader among the communities he lived in, loved by all,” Chanie said. “His charisma, sense of humor, and caring personality led people to trust him. He always tried to help the other person to be the best version of themselves.

“As a medical student with a strong conviction to Israel, he didn’t forgo any of his reserve duties. As an officer, he made sure his soldiers were taken care of and knew their duties. ‘It was an honor to serve under his command,’ we were told numerous times,” she said.

“His wide smile and warm personality helped him connect to those surrounding him. He would have been a great doctor, they said in the university, but God had planned differently. Like Moshe Rabeinu who led the Jewish People to Israel, but only saw from afar so our Moshe, passed the exams but hadn’t entered the wards. Yehi zichro baruch.”

A mother’s tribute and a mother’s love; but through his life Moshe Yedidya Leiter also earned the respect and admiration of those who knew him not only at home, but also at war.

‘A Bit of Light, Comfort and Support’
Contending with that pain and learning how to survive the sorrow was the topic of many discussions held this weekend at an event held by the little-known “Menucha v’Yeshua” organization founded and led by Rabbi Mendy Koenig.

Rabbi Mendy Koenig addresses bereaved families during a tour of the Western Wall excavations. March 28, 2024

Some 40 other families, observant and not, were hosted from Thursday afternoon through Saturday night at the Ramada Hotel with full board and special activities for the children, greeted upon their arrival with a cheerful balloon flower.

Bereaved families presented with a cheerful flower upon arrival at the Ramada Hotel in Jerusalem for a weekend of strength organized by the ‘Menucha v’Yeshua’ organization. March 28, 2024

Families were taken on a guided tour of the Western Wall tunnels and excavations. They attended inspirational discussions and panels on bereavement.

Among the featured speakers were Israeli Chief Rabbi David Lau, journalist Sivan Rahav Meir, Rabbi Leo Dee, Racheli Frenkel, Orit-Mark-Ettinger and even managed to laugh with the help of Eden Harel and Oded Menashe.

Families of the fallen search for the names of their loved ones at the Western Wall Plaza in Jerusalem during an event organized by the ‘Menucha v’Yeshua’ organization. March 28, 2024

Music was everywhere, including up to the start of the Sabbath, providing discreet cover for the tears of the women as they lit the memorial candles thoughtfully placed alongside the Shabbat tea lights. The music was there throughout the weekend during all the prayers, at every meal and bringing extra energy to a moving Havdalah service.

Hugs were everywhere as well; hugs between families, bear hugs from Hasidic men for the men, from their wives to the women. These were Hasidim whose message was clear from the start: the people of Israel are one. Period.

“To our friends, the heroes of strength, the dear and beloved holy families: In these challenging times, when your deep personal loss intertwines with our nation’s greater sorrow, a difficult period when the entire nation mourns an unimaginable, painful reality alongside your personal grief … amidst this, the nation of Israel reveals its glory and splendor through immense mutual support, profound brotherly love, and unwavering hope in the resilience and triumph of our eternal people.

“We are grateful for the opportunity to offer you a bit of light, support and comfort during these trying times,” read the handout to the families.

“These hosting days are designed for you – to gain strength, face challenges together, fill hearts with unity, and cling to hope.”

During the meals on Shabbat, Hasidic men in their bekishes and shtreimels circulated through the dining room, smiling and offering liquid simcha – or liquid anesthetic, depending on one’s perspective — with a cart filled with various wines, whiskeys, and chocolate liqueur as music filled the hall.

The renowned Yedidim Choir, together with vocalist Yishai Lapidot and a powerful chazan (cantor) created a world of music throughout the entire weekend, putting some distance, however fleeting, from the pain.

Many families appeared to know each other from similar events, an extra bit of support that was helpful during some of the discussions. Some were willing to share their stories; for others, the wound is too fresh, too raw.

Some families have given permission for to share their stories, a privilege we will bring to our readers in the days ahead.


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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for, and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.