Simchat Torah at Kibbutz Kerem Shalom began with community celebrations in which all the members participated, secular and religious alike. In addition to the kibbutz members, guests arrived from all over the country.
The prayers and the dancing were held as usual, and during one of the hakafot, Moshe Yedidya Raziel stood in the center of a circle and began to lead the lively singing of, “Am Yisrael Chai,” that, in the best of tradition, included jumping into the air until the floor trembled.
When the dancing ended, everyone dispersed to their homes for a festive meal, looking forward excitedly to the following day’s celebrations.
At 6:30 a.m. the next morning, the morning of Simchat Torah, the "Color Red" air raid sirens sounded throughout the kibbutz and the first response team quickly assembled at the site familiar to them from their drills.
Amichai Israel Weitzen did not hesitate for a moment, and told his family at home, “This is exactly what we have been training for in the first response team.”
The nine members of the team prepared to spread out in the kibbutz, along with six soldiers who were reinforcements for the team.
Immediately after the assembly, Kerem Shalom Head of Security Eliya Ben Shimol divided the team into pairs, with Yedidya and Amichai working together like a single unit. Dozens of terrorists who had crossed the security fence near the Kerem Shalom border crossing burst into the kibbutz and began waging fierce battles with the first response team members.
The members of Kerem Shalom live in single family houses spread out over a relatively large area, with about 35 houses being occupied. The first response team and the soldiers spread out from the front gate until the last of the houses. During the first few hours of the fighting, the defenders eliminated a large number of terrorists. The battles raged for 6 hours without any outside help. The 15 fighters were the kibbutz’s entire defense force.
In one of the gun battles near Yedidya Raziel’s house, his wife and children heard the fierce exchanges of fire between Amichai, Yedidya, and the terrorists. After a few minutes there was silence, and Yedidya shouted through the window to his wife Shira, “I am okay, we are all okay!”
In that encounter, too, several terrorists were killed.
In WhatsApp voice messages sent by Amichai to his wife during the fighting, he sounds calm and collected, and made a point of telling his wife “to make sure the children would feel good and would dance, because today is Simchat Torah” and they would be getting all the special snacks piled up in the kitchen. He was in complete control of both his mission as a fighter and his mission as a parent.
After a few hours of fighting, one of the terrorists surprised Amichai Israel and Moshe Yedidya from behind, and they were killed.
At 1 p.m. IDF reinforcements arrived to help the first responders, and by evening the combined forces successfully regained full control of the kibbutz.
To summarize that day, the members of the Kerem Shalom first response team successfully repelled the assault, with immense bravery from all the fighters and their families. During the battle, two of the first response team were killed – Amichai Israel Weitzen, 33, a father of five, and Moshe Yedidya Raziel (Rosenberg), 31, a father of three.
The two men grew up together in the community of Psagot in Binyamin, studied social work together at a college in Ashkelon, and came to Kibbutz Kerem Shalom as part of a religious core group of families who came to strengthen the kibbutz, which was on the verge of closing down. They bought houses and became full members of the kibbutz.
In addition to these two fatalities, two members of the first response team were injured, as well a resident whose home was infiltrated by the terrorists.
The heroism of the fighters who grew up together and fell together saved the kibbutz. Their actions helped prevent the entry of the terrorists into the kibbutz houses, and apart from one home, all the houses remained a safe haven for the families.
The courage of the fallen fighters is a symbol of heroism and total dedication. May their memory be for a blessing.
In memory of Amichai Weitzen z”l and Yedidya Raziel (Rosenberg) hy"d.