A Hanukkah candle lighting ceremony was held Monday night at the Givat Assaf junction, site of a terror attack two years ago that killed Staff Sgt. Yovell Mor-Yosef, 20, from Ashkelon; and Sgt. Yosef Cohen, 19, from Beit Shemesh. A third soldier, Netanel Felber, was shot and seriously injured and is still undergoing rehabilitation. The soldiers were all members of the Netzach Yehuda Battalion (Nahal Haredi).
Bereaved fathers and family members Mordechai Mor-Yosef and Rabbi Eliyahu Meirav lit the Chanukah candles with Netzach Yehuda (Nahal Haredi) commander Lt. General Mati Shevah and members of the IDF’s top brass. Among them were Brigadier General Amir Vadmani; Brigadier General Moshe Zin, Deputy Director General and Head of Civilian Security in the Ministry of Defense; Chief Reserve Officer and Brigadier General in the Reserves Ari Singer; Udi Dror, Head of Recruitment, Division of Civilian Security of the Ministry of Defense; Brigadier General Eran Oliel, Commander of the Kfir Brigade; and Brigadier General Benjamin Yonatan Steinberg. Also in attendance were Netzach Yehuda Association founders, Rabbi Yitzhak Bar-Haim and Rabbi David Fuks, who were joined by businessman and philanthropist David Hager, a key supporter of recruiting ultra-Orthodox Jews into the IDF, and Yossi Levi, Netzach Yehuda Association’s CEO.
"During these days of Hanukkah, we celebrate the spiritual victory of the Jewish people over those who sought to undermine the tradition of Israel and the faith of the Jews,” said Rabbi Bar-Haim of the Netzach Yehuda Association, which accompanies ultra-Orthodox soldiers throughout their military service. “In response, the Maccabees rose up and fought to liberate the land of Israel from the Greeks and the Hellenists. Now we have the privilege of lighting the fifth Chanukah candle with today's Maccabees – the soldiers of Netzach Yehuda – together with members of these precious bereaved families who lost loved ones in the ongoing battle for freedom in this land."
"Being a hero isn't just about being a fighter who runs into battle. It's also being able to see your friend – another soldier – who has no place to sleep or make his bed. That was Yuval. Yuval was a hero," said Mordechai Mor-Yosef, father of the late Yovel Mor-Yosef.
The attack at the Givat Assaf junction was one of the worst terrorist incidents in recent years. Two Netzach Yehuda soldiers were fatally shot, and their fellow soldier, Netanel Felber, was seriously injured. Felber, who is still going through a complicated and lengthy process of rehabilitation, recently contracted the corona virus and recovered. A memorial to the fallen soldiers was erected at the site of the shooting last year. It reads: "Here the holy defenders of the Land of Israel fell while sanctifying God’s name, his people and the land. Staff Sgt. Yovell Mor-Yosef and Sgt. Yosef Cohen, soldiers of the Netzach Yehudah Battalion.”
"The history of the Jewish people is filled with war, and the holiday of Hanukkah represents a unique war, won bravely and heroically by the few over the many,” said Brig. General Zinn. “Netzach Yehuda Battalion - you are the Maccabees of this generation. You have come to defend this land, and you deserve much praise for your courage in the face of many challenges," he added.
In speaking to the families after the event, Brigadier General Vadmani said: "Chanukah is a holiday of joy, but we also share in mourning the fall of the best of our boys, Yovell Mor-Yosef and Yosef Cohen, who fell in heroism and sacrifice."
Turning to the bereaved families, Col. Eran Uliel spoke in appreciation of their sacrifice throughout the year in dealing with bereavement. "Hanukkah symbolizes our unity as a people, and you are the ones who sacrifice for the people of Israel, with Netzach Yehuda protecting our home.”