TORONTO — Udi, aged 36. Ruth, 35. Yoav, 11. Elad, 4. Hadas, just three months old. The names of the Fogel family rang out at Shaarei Shomayim Congregation last Thursday evening in a moving memorial service to the members of the clan who were butchered by Palestinian terrorists in their West Bank home on the night of March 11.
Israel’s consul general in Toronto, Amir Gissin, addresses memorial service. [Ron Csillag photo]
Calls for unity and strength – and to refrain from revenge – were sounded at the hour-long service organized by Shaarei Shomayim and UJA Federation of Greater Toronto.
The somber memorial, attended by about 800 people, coincided with the pre-Purim Fast of Esther, which commemorates the fast by Jews of the ancient Persian empire before a battle against their enemies.
In a horrific crime that sickened even hardened Israelis, the five members of the Fogel family were stabbed to death by one, or possibly two, terrorists who snuck into the West Bank settlement of Itamar on a Friday night.
The blood-soaked images were splashed on the front pages of Israeli newspapers and websites, amid warnings of their graphic content.
The children were stabbed in their sleep. Two other Fogel children reportedly slept through the nightmare and were unharmed. The family’s eldest daughter, Tamar, 12, returned home from a Bnei Akiva youth meeting to make her harrowing discovery.
Though saying he was “lost for words,” Israel “will not stop until these [attackers] are brought to justice,” pledged Amir Gissin, the country’s consul general in Toronto.
Gissin blasted the “hypocrisy” of western governments for outwardly supporting Israel but also funding the Palestinian Authority.
He said “it doesn’t matter if prisoners in Israel have stolen a car or murdered a baby. The families of prisoners held in Israeli jails will continue to be supported. Their families will get monthly payments from the PA. It’s part of their budget. Where is this money coming from? It’s coming from western governments.
“Let’s not forget that when Israel is being attacked,” Gissin said. “Let’s not forget that western money is used to pay the families of the most outrageous murderers.”
The message from the government of Israel is “togetherness and strength,” he said.
In a stirring address, Rabbi Chaim Strauchler, spiritual leader of Shaarei Shomayim, likened the murder of the Fogels to the part of the Purim story in which Mordechai tears his clothes and dons sackcloth and ashes when he learns that the Jews of Persia are in danger.
The Fogels “weren’t killed because they were settlers. They were killed because they were Jews,” Rabbi Strauchler said.
“They lived their lives for the State of Israel and for the Jewish people. These were the best that we have.”
The 11-year-old victim, Yoav, had planned to dress as the late Israeli general Moshe Dayan for Purim, the rabbi said.
The murdered baby, Hadas, was “just three months old. Three months old!”
He asked that on Purim, Jews hand out one extra mishloach manot (edible Purim gifts) in memory of the Fogels and in the name of Jewish unity.
“Our hearts are broken almost beyond repair,” said Rabbi Reuven Bulka of Ottawa’s Machzikei Hadas Congregation. “They [Palestinians] are giving out cookies in celebration.”
Rabbi Bulka said he was angered by the reaction to the killings by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who condemned the murder of “all innocent civilians.”
That, Rabbi Bulka said, is “code… their way of saying we don’t condemn this at all because we don’t consider any Jew as a civilian. Every Jew is a soldier.
“If they are right – that we are all soldiers – that means we are all part of the same army that together is in a battle not only involving Jews but the entire free world. If the Jews lose, the world is finished. The world has to know that.”
Rabbi Bulka said seeking revenge is not the Jewish way.
“Vengeance is not in our blood. Vindictiveness is not in our hearts. In the worst of circumstances, we remain sensitive and caring.
“And if an episode like this does not bring us together, then I don’t know what will.”
Memorial candles were lit by local students and a prayer was recited for the victims of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis in Japan. The service was led by several young emissaries from Israel.
Psalms and the K’el Maalei Rachamim prayer were recited by Shaarei Shomayim’s Cantor Avraham Sultan
Politicians in attendance included MPs Joe Volpe and Peter Kent, federal Liberal candidate Karen Mock, and Toronto Ward 10 Councillor James Pasternak.