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Bennett meets fallen border guard’s relatives, who had railed against him

Barel Shmueli’s mother apologizes for calling PM a ‘dog’ after son was shot dead on Gaza border; asks him to support law that would let Barel’s sperm be used to produce grandchild

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, left, hugs Nitza Shmueli, whose border guard son Barel was shot dead by a Palestinian gunman on the Gaza border in August, at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on October 27, 2021. (Kobi Gideon/PMO)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, left, hugs Nitza Shmueli, whose border guard son Barel was shot dead by a Palestinian gunman on the Gaza border in August, at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on October 27, 2021. (Kobi Gideon/PMO)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met Wednesday with the mother and sister of a border guard who was shot dead by a gunman on the Gaza border in August. The meeting to mend ties with the pair came after they and other members of the family harshly denounced the premier, calling him a “dog” and a “murderer” on social media.

After apologizing for her past comments, the mother of the Border Police officer — Barel Hadaria Shmueli — asked the premier to advance a proposed law to allow the family to use sperm extracted from her son before his death.

“We have put all the dirt behind us and now I am focused on only one goal: Barel’s continuity, that the State of Israel will finalize the law that will allow me to become a grandmother to a grandchild from Barel,” said Nitza Shmueli.

She added that Bennett had agreed to help her in the matter.

Shmueli, a Border Police sniper, was deployed along the Gaza border on August 21 to counter a major demonstration there. During the protest, a number of rioters suddenly rushed the security fence and clashed with Israeli troops. A man armed with a handgun then approached a slit in the security barrier where Shmueli was stationed and fired three shots, one of which struck Shmueli in the head, fatally wounding him.

Shmueli died in the hospital nine days later. The incident sparked a major public backlash, with members of his family and politicians claiming the soldiers on the border were prevented from responding to the riot by overly restrictive open-fire policies. A military investigation later refuted that claim, finding that the rules of engagement were not the issue and that instead it was the way in which the troops on the border were deployed.

Adding to the controversy, in a conversation with Shmueli’s father a day after he was shot, Bennett accidentally referred to the soldier by his father’s name, Yossi.

Barel Hadaria Shmueli, a Border Police officer who was shot dead by a Gaza gunman at the border in August 2021 (Courtesy)

Two days later, Bennett appeared on Channel 12 news and apologized to the family on air for the error, calling it a mistake, but added that relatives’ claims that Shmueli had been “murdered” were incorrect. He said it was “important to note that [Shmueli] was not murdered, he fell in the line of duty.”

In response to his comments, Shmueli’s mother Nitza wrote a scathing post on Facebook, calling Bennett a “dog” and making an apparent threat against him.

“How dare you say my son wasn’t murdered, you’re a murderer with blood on your hands… I promise you, Bennett, we will someday meet,” she wrote. She later deleted her post and said she had chosen her words poorly, but said she stood behind the overall content.

The mother of Border Police officer Barel Hadaria Shmueli speaks at his funeral in Tel Aviv on August 30, 2021. Shmueli died nine days after being shot in the head during riots on the Gaza border. (Police spokesperson)

On Wednesday, Bennett met with Nitza Shmueli and with Shmueli’s sister, Hila Rahimi, who had also criticized the premier, in his office in Jerusalem, to discuss ways the government can memorialize Shmueli.

Nitza Shmueli apologized to the premier for her comments, saying they were made “during a storm of emotions and out of deep grief.”

She later said the premier “understood our great pain and the hole in our hearts since Barel left us” and that he “promised to assist in my heart’s desire, which is the desire of so many bereaved parents whose children have fallen in battle.”

There have been many court cases over the years regarding the issue of family members using the sperm of dead relatives, typically a son or brother. In some of these cases, courts have ruled in favor of the families, but this has generally required multiple sets of appeals and requests, costing tens of thousands of shekels in legal fees.

In his remarks, Bennett lauded Shmueli and vowed to set up a memorial in his honor.

“Barel was a golden boy. He was a perfect example of love of the land and contribution to the state, one of the best among us, a courageous fighter in his life and in his death,” Bennett said during the meeting.

“We will work to commemorate Barel’s memory and to ensure his presence is in all of our lives,” he said.

According to the Prime Minister’s Office, Bennett also promised to ensure that the family would receive a full accounting of the events preceding Shmueli’s death.

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