A memorial will be held Tuesday afternoon marking one Jewish calendar year since a terrorist attack at the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva in Jerusalem killed eight yeshiva students. The memorial gathering will include a ceremony marking the conclusion of the work of scribes who are completing eight new Torah scrolls in memory of the eight victims.
Netanel Furman, 21, who attends the Jerusalem yeshiva, still remembers the scene from a year ago. He was the first one to see the terrorist, who was wearing a black stocking cap and carrying a large carton, which looked like a box for a television set.
"In passing him, I thought to myself that it was strange that someone would have ordered a television for the yeshiva. And after I had walked a matter of six or seven meters past him, I heard the shots, but it was only after I started running and saw the blood which splattered from one of the victims did I realize that these weren't Purim firecrackers but shots from a Kalashnikov rifle."
Over the years, the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva, the flagship of religious Zionist yeshivas, has become synonymous in the public eye with the Gush Emunim movement, which advocates establishing settlements in the West Bank. One of the heads of the yeshiva, Rabbi Yehoshua Magnes, said the terrorist attack taught the broader public about the spirit of Mercaz Harav.
"The trauma was felt by Jews of all kinds, both religious and secular," he noted. "The scene of innocent boys lying in pools of blood heightened the Jewish identity of a great many people, and enhanced the public's understanding of the connection of Mercaz Harav with the country, its institutions and the partnership with the whole of the Jewish people. It was not self-evident previously, and now, when I meet the man in the street and I say that I am from Mercaz Harav, he immediately responds with where he was on the night of the terrorist attack, and what he was doing at that moment, along with praise as to how the staff and students dealt with this trauma, without any hint of the isolated and disengaged approach with which our public was portrayed in prior years."
A week ago, Tzemach Hirschfeld, father of Yonadav Chaim Hirschfeld, who was killed in the attack on the yeshiva, performed the ritual circumcision of the son of Rabbi Yitzhak Dadon. A long-time student at the yeshiva, it was Dadon, along with army officer David Shapira, who killed the terrorist that night.
The the circumcision ceremony was held in the library of the yeshiva. A passage from the book of Ezekiel had special meaning when it was read at the circumcision: "And when I passed by you, and saw you wallowing in your blood, I said unto you: In your blood, live".
Hirschfeld, who performs circumcisions as a profession, said that he sees his job as fostering continuity and the renewal of life. Yonadav's brother Shalom, who began his yeshiva studies at Mercaz Harav this year in a program for younger students, lives in an adjoining dormitory together with a student who was wounded in a terrorist attack in the Gaza Strip.
Their classmates half-jokingly call their room the trauma room. At the same time, the classmates of the students who were killed at Mercaz Harav have been involved in a range of memorial projects which will now be made public to coincide with the one-year anniversary of the attack.