As Israelis stood silent at 11:00 a.m. Monday morning for the nationwide-siren marking Memorial Day, some people around the country recalled those they knew personally; the friends and relatives killed fighting for Israel’s freedom or murdered by terrorists.
Some contemplated the enormity of Israel’s losses to war and terrorism, the 23,544 people killed in such a small country during its short history.
For Avi Nefoussi, the siren was a reminder of the horrors he witnessed, the murder of a friend, and the unity that came out of tragedy.
A volunteer emergency first responder for United Hatzalah, Nefoussi was one of the first to answer the call on the morning of November 18th, 2014.
That day, two Arab terrorists from eastern Jerusalem, Udai Abu Jamal and Ghassan Abu Jamal entered a house of prayer in the Har Nof neighborhood and extinguished six lives. Four worshippers were shot and hacked to death at the beginning of the attack. A police officer who responded was later killed in a shootout with the terrorists, while a fifth worshipper wounded in the attack eventually succumbed to his injuries.
When Nefoussi entered the synagogue shortly after the attack, amid the scenes of slaughter, he found the remains of his friend, Rabbi Aryeh Kopinski.
“Its 10:57 in the morning, I am sitting at the computer at work, and the boss just came in to remind me that the siren is only 3 minutes away,” Nefoussi wrote Monday.
“I went outside and stood by myself, with my eyes closed, thinking.
“It was 11:00 am when the siren began and I was immediately struck by a picture that would not leave of my mind.
“On November 18, 2014 Kehilat Bnei Torah synagogue was attacked. At 7:00 am that morning, I left my house to go to work, and suddenly the dispatcher from United Hazala, reported a shooting incident on Agassi Street.
“I immediately responded to the call and arrived at the site in less than two minutes. I arrived shortly after the terrorists entered the synagogue, armed with pistols, an ax, and a butcher knife. I parked my car and another EMT shouted for me to hide for cover. I immediately laid down on the ground, next to my car and the shooting continued between the policemen and the terrorists, just above my head.
“I suddenly found myself in the synagogue, and I will never forget the horrific scene before me. It hurt me so much to see murdered people laying in blood. The only thing left for me to do was to cover the murdered people with their own talitot, as they had just a few minutes earlier been in the midst of prayer. My good friend Rabbi Aryeh Kopinski was also amongst them, unfortunately.”
But from the anguish of that day, continued Nefoussi, springs the unity of Memorial Day, and the unity of the Jewish people in the face of evil.
“Today, I stood listening to the siren with my eyes closed, and I thought about what happened that day at Kehilat Bnei Torah Synagogue. I shed tears for the bereaved families, for their painful and unnecessary suffering.
“This is just one of the days when we, as a nation, feel united. Even if we are all different, even when we disagree with each other, we are always one nation, one pain, and one people.
“May those we have lost, rest in peace.”