Sgt. Maj. Noam Raz was remembered at his funeral on Sunday as a humble man who loved his country and his family.
“A hero of Israel lived among us,” said Binyamin Regional Council head Yisrael Gantz during the funeral proceedings in Jerusalem. “We were privileged to live alongside a brave family man, a man of Torah, a modest hero.”
The veteran officer of the elite Yamam counterterrorism unit, who was killed in an Israeli operation near Jenin in the West Bank last week, was laid to rest Sunday in the police section of Mount Herzl. Hundreds were in attendance at the funeral, which the Raz family had requested be closed to the media.
Raz, 47, was a founding member and resident of the settlement of Kida in the West Bank and leaves behind a wife, Efrat, and six children. He was posthumously promoted to the rank of command sergeant major.
Residents from Gush Shiloh stood at the Shiloh junction waving Israeli flags as the funeral procession set out Sunday morning from Kida to Mount Herzl via Route 60.
During the funeral, Raz’s son stood up to eulogize his father, but then said he could not say anything in the presence of Public Security Minister Omer Barlev and instead put down the microphone.
Barlev, a member of the Labor party, has long been heavily criticized by those on the political right, most recently on charges that he has not adequately backed the police officers who were involved in the funeral of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh on Friday.
Another of Raz’s sons lamented at the funeral that their siblings were now forced to grow up without a father. “Why should Naveh not be able to learn with you for his bar mitzvah?” his son said.
There should have been more forceful Israeli action in the Jenin area, he suggested. “One missile and it wouldn’t have had to endanger the lives of 50 soldiers, who are each worth this entire government,” Raz’s son said. “How did we end up in a situation where terrorists went to the same hospital that my father went to? I have no words. The time has come for action.”
Raz was hit by gunfire during a raid on terror suspects’ homes on Friday. He was taken to Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, where hospital officials said he arrived in critical condition. They made prolonged efforts to resuscitate him, but he had complex wounds to his upper body and eventually they were forced to declare him dead.
The IDF acknowledged that forces from the military and the Shin Bet as well as Yamam — a counterterror unit within the Border Police — were operating in Burqin to arrest a number of suspects.
During one raid, Israeli forces fired at armed terrorists, who opened heavy fire and threw explosives. As part of the operation, Israeli forces used measures to arrest a suspect who had barricaded himself inside his home and surrendered with his brother, according to a joint statement issued by police and the IDF.
Daoud Zubeidi, who was among 13 Palestinian gunmen reportedly injured in the exchanges of fire with Israeli troops in and around Jenin, was taken to Rambam Medical Center as well. Zubeidi died on Sunday at the hospital from his wounds.
Israel has recently stepped up its operations in the West Bank, especially in the Jenin area, from where several terrorists behind recent deadly attacks carried out in Israel hailed. The violence has left 19 dead in central Israeli cities since March 22, in the bloodiest wave of terrorism in years.
Raz, who was born in Rehovot to Shaya and Esther Rosenberg, enlisted in the IDF in 1999. He served for about 23 years in the elite Yamam counterterrorism unit as a soldier and a paramedic.
“He never changed from childhood, in a positive way,” a childhood friend of Raz told the Israeli National News site. “He was quiet, never spoke about himself, was modest… he was connected to the love of Israel, to the love of Torah, and it only continued onward.”
“Noam was a lover of Israel and a hero of Israel,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Sunday at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting. “Only a number of weeks ago, Noam saved the life of Lt. Gen. S, who was critically injured in a clash with terrorists in the Tulkarem area. Noam leaves behind… a clear legacy: to love our country, to contribute to the state, and to fight our enemies with uncompromising determination.”
Raz was registered as an organ donor, and as a result his corneas will be used for transplants, according to the National Transplant Center.