It was erev Pesach 5774 (2014). about an hour and a half before Yom Tov. The preparations for the Seder had been completed. My son-in-law Baruch Mizrahi, his wife who is my daughter Hadassah and four of their children were on the way to Kiryat Arba from where they lived in Modi’in. (Their eldest daughter Sharon had come to Kiryat Arba the day before to assist us with the Pesach preparations.)
Our telephone rang. It was from them saying that they should arrive in about half an hour’s time. Shortly after there was another telephone call. One of my daughters answered the telephone and started crying. It was from Hadassah and she said that they had been shot at and Baruch had been killed and she had been wounded, which I understood at the time to be seriously.
Needless to add, all the family was in a state of shock and my immediate reaction was what sort of Seder would I be able to conduct.
About an hour later I went to Shul and told the worshippers what had happened and I would try to give my shiur before Ma’ariv. As a result of my then state of mind, during the shiur I stopped here and there for a few seconds.
I returned from Shul and standing by the entrance of the building to my apartment was the Mayor of Kiryat Arba. He told me that Hadassah had fortunately only been very superficially wounded, which was of course a relief to the family, and had been taken to Sha’arei Tzedek Hospital in Jerusalem, and that the children were being brought to our apartment where they soon arrived.
Soon after, a team of people arrived including an official from the police and a social worker. The official started to inform me that Baruch has been killed, and I interrupted him to say that we already knew. One of them took out a pen to write down our telephone number and I requested that unless it was a case of pikuach nefesh he should not do so. He immediately put away his pen.
The murderer was one of the over a thousand terrorists who the Israeli Government had released in the Shalit deal. Furthermore, a further 5 Jews were later murdered by these released terrorists.
One should mention here that after Baruch had been murdered the car was still moving and Hadassah had the great presence of mind to stop the car. This in itself was a miracle since had the car continued moving that could have been a far, far greater loss of lives. That Chanukah she was awarded a certificate for this in a ceremony where many other policemen were honoured. The certificate was given to her by the President of the State of Israel. She went up on the platform together with all her 5 children.
To return to the Seder night, after all these people had left the house we began the Seder. The children were not yet aware that their father had been killed. For that reason we did not let them go to Shul that Yom Tov in case someone would say something to them. We realised that immediately after Yom Tov they might learn of Baruch’s murder from one of the many media sources. We therefore arranged that a social worker would come to our apartment a few minutes before the end of Yom Tov and tell the children, which she did.
We manged to put this tragedy out of our minds for the duration of the Seder and conducted it with all the usual singing.
When I returned from Shul after Yom Tov, there were already a number of people in our apartment, including the Rabbi of Kiryat Arba, Rabbi Dov Lior. He told me that they were considering doing an autopsy on Baruch and I should contact the head of the Religious Council of Kiryat Arba to prevent such an autopsy, which I did. At the funeral, I specifically asked the police whether any autopsy had been done and he assured me that it had not. Notices were put up in Kiryat Arba announcing the time and place of the funeral on the following day. That night an ambulance brought Hadassah to Kiryat Arba for a few hours so that she could talk with the children. We telephoned the various relatives and friends to inform them of the funeral arrangements.
When I returned from Shul the following morning, there were 3 teachers from Itai’s (the oldest son) school in my apartment. At the time Itai was 8 years old and we photographed the Mourner’s Kaddish so that he could practice reading it - since it is in Aramaic it is not that easy to read. For this, one of his teachers coached him during the journey to the funeral.
The funeral took place in the military cemetery on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem. Until about 3 years before he was murdered, Baruch was in the Intelligence Branch of the army. Only at the hespedim at the funeral did we all learn that he held a very high position in the army intelligence department. Three years before he was murdered he transferred to a high rank in the police intelligence department. He was buried in the police section of the cemetery on Mount Herzl.
Needless to say, there was a very large attendance at the funeral. Hadassah was brought by ambulance to the cemetery. It was entirely conducted by the Police Rabbinate and numerous people spoke (including myself). Itai recited Kaddish.
Since it was Chol Hamoed, the Shiva did not start until after the end of Pesach. All the family, including Hadassah returned to my apartment where we remained until the end of Pesach. Immediately Pesach was over, the Shiva began and the Ma’ariv service was held in my apartment. That evening many people came to do nichum aveilim.
