A Once in a Lifetime Boy

Michal Peretz, a friend of the Fogel family, remembers Yoav Fogel with his friends, teachers, and family members.

Michal Peretz , | updated: 03:17

Yoav Fogel
Yoav Fogel
Israel News photo

I first met Yoav Fogel when he was just four months old on the day in which the truck began to unload all our furniture in our new home in Karmei Tzur.

Ruth, Yoav’s mother, and I embraced and were excited by the occasion. After all, it is not every day that friends from childhood and high school become next-door neighbors.

After unpacking some suitcases and after the new trailer began to take the shape of a house, I went next door to the Fogel family for some coffee and cake. In my arms I was holding my eldest son Avia, aged 3 months.

I placed him carefully on the carpet next to Yoav, who was mesmerized by a shiny toy. “As of today, you are friends,” I said. For a whole year the two babies happily grew together as they began to crawl and take their first steps. When Yoav’s parents, Udi and Ruth, decided at the end of that year to move to Netzarim in Gush Katif, the two children parted with great sorrow (and their mothers as well…) and each time our group of children (which expanded at every meeting) met, the excitement was great.

“Tamar and Yoav are coming to visit!” were the words I used to inform my family that the Fogel family is on their way.

Each time they would visit our home, the moment came when Yoav would draw several thick books from the library in the living room and curl up on the couch, engrossed in a book. “What? He already knows how to read?” I asked. I will never forget the first time I saw five-year-old Yoav sitting next to Avia and reading to him a children’s story.

“Oh, it's been a long time already, what are you so excited about?” his mother said dismissively.

Over the years Yoav went through several apartments and finally settled with his family in Itamar in Samaria, where he met new friends and quickly integrated into the local school and branch of Bnei Akiva.

Nothing prepared any of his classmates, his teacher, counselor, and all his acquaintances, for that terrible attack on that Friday night in which Yoav Fogel, the beloved grandson, friend, student, and neighbor, was taken away.

“Tell me a little about Yoav,” I asked two of his best friends, Eitam Ronsky and Yagel Meidani, when I visited Itamar.

“Yoav would always ride his bike,” said Yagel. “We would take bicycle trips together around our community. He loved to take hikes.”

“He was an outstanding student in all subjects,” added Eitam. “He finished his English booklet before everyone else, and this booklet was also meant to be studied in seventh grade! He was also prominent in mathematics.”

“He participated in the school choir and had a really beautiful voice but he was always a bit shy so he sat in the back row,” recalled Yagel. “He also learned how to play the electronic organ.”

“Apart from singing, he was also a star soccer player,” said Yagel and Eitam enthusiastically. “Yoav almost participated in a soccer tournament of all the communities in Samaria and missed the game only because of a sprained leg.”

“He was an active member in the youth group,” smiles his counselor, Golan. “He never missed any get-together, and when his family once traveled outside the community, he made sure to stay with a friend so that he could participate.”

“He was everybody's friend,” continued Eitam. "The class genius. He helped others in school but was really annoyed if we told him: ‘you are a genius!’ He had an excellent memory. Last year he won first place in a Purim contest and when the applause echoed throughout the hall, Yoav just blushed, smiled and looked down.”

“This year he urged me to apply to take part in the contest,” smiled Eitam sadly. “He told me that I must take first place.”

“One time I divided the boys into groups composed of boys who did not play much with one another,” recalled Golan. “It was important for me to formulate some team spirit. The other guys were angry but Yoav took it well without complaining.”

“Yoav was a once in a lifetime student,” said Rabbi Avia Azoulay, who was Yoav’s teacher last year in fourth grade. “He excelled in all the subjects. He would advance on his own in Hebrew and Math and was always one level above the rest, but he did not keep his wisdom only to himself and always liked to help students who had difficulties. He would never tell them the answers, but rather with great patience and humility, he explained to them the process by which to get to the answer. Whenever we had a class get-together he made sure that someone gave a D’var Torah. At the end of the year, as a representative of the students, he made a speech and even bought me a gift on behalf of all the students. When his mother replaced the secretary, as she herself was near the end of her pregnancy, Yoav was giving up his recess so that he could help his mother with her work as a secretary.”

“'Go play with your friends,'” I would call out to him and he just replied happily, ‘I want to help my mother!’

“He had an average of 100 in all the subjects and after winning first place twice in a row in the school contest he decided not to participate anymore, saying that other children should have the opportunity to participate and win.”

Rabbi Amos Cohen, Yoav’s teacher this year in the fifth grade, said: “Yoav loved to study Torah, prayed with devotion, avoided defamatory speech, and almost never had a quarrel with anyone in the class. He could absorb things rapidly and he only wanted to learn more and more. He loved to study Mishnah, Tanach, and especially Talmud . He had a thirst to know more and more and remembered in detail all the materials studied. On the other hand he was loyal to his great love, soccer.

“’Perhaps when we finish learning the tractate you’ll let us play soccer?’ he asked me not long ago and I told him, ‘Yoav, for you, anything.’ We celebrated finishing the tractate that day by scoring goals on the soccer field.

“It’s hard for all of us,” he sighed. “This loss is hard but we must continue forward and not break. The faith in G-d is what gives strength.”

“Yoav would play basketball with his cousins ​​whenever they visited us,” said his grandmother Tzilla of Neve Tzuf. “On Shabbat in the afternoon he would join me for a walk in the woods adjacent to our community.”

“His usual spot was at the library, usually with a thick book in his hand,” added his grandfather Chaim. “A sensitive child with big eyes, always curious and thirsty to know more.”

“He really took care to not speak libel. When he heard his friends gossiping he would quickly put two hands over his ears,” said Yoav’s aunt Neta.

“Yoav knew that I love receiving kisses from the grandchildren,” his grandmother Tali said, “And every time he would come to visit with his family he would run to me and give me a kiss. Whenever they visited us on Friday night, he and Roi would sit next to Grandpa Yehuda and request that he ask them questions, and he asked them questions that even the older cousins ​​were in awe that Yoav could answer. Once I saw him reading and when I asked him what he was reading, he replied: ‘Chronicles.’ He also read a book about Begin, Rabbi Lau’s book, and knew all the laws of the Chofetz Chaim regarding libel. He was a very sensitive child. One time he inadvertently hit one of his uncles and did not know what to do with himself.”

“Immediately after the terror attack, with Yoav’s request still echoing in my head, I applied to take part in the Purim quiz and just as he predicted, I won first place,” said Eitam. “I did it for him. The win was thanks to him.”

“He was a once in a lifetime student,” said Rabbi Avia, “and he will remain as such in all of our hearts.”

This article originally appeared in Hebrew in the magazine “Otiyot LiYeladim” (Children’s Letters), was reprinted on Arutz Sheva’s Hebrew website, and translated into English by Elad Benari.