Otniel victims laid to rest
Over a thousand people flocked to the community of Re'ut Sunday afternoon to pay their last respects to Zvi Ziman, killed Friday night by Islamic Jihad terrorists at the Otniel Yeshiva. He was one of four killed in the attack, three of whom were buried Sunday.
Re'ut's tidy little synagogue was a sea of youth, many of them crying, leaning heads on friends' shoulders, and calling out Zvika's name. For many of them, like Aviv, a classmate of Zvika's, it was to be just one of three painful funerals that day.
Many were hitching rides from Karnei Shomron to Modi'in to Kfar Adumim, an odyssey of mourning.
"I could never have imagined that I would write four eulogies in one day," chanted Rabbi Binyamin Kalmanson, head of the Otniel Yeshiva, as if reading in rhythmic Torah trope. The statement, uttered in a voice tremulous with pain, was received by a resounding moan from the crowd.
The youth, 18 and a half at the time of his death, will be sorely missed, not least by his family. Standing by Zvika's gravesite, looking down as his son's body was slipped into the rocky soil, his father, Uzi, bemoaned the loss of a what he called "a leader for Israel." Standing ramrod straight, a product of decades in the army, he added: "In all the many things you managed to complete in your short life you displayed leadership."
Others talked of the lad's bright round face, always graced with a friendly grin. It was also fitting, said his sister Einat, that such a lover of nature would be buried in Modi'in's rustic cemetery, located on a rocky hillock several kilometers from the center of the town, not far from the site of the ancient Hasmonean's main camp.
Besides his studies at the yeshiva, Zvika was involved in countless other activities, among them a program endeavoring to bridge the gap between religious and secular Jews. Friends and family marveled at his optimism, which served a beacon of strength for them. "Whenever we were in some miserable situation," eulogized friend and classmate Aviad Darf, "you used to say, we got through Pharaoh and we'll get through this."
Unlike many other funerals that have blackened the past two and a half years, the Ziman funeral was light on political rhetoric. One of the few mentions of politics arose when the head of the Re'ut Local Council, Moshe Spector, called for the community to unite around the family. "The Palestinians do not understand that they are up against a strong country. The only solution can come not from such cruel terror but from negotiations and painful compromises on both sides."
At Kfar Adumim, more than 1500 people accompanied yeshiva student Gabriel Hoter on his final journey. The 17-year-old was buried at the place of his birth, wrapped in a special prayer shawl he habitually wore at the start of every Shabbat.
"From the day you were born we knew you were an angel, and that is how you got your name, said Hoter's oldest brother, Ben-Yishai. "As with every angel, when you accomplished your mission it was time for you to go. You accomplished many missions in your life."
Hoter's family, teachers and friends spoke of a brilliant young boy who read all of the Holy Scriptures at the age of ten and completed high school a year early. Hoter then went to the yeshiva, establishing himself as both an outstanding scholar and a example of modesty. In parallel to his yeshivah studies Hoter studied science through the Open University.
"What can be said about a person who is so close to perfect," said Rabbi Kalmanson.
"I ask for forgiveness because it is so hard to eulogize you. Four in one day is so hard to do," sobbed Kalmanson, overcome with emotion.
"You were always so young for your wisdom," said a friend, identified only as Ze'ev. "But you didn't have to die to stay young forever."
Hoter's parents did not speak at the ceremony, which was conducted in the tradition of Yemenite Jewry. Hoter is survived by his parents and five siblings. Three years ago the family moved from Kfar Adumim to the Golan community of Alonei Habashan.
Friends said that last Friday morning Hoter told one of his sisters that should a terrorist attack the yeshiva he would shoot him, and if two terrorists attacked then he was ready to die for the sake of the state.
"When we sing now your voice will be missing, but we will continue to sing and let them beat us," said Ben-Yishai Hoter.
As the family and close friends completed the traditional seven circuits of the grave and the crowd recited burial rites, fellow yeshiva students broke into song, remaining at the gravesite long after the family left.
Also laid to rest Sunday were Pvt. Yehuda Bamberger, 20, and Sergeant Noam Apter, 23. Bamberger, who was to begin a training program for paratroopers this Tuesday, was buried at 11:30 a.m. in the Karnei Shomron cemetery.
Apter, who was buried in Shilo on Saturday night, likely prevented a greater massacre by locking the kitchen door, thus barring the terrorists from entering the dining hall Saturday night in Shilo. He is survived by his parents and eight siblings.
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