Early the next morning the police sent a large vehicle to transport the entire family to Modi’in where the Shiva continued. Two large tents had meanwhile been erected in the area of Hadassah’s apartment. One, which was adjoining the salon was to accommodate the numerous people who came for nichum aveilim, and the second was for a shul. During the Shiva week, there were Knesset members, member of the army and police, friends, neighbours etc. who came. There were a number who came all the way from Kiryat Arba. I conducted the shul services during the Shiva and Itai would say kaddish. When the Shiva ended we all went to the grave at Mount Herzl.
Baruch’s youngest son (Yuval) was only three years old at the time, and he said to me "My father is in Heaven, and he looked towards the sky."
A few weeks later was Yom Hazikaron and every community would organise a memorial service for those killed in Israeli wars and terror attacks. At the ceremony at Kiryat Arba, Hadassah lit the memorial flame and a film was shown on the life and murder of Baruch.
A few months after his murder, I donated a bookcase in his memory to my Shul, with a perpetual memorial light on the top of the bookcase.
Since Baruch was murdered during the month of Nissan, and one does not do memorial services during that month, on the following year we held a memorial meeting towards the end of Adar. This was held in an Ulpana hall in Modi’in and there was a very large attendance with a varied programme. I finished the Mishnayot of a Massechet and Itai said Kaddish.
The Rennert family from America has a Sefer Torah specially written in memory of Jews killed in terrorist attacks (he has already had hundreds of Sifrei Torah written) and accordingly one was written in Baruch’s memory. When one finishes writing a Sefer Torah it is customary to have a ceremony to complete writing the final letters. The ceremony was held on erev Pesach 5775 (2015) in a Yeshivah next to the Western Wall. Members of the family attended and at this ceremony there were about 15 Sifrei Torah donated by the Rennert family whose final letters were being written. Mr. Ira Rennert was present and he spent several minutes speaking to each of the families. After that there was dancing with the Sifrei Torah. One should mention that in addition to the Sufrei Torah and mantles for both during the year and a white one for the Tishri season, there were also a breast plate, a pointer and a crown all made of solid silver.
Immediately following the ceremony, I returned to Kiryat Arba with the Sefer Torah in Lior’s (my son-in-law) car and placed the Sefer Torah in the Ark of my Shul, the Chasdei Avot Synagogue of Kiryat Arba. We had decided that this was the most appropriate Shul for this Sefer Torah, since Baruch was on the way to Kiryat Arba when he was murdered, and that the Brit Milah of all his 3 sons had been done in this Shul. It was already after ten o’clock that night and I then rushed home to do B’dikat Chametz. It is appropriate that this Sefer Torah arrived at the Shul precisely on Baruch’s first Yahrzeit, 14 Nissan.
I should mention that with this extra Sefer Torah, the Ark was very cramped and there was no room to keep the crown which I had to meanwhile store in my apartment. It was therefore decided that a larger Ark was required for the Shul and it was desirable to have an Ark which was in the form of a safe. I searched for the best place to purchase such an Ark, went there and gave my specifications and put in an order. A few weeks late it arrived. It was quite a job to bring in an Ark weighing about half a ton. To make it look more aesthetic, we had a wood covering made and later lettering was put on the outside of the Ark. The worshippers at the Shul readily donated money, in memory of their departed ones, to cover the cost of the Ark/On the side of the Ark is a memorial plaque with over 80 names of departed ones. The Parochet which hangs in front of the Ark was donated by Baruch’s family and well-wishers.
It is customary when bringing a new Sefer Torah into a Shul to have a ceremony. This took place about a month after the Sefer Torah arrived, namely on Lag b’Omer. The procession began at my apartment and the participants danced all the way, with the Sefer Torah under a Chuppah till it reached the courtyard of the Shul where dancing then continued together with all the other Sifrei Torah of the Shul which had meanwhile be brought out into the courtyard. Finally, we all entered the Shul with the Sifrei Torah, had three Hakafot accompanied by a lot of singing and dancing. I then read from this new Sefer Torah and the ceremony ended with Itai singing Anim Zemirot. My daughters prepared refreshments which were put in the corridor adjacent to the Shul.
One of my daughters filmed (about 70 per cent) of the ceremony and one of my granddaughters edited it. The film which is almost 53 minutes long has been put on to You Tube.
Extract of film of Funeral of Baruch Mizrahi
please click here to view
Film of Bringing in a new Sefer Torah to "Chasdei Avot" Synagogue
please click here to view