First Victim of Arab Terrorism, Murdered in 1873

Aharon Hershler, son of prominent Hungarian rabbi, was shot by Arabs 12 times in Jerusalem, becoming Israel's first terror victim.

Ari Yashar ,

Mount of Olives cemetery (illustration)
Mount of Olives cemetery (illustration)
Yonatan Sindel/Flash 90

As Israel honors its fallen on Memorial Day, a look into the Defense Ministry's official list of terror victims reveals that the very first Jewish victim of Arab terrorism in Israel was Aharon Hershler, who was shot to death by terrorists in 1873.

Hershler was murdered on January 1, 1873, at the tender age of 23, and is buried at the Mount of Olives cemetery, which is said to be the oldest cemetery in the world to still be in use.

According to an account of his life provided by the official governmental site for terror victims, Hershler was a haredi yeshiva student who studied devotedly.

He was born in Hungary in 1850 to a prominent rabbi, Rabbi Yosef Shmuel Hershler, who served in the rabbinate of the city of Szabad. After immigrating to Israel, the rabbi was among the heads of the Ungarin Kolel, a Hungarian yeshiva in Jerusalem.

The Hershler family lived in Mishkenot Shananim, the first Jewish neighborhood built outside of the Old City walls.

The records note that in 1872 there were ample rains, meaning the Jews were not forced to buy water from the Arab residents of Shiloach (Silwan in Arabic). In response, the Arab residents evidently decided to target the Jews, breaking into their homes and robbing them.

Several Arabs broke into the Hershler home on January 1, at which point Aharon got up from his Torah studies to confront them, managing to scare them out of the house and proceeding to chase them.

The Arab terrorists, evidently fearing they would be identified, callously opened fire on Hershler, shooting 12 bullets into his body. He was brought to the hospital, where he died of his wounds four days later after great suffering.

Hershler left behind a bereaved wife and daughter, along with his grieving parents and siblings.

The murder was reported in the first Hebrew newspaper, The Lebanon, on February 5, 1873.

"A few days ago, thieves broke into the house of a Jewish man living outside the city walls in Mishkenot Shananim. He then fled his house in pursuit of these thieves, chasing them with his son-in-law, and the thieves fired at them with a rifle, and twelve bullets brought death unto the son-in-law and after four days he died in pain from his wounds at the Rothschild's Hospital," reported the paper, as cited by Yedioth Aharonot.

"Until today, the identity of the murders is unknown," it concluded. "However, on their way to Jordan, around Jericho, the thieves formed an ambush, killing a farmer and his black servant."