“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73:26)
Two Israeli victims of Wednesday’s stabbing attack in Jerusalem’s Old City, attacked merely because they were Jews in Israel, have succumbed to their wounds, leaving nine children fatherless.
Three Jews, one a respected rabbi and teacher, were injured in the attack by a pair of Palestinian terrorists, who violently attacked a crowd of civilians with knives on Wednesday afternoon near the Jaffa Gate, a popular entrance to the Old City used by Israelis and tourists alike. Two female Border Police officers in the area ran to the scene and shot and neutralized the terrorists. One was killed immediately, and the second died later of his wounds.
Jerusalem resident Ofer Ben-Ari, 40, a married father with two daughters, was pronounced dead by Shaare Tzedek Medical Center at around 7 p.m. Wednesday evening after emergency surgery for a bullet wound to his abdomen.
A few hours later, Rabbi Reuven Biermacher, 45, a married father of seven and respected rabbi and teacher at the Aish Hatorah yeshiva (seminary) in the Old City, died of multiple deep stab wounds to his upper body at Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital.
Biermacher, originally from Argentina, made aliyah to Israel five years ago. Born to a secular family, he became Orthodox later in life. “Rav Reuven was a gentle giant of a person. He was warm, funny and very spiritual,” Rabbi Steve Berg, the Director General of Aish Hatorah, told Breaking Israel News.
He was also a family man. “He was a father of seven, we’re talking about kids aged 2-18 who are now orphans,” said Berg. “His only crime was being a Jew and walking the streets of Jerusalem. Rav Reuven’s death is shocking, absolutely shocking to us and to the whole Jewish people.”
Berg said that Biermacher, “a wonderful man and a beloved rabbi”, had spent the last few hours of his life studying and teaching the Bible. “At 10 a.m., he was studying with a visiting group of young men. At 11 a.m., he was teaching his regular shiur (lecture). At 12 p.m., he spent time shmoozing with the men. At 12:45 p.m., he walked out of the Beit Midrash (Jewish study hall). At 1:15 pm, he was killed.”
Biermacher was loved by his students, Berg added, who are shaken by his death. “His students would come into our yeshiva not even knowing the Hebrew alphabet. He was very patient and worked with them to bring them up to speed.”
Berg said that Biermacher had been an inspiration for his young students. “Some of his students have gone on to become rabbis as a result,” he told Breaking Israel News. “It is one thing to teach young men who come from a lifetime background of Jewish studies. It takes a special type of man to have the patience to work with students who come with no background.”
Biermacher was buried in a late-night funeral in the Har Hamenuchot cemetery in Jerusalem. Ben-Ari’s funeral is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Thursday, also in the capital.