Four IDF soldiers were laid to rest at separate ceremonies across the country on Monday, a day after they were killed in a terror attack in which an East Jerusalem resident plowed a truck into troops in Jerusalem.
The funerals of Lt. Yael Yekutiel, 20, of Givatayim, Lt. Shir Hajaj, 22, of Ma’ale Adumim, 2nd Lt. Erez Orbach, 20, of Alon Shvut, and 2nd Lt. Shira Tzur, 20, from Haifa, took place in quick succession on Monday.
Four of the 16 soldiers injured in the attack remained hospitalized in moderate condition on Monday afternoon. Several others who suffered minor wounds were released overnight.
Yekutiel was buried at the military cemetery in Kiryat Shaul, Hajaj at the Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem, Orbach at the military cemetery in the West Bank settlement of Kfar Etzion, and Tzur at the Haifa military cemetery.
Hundreds attended each of the ceremonies, the first of which began at 11 a.m. and the last at 3 p.m.
The four victims were among a group of IDF officer cadets who were hit by a truck driven by Palestinian Fadi al-Qunbar in the Armon Hanatziv neighborhood of Jerusalem. Two of the soldiers , Orbach and Tzur, were American citizens.
Israeli security forces arrested nine Palestinians, among them five members of Qunbar’s family, in connection to the incident. Police also dismantled a mourners’ tent erected Monday by Qundar’s family in his neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber.
Qunbar, 28, was shot and killed by soldiers and an armed tour guide at the scene.
Orbach, 20, of Alon Shvut in the Etzion settlement bloc south of Jerusalem, was exempt from army service for health reasons, but fought to volunteer for service and was a cadet in officers’ training school.
Orbach was survived by parents Uri and Keren Orbach and five siblings.
His grandfather Moshe explained that several review panels had turned down his request to serve, Channel 10 reported.
At the last he was asked why he was so determined to join the army.
“It is my duty,” he responded, Moshe related.
Yekutiel was survived by her parents, brother and sister.
Her father Yackov, eulogized her saying “the charming smile, the joy of life, the love of others, it was fun with you. We managed only a little with you, we haven’t had a enough of you.”
Her sister Noga described Yekutiel as “a big inspiration” to her.
“It was always in you,” Noga said. “You would send love and you were always more mature than your age. You wanted the world to benefit from you and to be better.”
The Mayor of Givatayim Ran Kunik, who was at the funeral, expressed his disappointment that there were no government officials at the ceremony.
“It was unpleasant for me, to say the least, that there was no representative of the Israeli government,” Channel 10 reported.
Hundreds of soldiers from Military Intelligence, where Hajaj served, attended the funeral along with residents of her hometown of Ma’ale Adumim, classmates, former Sephardi chief rabbi Shlomo Amar, MKs Moti Yogev and Omer Bar-Lev, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and the head of the Maale Adumim regional council, Channel 2 news reported.
“She was our first born,” said her father Herzog. “She was an amazing girl. She wasn’t just a flower, she was a whole bouquet.”
As she walked behind in the procession to the grave her mother, Meirav wailed “What am I doing here? My Shir, my life, this can’t be.”
“What a beauty God gave us, how proud I was of you. My Shiri. What do we deserve this? Why? What will we do now without you? What will we do?”
Israeli media published the last message Hajaj’s mother sent to her by phone.
“My dear, my life, talk to me, please,” it said.
Around 1,000 people, including fellow soldiers, attended Hajaj’s funeral at Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem.
Her younger sister, Bar, speaking at the graveside said “My sister Shir. What a loss. I am so sorry.”
Her second sister, Paz, recalled how no matter how much they may have argued with each other, there was always much laughter and conversation between them.
“Words cannot describe the disaster that has fallen on us,” she said.
Tzur started her military service in the air force training to be a pilot, but was then transferred to another unit, the Hebrew-language Ynet website reported. She leaves behind her parents, elder brother and younger sister.
“Shirush, where are you?” Tzur’s grandfather mourned her at the graveside. “Why have you left me? Who will call now, so that I hear [the words] “Hello Grandpa, how are you?”” I will miss it, and I can’t believe it. I thank God that at least he gave me last Friday to be with you and see what a flower we have.”
A previously unknown group calling itself “the martyr of Baha Alyan collective” has claimed the deadly ramming attack.
JTA and AFP contributed to this report.