The family members of the two women, Mazal Ben-Ami and Carmela Trabelsi, spoke to Israel’s Channel 10 News about the events that led to the tragedy.
They emphasized that, contrary to initial reports, the reason that soldiers opened fire at the vehicle, that was making its way to the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hevron, was a false report and not lack of response on the part of Rabbi Mertzbach, who was driving the car.
Ben-Ami’s daughter, Yiska, told Channel 10 about the events as she heard them from her mother, who was lightly wounded in the incident.
“Rabbi Dan travels every Friday to the Tomb of the Patriarchs,” she said, adding that the three passed by an IDF post when suddenly the soldiers opened fire.
“They must have gotten a false report,” Yiska said. “The soldiers fired into the air without warning, but when they saw that he didn’t stop, they fired at his head and neck instead of shooting at the wheels. He was killed on the spot. Although they saw that they hit him, they continued to shoot and hit the car from behind.”
According to her mother, Yiska said, the soldiers did not fire a large quantity of ammunition, “but they fired enough to hurt Carmela in the pelvis and my mother in the shoulder. After the car stopped, my mother got out all confused and called the police for help.”
While Ben-Ami was phoning the police, Trabelsi told her that Rabbi Mertzbach was in bad shape.
“She just screamed and the soldiers heard her speak Hebrew so they rushed over,” described Yiska. “My mother thought they were terrorists disguised as soldiers. She said, ‘I saw death before my eyes.’”
However, Yiska said, when the soldiers arrived they discovered that the shooting had been a terrible mistake.
“One of them told her, ‘Ma’am, I’m sorry, I’m sorry,’” she said. “My mother answered him: ‘You’re sorry? You killed the driver.’ Then he sat down beside Carmela and talked to her. Meanwhile, a truck which drove by hit him in the back and hip.”
Rabbi Mertzbach was laid to rest on the Mount of Olives on Friday afternoon.
Mertzbach, 55, is survived by a wife, five children and 10 grandchildren. A professional architect, he served as a rabbi for Tene Omarim, Shima and Eshkolot.
(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)