WINNIPEG — Rabbi Uriel Malka, 32, a former principal at the Ohr Hatorah Day School in Winnipeg who fought against Hezbollah in hand-to-hand combat in the Second Lebanon War, was among those killed on the prison’s service bus that was engulfed by flames in the Carmel forest fire last Thursday.
Rabbi Malka, right, on day he returned to Israel after fighting combat in war in 2006.
Rabbi Malka, from Karnei Shomron, who was training to be a chaplain in the prison system, was with prison service cadets en route to Damun Prison to evacuate prisoners from the path of the flames.
He was laid to rest Sunday night at the military cemetery in Yavne.
In an interview with The CJN in October 2008, Rabbi Malka recalled that he narrowly escaped death while fighting Hezbollah in 2006.
“It is a miracle that I am alive, as there were times in the war when I was shot at directly by Hezbollah terrorist fighters,” he said. “I met them face to face. I could see their eyes.”
Twelve of Rabbi Malka’s colleagues from his paratroop unit were killed in a Katyusha rocket attack on Kfar Giladi as they were standing outside in a parking lot en route to deployment on Aug. 6, 2006.
“I was not in Kfar Giladi with them, because I was already in Lebanon,” he recalled in the interview.
“We did not find out that those in our unit had died right away. Our commander had us take out the batteries to our equipment so we could not hear the names of those who died, so we wouldn’t realize they were from our unit. Four days later, our commander called us together in the [deserted] home of a Hezbollah terrorist and told us what had happened. He told us we had to be strong.
“It was very difficult.”
Rabbi Malka, who is survived by his wife, Ortal, and five children, recalled in the 2008 interview that on his very first day in the Second Lebanon War, he got a taste of how difficult things were going to be.
While fighting in the village of Rabat Talatin, he said, “Hezbollah terrorists were shooting at us in one direction, and as we pursued them from that direction, another group of Hezbollah came from the other direction.
“There were 60 of us from my unit in a Hezbollah home. Hezbollah had the opportunity to shoot three missiles at us in the house.
“Had they hit the house, all of us would have died. The first two missiles just missed the house. The third one hit the roof. We were all lucky to get out alive.”
At the time Rabbi Malka got called up to fight with his unit, he was scheduled to go on shlichut (emissary service) with his family to teach in Denver.
“My ticket was booked and our suitcases were already packed. The Jewish Agency later told me that if I had explained the situation to the army, I would not have had to serve in the war… We are like brothers in my unit. I couldn’t have left them to fight alone. So I cancelled my ticket and we got to Denver later than planned.”
Rabbi Malka had a bachelor of education degree from the Beit Midrash for Teachers of Judaic Studies in Rehovot, and was a graduate of the Israel Defence Forces’ hesder program, which combines study and military service within a religious Zionist framework. Before arriving in Winnipeg, he spent two years teaching at an Orthodox day school in Denver.