Thousands of people paid their last respects just after midnight Sunday morning to a border guard killed in a Jerusalem terror attack Friday, remembering Staff Sgt. Hadas Malka as a “fighter who loved people.”
Malka was laid to rest in a military cemetery in the southern coastal city of Ashdod in a service attended by friends and family as well as army and police officials, government minister, politicians and others.
“You had so many dreams, we wanted to see you beneath the huppah,” Malka’s brother Guy said in a eulogy, referring to a Jewish bridal canopy. “Get up, Hadassi, tell us it’s a dream. A damned terrorist destroyed all our dreams. We’ll never forget you as our hero sister who protected Jerusalem.”
Malka, 23, was on patrol outside the Old City walls in Jerusalem when she was attacked on Sultan Suleiman Street near Damascus Gate on Friday evening. She was stabbed in the upper torso and transferred in critical condition to Hadassah Hospital Mount Scopus in Jerusalem, where she underwent emergency surgery but later succumbed to her injuries.
She fought her attacker for several seconds while attempting to draw her weapon, according to a Border Police statement. She had been in a group of troops responding to an attack seconds earlier by two other Palestinian assailants who targeted troops with knives and an automatic weapon at the adjacent Zedekiah’s Cave.
All three attackers were killed. Four other people, including another police officer, were injured in the attacks.
“You cared for everyone, always lent a helping hand; your joy for life swept everyone away,” police chief Roni Alsheich eulogized at the funeral. “You loved everyone. You stayed away from gossip and speaking ill of others. You were a fighter who loved people.”
Malka, a resident of Moshav Givat Ezer in central Israel, left behind her parents, three sisters and two brothers.
Hebrew media reports put the number of mourners at the funeral in the thousands. Along with those who knew Malka personally, a number of politicians attended the funeral, including Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, opposition head Isaac Herzog, Absorption Minister Sofa Landver, and MK Amir Peretz.
Erdan praised Malka for choosing to enlist in the Border Guards even though she could have had a non-combat role or entered civilian life.
“We will continue to go in the way of Hadas, continue to chase down our enemies in any place,” he said.
Heartbroken friends on Saturday recalled how they heard about the attack and tried to message Malka, as they did every time there was an incident in Jerusalem where she served, but this time she did not reply. Moments before the assault, she had sent friends a selfie of herself in guard duty.
“I woke up from a nap and my mother told me there had been an attack in Jerusalem. I said how can there have been an attack? She just sent us a message,” Nofar Sarusi told the Ynet news site.
“Every time there was an attack in Jerusalem I would SMS her to see if she was okay and she would answer,” Sarusi said. “Yesterday she simply didn’t answer.”
The friends spoke of how Malka had been in the navy, but wanted to be a combat soldier and transferred to the Border Police where she did the rest of her mandatory military service and then extended it 15 months ago and became an officer.
Amit Azulai, a friend of Malka’s, told Channel 22 that Malka was “a real-life Wonder Woman… good-hearted and optimistic.”
In a statement Saturday night, President Reuven Rivlin hailed the courage and dedication of Malka and condoled her family.
“The heart goes out to the brave warrior, who from her pictures seemed full of the joy of life, and of a love for the meaningful service she insisted on taking part in,” Rivlin said.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman also praised Malha, who fought with her assailant as he was stabbing her, for the “determination and courage” with which she acted. She was “an inspiration to all of us,” he said.
Over the past 18 months the Old City, and the Damascus Gate area in particular, have seen several attacks by Palestinians, and in one case a Jordanian national.
The attack took place as Muslims were marking the end of the third Friday of the fasting month of Ramadan, during which tens of thousands of Palestinians from east Jerusalem and the West Bank attended prayers at the nearby Al-Aqsa mosque compound.