At the funeral procession honoring Border Policeman Noam Raz, killed in battle with Arab terrorists during an operation in the Jenin area last Friday, a human chain connected the Samaria communities of Kida, where Noam was from, and Kidma.
Mayor of Eli, Ariel Elmaliach recounts that: "On the morning of the funeral, we realized a lot of people wanted us to do something [in his honor]. While the family was being accompanied on their way to the procession, we came up with an idea."
"Nearby settlement heads helped spread the news and within a few hours more than two thousand people showed up to honor the family on its way from the funeral."
Asked if the Raz family had contacted him regarding the impromptu show of support, Elmaliach says that although he has not seen the family since the funeral, Noam's son, Eitan, wrote to tell him that the family was very excited at the outpouring of good will.
"We did not expect such a large number of people. We were excited to see the thousands who showed up within just a few hours- from local high schools, girls' seminaries, and others from [all walks of life] to accompany the family on our way from the funeral," he said.
Like many of those taking part in the procession, Elmaliach did not personally know Noam. "Most of the participants in the event didn't know who he was, so it was amazing to see how much everyday Israelis appreciate their fallen soldiers," he continues.
Noam was laid to rest at the Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem on Sunday after a postmortem promotion to the rank of command sergeant major.
"Raz belonged to a small and special group of officers and soldiers who put the good of the state and security of its citizens before [their own needs]. He dedicated his life to his fellow soldiers, police, and the country," said Police commissioner Yakkov Shabtai in praise of the officer.
Raz, 47, was wounded after Arab terrorists opened fire on Israeli forces operating in Jenin on Friday morning. After being airlifted to Rambam Hospital in Haifa for treatment, he succumbed to his wounds.
Raz enlisted in 1999 and served for about 23 years in the Yamam Border Police unit as a soldier, paramedic, and sniper. He is survived by his wife and six children.