Two years have passed since members of the Fogel family were massacred in their home by Palestinian terrorists, but for friends, family and many Israelis, their memory continues to inspire. This was the message sounded at a memorial service Sunday to mark the date – according to the Jewish calendar – that they were killed.
In March 2011, two teenage Palestinian cousins from a nearby village scaled the security fence surrounding the town of Itamar located in Samaria in the northern part of the West Bank. They crawled through the window of the Fogel home and, once inside, butchered parents Udi and Ruth, 11-year-old Yoav, 4-year-old Elad, and before leaving, stabbed to death their baby girl, 3-month-old Hadas.
So moved were they by the family’s tragedy, at least 14 families in the past year named their newborn babies after those slain, according to Ruth Fogel’s parents.
Ruth’s mother, Tali Ben-Yishai, told Israel National News that she keeps track of all of the babies named after her daughter’s family.
"People we do not know contact us and tell us that they named their children after our loved ones…[They] call to offer encouragement and express identification and they do so in the most joy-inspiring way possible – by giving new life and new light," she said.
The service held near the Fogel home in Itamar included Israeli Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman, members of the Knesset, rabbis, senior military officials, family, neighbors and friends. Neeman read a letter from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which said he is regularly updated about the three surviving Fogel children and that the Fogel family heritage will be passed on to the younger generation. A member of the audience told TheBlaze that the prime minister’s note also expressed a desire to fortify his commitment to the land of Israel.
It was a day that friends and neighbors took pause to reflect on their loss. Neighbor Leah Goldsmith, who runs the Friends of Itamar organization with her husband, town mayor Moshe Goldsmith, told TheBlaze about the still-fresh pain of the murders.
"Two years have passed since that dreadful night that Arab murderers entered our community and murdered a family of saints, the Fogels," Goldsmith said. "It was ten years before that that the world only heard of Itamar because of the murder of…members of the Shabo family and Yosef Tuito...it pains not only to grieve their loss but to realize how world attention is turned to us only on a tragic event."
She added, "There are Jewish people out here sacrificing their lives for the land, sweating and bleeding in the goal of preserving a whole and complete Israel, from the Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea. Why is it such an easy thing to give away for a false world order?"
As Goldsmith said, the Fogel family murders weren’t the first atrocity committed in the small community. In 2002, five residents were slain by an Arab terrorist who shot them in a home.
Goldsmith and her neighbors believe their community as well as other Jewish settlements in Samaria are of strategic significance and enhance Israel’s security.
David Ha’ivri, media director for the Shomron (Samaria) Regional Council, lives a 15-minute drive from Itamar and said that far from discouraging them, the Fogel family murder only motivated Jewish residents to redouble their efforts to expand the Jewish settlements of Judea and Samaria, also known as the West Bank -- a policy opposed by the U.S., Europe and most U.N. member states.
"The terror attack is not forgotten," Ha’ivri told TheBlaze. "The Fogels were remarkable people and were dedicated to the land of Israel and to the tradition of the Torah, and to the connection of the Jewish people to the land of our heritage. They were slaughtered in their home by two teenagers from a nearby Arab village who did so as a means of terrorism to express their hate for the Jewish people. There are no words to describe how horrific and terrible that act was."
"The community of Itamar is like one big family that has been struck by terrorism numerous times. They’ve become stronger and grown. More young families have joined the community. The yeshiva [religious seminary] where Rabbi Udi Fogel taught became a powerhouse for Torah study. It has the greatest demand in Israel of young students who want to study there and now a new study hall for the building was constructed in memory of Rabbi Fogel and his family," Ha'ivri added.
Rabbi Yehuda and Tali Ben-Yishai, the parents of Ruth Fogel, have taken in their daughter’s three surviving children, 14-year-old Tamar, 10-year-old Roi and four-year-old Yishai, transforming themselves from grandparents to de facto parents. In an interview published Friday in Israel Hayom, Rabbi Ben-Yishai said of his daughter, son-in-law and three slain grandchildren, "They’re always with us."
"What happened was so inhuman that we have gained superhuman strength," grandmother Tali said. "We know these children will be great people. They will be all right. They will not be damaged. They’re not in trauma anymore. Some children are afraid of what happens around them, but they’re not like that. They’re not the sort who don’t want to go to school or don’t want to get out of bed and spend the day crying."
Their grandfather described their schedule: “They get up in the morning, go to school, prepare sandwiches for themselves, come back with report cards. A normal routine.”
Tali added: "We’ve gone back to being young. We’ve been given a gift, and we’ve gained something — the children give us a lot of strength, and I don’t know whether we give more to them or they give more to us."
At the ceremony, the cornerstone for a new dormitory was set in honor of the Fogels where yeshiva students will be able to live and study. The town of Itamar hopes the dormitory will be constructed within the year.