Two Killed in Eilat

After Fatal Shooting, Jewish Agency to Probe How U.S. Gunman Was Accepted Onto Eilat Program

JA chair appoints committee to check process by which the 23-year-old William Hershkovitz, who killed a colleague and was shot dead by police at an Eilat hotel, was accepted onto a Jewish youth program affiliated with the agency.

Following the fatal shooting in Eilat on Friday, in which a U.S. citizen, William Hershkovitz, shot dead a colleague at the hotel where he was employed, and was himself killed by police, the Jewish Agency for Israel has appointed a committee to probe the process by which the gunman was accepted onto a work and study program in Israel that is affiliated with the agency.

Hershkovitz, 23 and from New York, stole a firearm from a security guard at the Leonardo Club Hotel in the southern city, and opened fire, killing 33-year-old Armando Abed, a chef at the hotel. The gunman was later killed by police during an exchange of gunfire.

Jewish Agency Chair Natan Sharanksy appointed the committee, headed by Moshe Shiff, who is the agency's deputy director-general of human resources and administration.

Sharansky expressed deep sorrow on Friday over the loss of lives, and said that the Eilat shooting was an unusual incident.

The program that the gunman was participating in is called Oranim." Ofer Gutman, head of Oranim, which is affiliated with Masa Israel Journey, said on Friday that the program brings Jews to Israel for work and studies. Masa is a joint project of the Israeli government and the Jewish Agency for Israel.  

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"He was a normal guy," Gutman told The Associated Press. "There was nothing that indicated what would happen in the end." Gutman declined to give the attacker's name.

Hershkovitz arrived in Israel about two months ago on the Oranim program, combining Hebrew study, travel and work in an Eilat hotel along with a university course on hotel management, Gutman said. On Tuesday, the hotel and the program decided, together with Hershkovitz, to terminate his work at the hotel, and the Oranim staff was planning to reassign him to another workplace, Gutman said.

Gutman did not say why it was decided to end his work at the hotel, but said participants sometimes transfer to other workplaces based on their personal preferences.

Oranim is one of 200 internship programs supported by Masa. Some 70,000 young Jews from around the world have come to Israel through the Masa program for internship, study and volunteer programs in Israel. 

Outside the Leonardo Club Hotel in Eilat.
Jacky Poms