Letter From a Friend to a Fallen Hero
Noam Apter, 23, a student in Yeshivat Otniel on leave from the army, was murdered by Palestinian terrorists on a winter Sabbath night in late 2002, together with three of his friends. The four were caught in the kitchen of the yeshiva’s dining room on kitchen duty, and Noam heroically locked the dining room door in order to save his dozens of friends eating the Sabbath meal. The terrorists were unable to open the door separating them from the other students, though they kicked, banged, and shot at it. "I do not know how to explain that a person closes himself up inside [to save his friends], knowing that he will die," said one of the yeshiva staff afterwards.
Noam came from Shiloh. HIs father was the administrative head of The Jerusalem College of Technology, Machon Lev, at the time.
In honor of Memorial Day, his friend Avishai Mizrachi wrote the following letter, published in Hebrew on the Kipa.co.il Judaism site.
You would certainly be amused if you knew that I was writing about you. Your smile still appears to me from every direction; you had good-natured eyes, with a spark of mischievousness playing about them. If those accursed terrorists only knew how much innocence and softness they were taking… And the bullets that perforated your body and mercilessly splashed your blood to the ground – if they would have received a soul for just a moment, they would likely have turned themselves away from the range of your death.
…What did you think to yourself there? Tell me, what were you thinking when you locked the doors of the kitchen and closed yourself and your life up and exposed your body to the terrorist fire, and saved tens, tens of your friends? From where did you get the strength, the daring?
For we were together in the same room in Kfar HaRoeh [yeshiva high school], six of us, on three bunk-beds in a crowded room. We laughed so much together, and hiked, and talked about profound things deep into the night. You would always return from Shabbat in your parents’ home with new insights, with interesting thoughts. How did you suddenly turn into a hero? Into a photo in the newspaper? Into words engraved on a tombstone?
And that dark, stark night, the end of the holy Sabbath. Whispers of rumors were heard that there had been an attack in Otniel. I prayed so much that you were not there – but my prayers went unanswered. I traveled from Kiryat Shmonah [in the north] down to the cemetery in Shilo for your funeral, a long night with tears flooding my eyes. To see your friends in the army, with red berets, paratroopers’ wings, carrying your coffin in silence. I searched all around for your smile, I so much wanted to hear your rolling laughter. And your father humming next to you a last Sabbath song with tearing eyes, “He who keeps the Sabbath, the son and the daughter, will be pleasing to G-d like a [Holy Temple] skillet offering.”
…Noam, the world did not stop, even after your death. Its heart is still beating wildly, and did not stop even upon hearing your last dying gasps. People here, in this world, love life and repress the finality that awaits us, the death that is waiting to come upon us. And you, you are most certainly enjoying yourself there among the angels and seraphim in that other world, the eternal world, the one that is hidden from the eyes of all thinkers.