Israeli Family’s Brutal Murder Stuns Nation

Thousands attend the funeral of Rabbi Udi and Ruth Fogel in Jerusalem Sunday. (Photo: Pana Nichuirc)
Thousands attend the funeral of Rabbi Udi and Ruth Fogel in Jerusalem Sunday. (Photo: Pana Nichuirc)

Israel Police blocked off the entrance to Jerusalem and detoured vehicles around the area as more than 20,000 mourners waited silently to accompany five innocent murder victims to their graves.

Under a cold, gray sky Sunday, the crowd was angry but orderly, awaiting the words of the rabbis, family members and community leaders who spoke, one after the other.

Rabbi Udi Fogel, 36, his wife Ruth, 35, and their children Yoav, 11, Elad, 4 and Hadas, 3 months old, had been slashed and stabbed – in the words of one first responder, “literally slaughtered” – by at least one terrorist who had infiltrated their village of Itamar at about 10:30 p.m. Friday night. Two other sons, Ro’i, 8 and Shai, 2, were sleeping and went miraculously unnoticed by the terrorists. A daughter, Tamar, 12, was out at the time, and discovered the murders upon her return at 12:30 a.m.

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Speaking in measured tones at the funeral, Israeli Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger told the crowd, “The murderers succeeded, but only in uniting us.”

Originally residents of the Gush Katif block of villages in the Gaza Strip, the Fogel family moved first to Ariel after Israel’s 2006 disengagement left them homeless. In Itamar, Udi Fogel, an Israeli Defense Force officer, worked as an instructor in the local yeshiva.

When word spread of their murder, shock engulfed a nation.

“I would like to express my deep outrage, outrage which is certainly felt by every Israeli over the murder of a young family,” said Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. “We embrace and support the orphans and the other members of the family. We embrace and support our brothers who reside in Judea and Samaria.

“There is no justification and there can be neither excuse nor forgiveness for the murder of children,” he added. “There has never been anything like this, in which terrorists entered a home and cut children’s throats.”

Rabbi Mendy Kaminker, editor of the popular Hebrew language section of Chabad.org, distilled the emotions of an entire country when he posted a letter to the survivors.

“To the Fogel family,” he wrote, “we don’t know when you will read these lines, if at all. These lines were written a short time after Shabbat, when together with all of the Jewish people, we learned of this ungraspable tragedy that robbed you of your parents, brothers and sister.

“Your loving family will do everything it can to make everything better for you,” he continued. “The people of Itamar will envelop you with warmth and love. But we just wanted to say to you that we are all hurt; we are all feeling your pain. We didn’t know your parents or your siblings, but we all shed a tear when we heard of the horror.”

Kaminker concluded that the survivors were “not alone.”

In the central village of Kfar Chabad, Rabbi Menachem Kutner of the Chabad Terror Victims Project said that his organization will do all it can to assist the survivors. He said that Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries from around Itamar had made contact with the family.

“The community of Itamar, which is very small and intimate, is surrounding the family with warmth and love,” said Kutner. “Right now, we are assessing what the family’s immediate needs are, whether spiritual, emotional or economic.”

Senseless Violence

At the funeral, former Israeli Chief Rabbi and current Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, a survivor of the Holocaust and chairman of the Yad Vashem , lamented that one would have thought such senseless violence spurned by ethnic hatred would have ended with World War II 66 years ago.

But “the river of blood continues to flow and we stand here today helpless,” he said. “What can you say when you see a two or three-month-old baby stabbed to death? We read this past Shabbat the book of the Torah that begins with sacrifices – but who could have thought of sacrifices such as these?”

Turning to Tamar Fogel, he told the preteen: “You will have to be a mother to your younger brothers now.”

Rabbi Yehudah Ben Ishai, a teacher at the Machon Meir Yeshiva and Ruth Fogel’s father, spoke in soft tones of the family’s sacrifice.

“Come, pure souls,” he said, almost in a whisper. “Come … and see. Our children are willing to come to the altar of our Temple, as sacrifices they came.”

He also beseeched the Creator: “Take now our pain as an offering. Pour Your light upon us. Look at who you took.”