Police have named the gunman who opened fire in an Eilat hotel on Friday, killing one person, as 23-year-old William Hershkovitz. The victim of the shooting has been identified as Armando al-Abed, a 33-year-old Arab Israeli from a Christian village in the northern Galilee region.
Hershkovitz, who came to Israel from Poughkeepsie, New York, had worked as a trainee sous-chef at the Leonardo Club Hotel and had recently been dismissed. The victim, Abed, had worked in the hotel as an assistant chef.
Police suspect that following a dispute with Abed, Hershkovitz arrived at the hotel, grabbed the security guard's gun and began shooting in all directions. He then went to the kitchen and shot Abed to death. Hershkovitz was killed in an exchange of gunfire with counterterrorism officers who were called to the scene.
Earlier it was reported that Hershkovitz came to Israel on the Masa Israel program. He was in Eilat as a participant in the Oranim program, one of about 200 supported by Masa Israel, which is a joint project of the Israeli government and the Jewish Agency.
Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky announced that he has appointed a committee to look into the process by which the killer was accepted to the program.
The committee will presumably check if there were any warning signs regarding Hershkovitz’s character or mental health that were ignored, and whether screening of candidates needs to be improved.
Sharansky expressed deep regret for the loss of life and said that the event was an anomalous one.
Meanwhile, Channel 10 News reported, other members of the Oranim program described Hershkovitz on Friday as an eccentric person who previously made death threats more than once.
“A lot of people complained about him to management,” said one participant. "There was something very strange and creepy about his smile, but I never thought he could be aggressive."
Another member of the program who knew Hershkovitz said that he had previously made death threats towards other participants in the program. He added that "Hershkovitz would talk to himself. He used to share with us his dreams of murdering people. He also used to speak against Arabs and Nazis."
The management of the Oranim program said on Friday that on Thursday evening, several hours before the shooting, it had been decided that Hershkovitz would be removed from the program.
"After complaints from the hotel staff, it was decided yesterday, during a meeting between the coordinators of the program and the young man, that he will leave the program and return on Tuesday to the U.S. or will stay with his family in Israel,” said a statement by Oranim quoted on Channel 2 News.
The statement added that Hershkovitz joined the program after meeting all the admission requirements and that his medical profile did not indicate he had any special issues.
(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.)