Rabbi Dan Mertzbach, 55-year-old rabbi of the community of Otniel, was killed around 05:00 on Friday morning in a shooting incident in which IDF troops accidentally fired shots at an Israeli vehicle.
An army situation room in Beit Chagai identified a vehicle moving slowly with only its emergency flashers on and informed the unit near the Ari/Kvasim Junction. A short time later the victims' vehicle approached quickly and without lights on.
The soldiers signalled the vehicle to stop and fired eight shots when it didn't. The vehicle travelled about 400 meters before it stopped.
According to reports the soldiers were still in the process of setting up the check point and there was no eye contact between Rabbi Mertzbach and the soldier who open fired.
Two women in the car were wounded, one moderately and one lightly. They were taken to the Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem. One of the women lost her husband in a terrorist attack on the same road about 10 years ago.
A soldier involved in the incident was lightly injured when hit by a passing Arab truck. He was taken to Soroka Hospital in Be’er Sheva.
Interviewed by Arutz Sheva's Hebrew service, Otniel spokesman Yehuda Glick said Rabbi Mertzbach was a man of G-d 24 hours a day, noting that he served as the rabbi of a number of communities in the area. Glick called the rabbi the soul of the community, adding that Rabbi Mertzbach planned Otniel's synagogue, built its beit midrash (study hall) and brought in many rabbis to teach there.
He said many people in the community were crying for a father who took many of them under his wing. He is survived by a wife, five children, and 10 grandchildren.