Daily Israel Report

The Hareidi Soldier Jumped on the Grenade and Saved His Friends

The story of Moshe Yitzhak Toval, who died in the Yom Kippur War while saving his friends, was presented at the Knesset's main Memorial Day event.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 5/9/2011, 5:49 AM / Last Update: 5/9/2011, 5:43 AM

About 4,000 members of bereaved families gathered outside the Knesset on Sunday, the eve of Israel’s Memorial Day, for the second annual “Songs in their Memory” event. The evening included readings and songs in memory of Israel’s fallen soldiers and victims of terror, as well as clips documenting the lives of some of the victims.

This year, the first clip shown spoke of a fallen hareidi soldier who had saved the lives of the soldiers in his brigade after he jumped on a grenade that was thrown at them.

Moshe Yitzhak Toval was born on November 7, 1952 in Rehovot, to Malka and Eliyahu, Holocaust survivors from Romania. He studied at the Talmud Torah in Rehovot and Bnei Brak and later at a yeshiva in Haifa, and was discovered to have great talent, learning eagerly and persistently.

Toval also had a pleasant voice, was a wonderful prayer leader and was knowledgeable in the shofar blowing rituals. Moshe Yitzhak joined the IDF in January of 1971 and was assigned to the Nahal Haredi. His friends said that he “was a brave and good-hearted soldier, who was ready to give his all. During marches he could be always at the front, but he always chose to march in the back, not because of exhaustion, but out of a desire to help the weak.”

Toval spent the last few months of his army service done at the “Hamezach” post in the Suez Canal, where he was stationed at the start of the 1973 Yom Kippur War. The Israeli stronghold was attacked and he took part in the army’s attempts to stop the Egyptians, all the while being exposed to enemy fire. During one of the battles, Moshe Yitzhak was sent, along with three other fighters, to fight the Egyptians who greatly outnumbered them using only light weapons and hand grenades. During the battle one of the fighters shouted that a grenade had been thrown at the post. The four decided not to abandon the post and risk injury.

Moshe Yitzhak, who was firing at the enemy, jumped on the grenade and when it detonated, he absorbed most of the shrapnel and was killed while his three friends survived. His body was later handed to the Egyptians on a stretcher after the “Hamezach” post was surrendered. The Suez governor had promised to transfer the body for burial in Israel, but the body was returned only six years later, on September 12, 1979.

Moshe Yitzhak Toval’s family published a booklet in his memory with letters, pictures, and other memories, and his parents founded a synagogue in his name, “Heichal Moshe Yitzhak.”

Sunday evening’s “Songs in their Memory” event was initiated by the Knesset, the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Social Affairs. Among those taking part in the evening were Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, Social Welfare Moshe Kahlon, and other representatives, all of whom participated in readings in memory of the victims.

Israel’s annual Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism is commemorated throughout the day on Monday. It began on Sunday evening with the main ceremony at the Kotel Plaza.