Editor's note: Veteran journalist Sharona Schwartz and photographer George Lange bring us this riveting account from the Friday morning funeral of one of the victims of Thursday's deadly attacks in southern Israel.
Shortly before Glenn and Pat sat at their microphones for Thursday’s radio broadcast (at 4pm Israel local time), we heard the horrific news coming out of Eilat: multi-pronged terrorist attack, bullets and mortars and anti-tank missiles.
The army didn’t know if the siege was over, all afternoon and into the evening terrorists continued taking shots at Israel from across the Egyptian border.
When Israel TV announced the name of the first casualty, I learned he was from Jerusalem and that his funeral would be just a 15 minute drive away. I knew I had to be there if only to feel that this war is not just an abstraction. It destroys the lives of real people.
Staff Sergeant Moshe Naftaly was killed as he was fighting the terrorists who attacked the first bus driving north from Eilat packed with civilians. The eldest of seven children from the settlement Ofra, the 22-year-old recently finished a commanders’ course in the Golani Brigade.
When she got the news, his mother Shula told reporters, "I know in my heart as a mother that Moshe fought bravely. My beloved son was dedicated and persistent in everything he did. He was an exemplary soldier who accomplished every goal he had. He did everything he could for Israel out of pure faith and belief in his actions."
I could hear the wailing of the women as they came up the hill to the gravesite before the funeral began.
Israelis of all types came to pay their last respects: young, old, religious, secular, European Jews, Sephardic Jews and Ethiopians, his family, friends and brothers in arms, who clutched each other next to Moshe’s freshly-dug grave as they wept.
Hundreds stood by quietly as the religious service got underway, still shocked that an adult life that barely began was so mercilessly cut short.Moshe lived in Judea and Samaria - the West Bank - which was supposed to be the dangerous place, not the Red Sea resort of Eilat.
The rabbi of Ofra said Moshe was filled with “love, modesty, dedication, fear of God.”
Another rabbi said, “When someone dies of old age, the angel of death comes through the front door. For Moshe, he snuck in through the window.”
Rabbi Amos Badash from the yeshiva (seminary) where Moshe had studied said they had recently spoken about how he would continue his Torah studies after his army service. “God wanted Moshe to study at a higher and bigger yeshiva to start your Torah studies,” Badash told the graveside mourners.
And Brigadier General Rafi Peretz soberly reminded the large crowd that Moshe’s “friends are still fighting on the border with Egypt even as we bury him.”
Moshe’s five year old brother gazed up at his brother Itamar who eulogized their eldest sibling, recounting how Moshe “never told us rough things you were going through so Mom and we wouldn’t worry.”
The service concluded as three shots were fired by an honor guard, and six wreaths were laid including one by U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro who wore an American and Israeli flag lapel pin.
Funerals are a difficult place to go, but I knew I needed to witness and convey to you tragedy through my eyes, and expose an integral side of life here, the defiance in the face of evil and the human recognition that life must go on.
See more of George Lange's photography here.