Within minutes of Wednesday night’s fatal shooting of Simcha Hodadtov by IDF soldiers, there were several media reports suggesting that the victim — mistakenly taken for a Palestinian terrorist — was mentally unbalanced. On Thursday, his friends and acquaintances protested the haste in which Hodatov, a Russian immigrant from Dagestan, a security guard and veteran of an IDF Haredi unit, was labeled as disturbed.
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His friends expressed doubts about the soldiers’ account that Hodatov attacked them when they tried to board a Jerusalem and tried to wrest away one of their weapons prior to his being killed. The friends emphasized that the victim was a normal person, introverted and with some speech difficulties.
Rabbi Menachem Goldstein of the Dvar Yerushalayim yeshiva, where Hodadtov studied, gathered testimonies about the fatal confrontation. Based on these testimonies and his acquaintance with the deceased, he said, “I assume he was shot after being suspected of being not Jewish. Things unfolded in a crazy manner. I heard from someone who was there that all he had in his hand was a bag of bread.”
Goldstein concludes the confrontation should not have ended in a shooting. “My understanding is that in the course of the verbal confrontation with the soldiers the driver got off the bus and used his electric shocker and only then, while he was on the ground, did they shoot him. I wonder how an exchange of words deteriorated into shooting. We’re all tense but, nevertheless, this raises questions.”
Hodadtov came to Israel on his own more than a decade ago from Dagestan, in the Caucasian mountains. Soon after arriving here he joined the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) yeshiva in the Har Nof neighborhood in Jerusalem, which serves secular people turning to religion. There he met other friends who came from Russian-speaking countries. After a while he decided to enlist in the army and served in a Haredi combat battalion. After leaving the army he worked as a security guard, maintaining ties with the yeshiva. Over the last year he had been living with his mother, who had joined him from Dagestan, in a small apartment in Har Nof.
Amram Ivri, a friend from the yeshiva, told Haaretz that Hodadtov was a good student with a special personality. “He was very introverted, a loner, but there was a group he was close to. He was like a brother to them. He was sensitive, but this was never expressed aggressively.”
Another person who had served with him in the army also said that Hodatov was a quiet type. Goldstein added that “he was a person who loved his studies but was very quiet. We hardly heard him. His Hebrew was good but he sometimes stuttered. He was powerful and had internal strength. This was illustrated by the way he brought his mother here, taking care of all her needs. Now I’m discovering the social connections he had.”