The families and friends of the four soldiers killed in a truck-ramming terror attack in Jerusalem expressed their shock and grief at their deaths ahead of funerals for the four taking place on Monday.
The four were identified late Sunday as IDF Lieutenant Yael Yekutiel, 20, of Givatayim, Cadet Shir Hajaj, 22, of Maaleh Adumim, Cadet Shira Tzur, 20, from Haifa, and Cadet Erez Orbach, 20, from Alon Shvut.
Seventeen people were injured in the attack, perpetrated by an East Jerusalem terrorist.
Yekutiel was described by a childhood friend who spoke to Channel 2 as someone who was “full of light and joie de vivre; it’s hard to describe a person like that.”
“She loved life, she loved everyone and everyone loved her,” said an aunt at the family’s home in Givatayim where friends and relatives were gathered to comfort the family whose members “have still not processed what has happened,” she said.
Liam Gur, another friend of Yekutiel, said the two texted each other Sunday morning, before the terror attack claimed her life, describing her friend as “one of the most amazing people I have met in my life.”
“She was there for everything and always knew the right thing to say. She was smart and intelligent and had incredible emotional intelligence,” said Gur.
Yekutiel will be laid to rest at 3 p.m. Monday in Kiryat Shaul military cemetery. She leaves behind parents, a brother and a sister.
Hajaj was the eldest of four girls in her family and was said to be an honors student, “top of her class.”
Her mother, Meirav, said that when the family first heard of the attack, they had thought the targets were tourists. She said she started calling hospitals looking for her daughter soon after realizing her daughter might have been at the scene.
She described her as a “flower, a crown jewel,” a girl who inspired “high hopes.”
Her father, speaking to Ynet, addressed a message to IDF Chief Gadi Eizenkot, telling him, “these are our children, we send them to the army knowing they may not come back. Did I ever think this would happen to me? Never.”
Hajaj will be laid to rest at 2 p.m. Monday in Har Herzl’s military cemetery.
A member of Tzur’s family said the 20-year-old was “full of life, she liked to give to others and contribute. We’ll always remember her smiling, and looking ahead to the next challenge. Shira’s song will never be stopped.”
Tzur started her military service in the air force but was then transferred.
Mandi Rabinowitz, the principal of the Tzur’s high school, said Tzur’s father told him he’d had a feeling his daughter was hurt, or worse, in the attack.
Tzur will be laid to rest at 2 p.m. Monday in Haifa’s military cemetery.
The 20-year-old Orbach was the eldest of Uri and Keren Orbach’s six children.
He studied in Neve Shmuel Yeshiva in Efrat, then continued his studies in Ma’alot Yeshiva.
“He will be remembered for always having a smile on his face and for his willingness to help and volunteer for every good cause,” a statement from the community read.
Although he was exempt from army service, he fought for the opportunity to volunteer, and was a cadet in officers’ training school.
Orbach’s funeral will take place Monday morning at 11 a.m. in the military cemetery in Kfar Etzion.
Sixteen others were injured, two of them very seriously, in the attack Sunday which occurred as a group of soldiers were getting off a bus at the promenade in Armon Hanatziv, a popular tourist spot in southern Jerusalem, when Fadi al-Qunbar drove a large flatbed truck into them.
The driver accelerated as he struck the group. After he hit the soldiers, he put the vehicle into reverse and began to run over them a second time.
The terrorist was shot by soldiers and a civilian tour guide, police said. He died of his wounds.