Simcha Chodatov - a tragic victim of dangerous times
Simcha Chodatov - a tragic victim of dangerous times

As a teacher at Yeshiva Dvar Yerusholayim , I wish to correct the false image the public received of our student, Simcha Chodatov, of blessed memory. There is no intention of implicating anyone in his death, just an attempt to clear his name.

Simcha was killed due to a tragic error and subsequently had his reputation unjustly maligned by being called a "mentally unstable" (timhoni)) who acted in a way suspicious to nearby soldiers and who tried to grab one of their rifles, presumably to use against them.

The story is problematic in that those assumptions do not match reality. We knew Simcha for many years, since he joined the Yeshiva as a person determined to be a baal teshuva and become a Torah scholar . He kept to this for many years and climbed slowly up the ladder the Torah way. He was respectful of his Rabbis, and for the six years we knew him, did not exhibit any sign of mental instability.

Additionally, he chose to work in security, and related to friends that his field gives him satisfaction knowing that he is keeping Jews protected. This seems inconsistent with the assumption that he harbored any idea of harming Jews, Yidden, unless he was sure the soldiers were terrorists in disguise. This, too, is hard to believe, as the argument that took place between them should have made all of them realize that they were Jewis.

The accepted story seems to clash with the reality as we know it, and we, at his yeshiva, therefore present a more likely record of what actually occurred.

One of the Rabbis at our yeshiva interviewed several witnesses and watched the unedited video several times (as opposed to the edited video currently available) and the following is his take on what actually occurred:

On the bus, a man felt that Simcha looked suspicious, his skin was a bit dark, he was not wearing yeshivish clothing, he seemed nervous, was holding a bag with something inside (turns out it was a loaf of bread) and seemed to stare at each person as he passed their seats to exit the bus. After Simcha got off the bus, a man claimed that Simcha looked suspicious and asked the bus driver to investigate.

Women on the bus began yelling hysterically “mechabel” (terrorist). The driver asked two soldiers standing nearby to investigate. They approached and immediately grabbed Simcha by his shirt collar. He had no idea why he was being attacked, and tried to free himself from their grip.

The bus driver ran out of the bus and used a shocker to disable Simcha, and Simcha fell to the ground. The soldiers then shot Simcha in the legs.

Simcha is seen in the video gripping one of the soldier's guns. It seems that he was trying to pull himself up and he was able to use both hands by holding onto the gun.

Dozens of teenage girls standing nearby were yelling on top of their lungs “mechabel mechabel”’ and were petrified.

A guard in a nearby building heard the yelling and came running with a loaded gun, and shot Simcha to death.

We do not think anyone acted with malice, everything happened within a minute or two, and there was no time to think.

We knew Simcha as a fine, emotionally healthy person with strong faith, emuna. We knew him from the day he arrived from Kavkaz ( the Caucasian Mountains) and joined the yeshiva to become a baal teshuva. He was a self made man who took learning Torah seriously, and would often spend many hours in the Bais Midrash (study hall) learning. He excelled in tefila (prayer) and evinced exemplary respect, derech eretz,  towards the Rabbis at the Yeshiva.

Students at Dvar Yerusholayim are regular Shabbos guests at local families in Har Nof, and the families who hosted Simcha speak wery highly of his politeness and gratitude towards his hosts. The Rash Yeshiva and Rebitzin especially enjoyed his company, and were very proud of Simcha’s progress at the yeshiva.

After several years at the yeshiva, Simcha left to serve in the IDF's hareidi Netzach Yehuda unit, with plans for being able to work afterwards to support a family.

During his years in service, when he had a Shabbat off or other leave, Simcha would return to the yeshiva and spend his time learning in the Bais Midrash.

After successfully completing his army service two years ago, he worked as a guard, saved up money and several months ago brought his mother to Israel, and they rented an apartment together.

We wish to honor a person who successfully stood up to the many challenges he faced in his life till that life was tragically cut short.

Are we to learn from the tragedy to consider possible consequences before starting a ruckus, before yelling hysterically, and before shooting an already injured person if it is not definite that he is a terrorist?

I am unable to answer this, since in a real situation of danger, sakana, every second is critical. Nonetheless, yelling hysterically does not contribute to safety and refraining from doing so could allow those who are armed to think more clearly.

Yehi Zichro Boruch, May his memory be a blessing.