Large crowds thronged the streets of Bnei Brak on Wednesday for the funerals of two men killed in a terror attack a day earlier.
Five people were killed on Tuesday evening when terrorist Diaa Hamarsheh, 27, went on a deadly rampage through the ultra-Orthodox suburb of Tel Aviv.
Three of victims were named as police officer Amir Khoury, 32, Ya’akov Shalom, 36, and Avishai Yehezkel, 30.
Police said that the two unnamed victims were foreign nationals from Ukraine. The two, aged 24 and 32, were killed as they sat outside a grocery store on the city’s Bialik Street.
The two were not formally identified and it was unclear how long they had been in the country, but the Walla news site said they had worked in construction in Israel for a number of years.
Hundreds of people gathered for the funeral of Rabbi Yehezkel, a yeshiva student who was taking his 2-year-old son for an evening walk in his stroller when he was shot.
He is survived by his wife, who is eight months pregnant, and his son.
According to reports, Yehezkel had taken the young child down to the street in his stroller in an attempt to get the boy to sleep.
The victim’s brother Ovadia Yehezkel eulogized him at the funeral, saying that Avishai called to warn him that there was a gunman, and then used his body to shield his son, saving the child, who was left alone in the street after his father was killed.
“Last night the world turned upside down. You called me and said, ‘I hear shots, be careful, stay inside the house.’ And that’s it. I heard no more from you. You cared for us more than you cared for yourself,” he said.
“You cared for your son, you did not give up, you took the bullets like an eagle. You said: ‘It would be better for him to hurt me than the child,'” Ovadia said, alluding to the biblical allegory of the bird that protects its young.
A few hours later, crowds gathered for the funeral of Shalom, a father of four. Shalom was driving home when Hamarsheh stopped his car and opened fire on him from close range.
Shalom’s son Uriel told mourners his father was “wise, loving and caring.”
Shalom was the son of Rabbi Meir Shalom, a prominent leader of the Yemenite community in Beni Brak who died last year of COVID.
“A year and a half ago we were here to mourn your father, the late Rabbi Meir, but we did not think we would be back here so fast,” Shalom’s brother-in-law Moshe Bashari said in a eulogy. “His respect for his parents was exceptional; when his mother needed something, he would come even if it was the middle of the night, and he would do so happily.”
Shalom’s funeral was attended by Shas leader Aryeh Deri, and far-right MK Itamar Ben-Gvir was present at Yehezkel’s funeral, although it was unclear if he was an acquaintance of the family.
According to Walla, the Bnei Brak municipality, mindful of rising tensions, said that politicians across the board were asked not to attend the funerals, which would instead by led by religious leaders and officials from city hall.
The funeral for Khoury, the Arab Israeli police officer killed during an exchange of fire with the terrorist, is set to take place on Thursday in Nof Hagalil.
According to Channel 12 news, a Haredi delegation from Bnei Brak is expected to attend the funeral in a mark of respect and gratitude.
Khoury served on the Bnei Brak police station’s motorcyclist responders team and was one of the officers who caught up with the gunman and killed him, ending the deadly shooting spree.
Khoury was hit in the exchange of fire and later died after being rushed to Beilinson Medical Center, officials said.
According to the Ynet news site, Khoury’s father, Jarris, himself a veteran of the police force, sent his son a text message as soon as he heard the initial reports of shooting in Bnei Brak.
“What is happening in Bnei Brak? Let me know that everything is okay with you.” he wrote. After two hours without a response from his son, the father wrote again: “Amir, say something.”
Khoury, a Christian Arab, is survived by his parents and two sisters.
His girlfriend, Shani, told the Kan public broadcaster that Khoury was a hero, and that the two had hoped to get married.
“He was a warrior, he has been the love of my life forever. He said he would take care of himself and nothing would happen to him. He was not afraid of anything. He would be the first to arrive at any incident. He is a hero,” she said.
“We have been together for seven years and we wanted to get married — he dreamed of having a house. He was the best and most humble person in the world. He would never talk about himself,” she said.
“Last night we talked. He warned me that it would soon be Land Day. I told him it would pass quickly and I would be waiting for him at home at the end of the shift,” she said, referring to the anniversary of the Israeli government’s expropriation of Arab-owned land in the Galilee on March 30, 1976, and the ensuing demonstrations, in which six Arab Israelis were killed.
The terror attack began on Tuesday evening when Hamarsheh, the shooter, arrived in Bnei Brak and disembarked on Jabotinsky Street.
In front of a local store, he pulled out an M16 and tried to fire at passersby, barely missing a pedestrian and a man on his bicycle.
The attacker, a Palestinian from the West Bank, then continued to Bialik Street, but did not find anyone there, so he moved on to a nearby grocery store, where he shot dead the two Ukrainian nationals.
Hamarsheh continued to fire at passersby, but his gun jammed briefly. A car being driven by Shalom then passed by. Hamarsheh shouted “stop” as he pointed his rifle through the window and fired, killing him.
At that point, six minutes had passed since the start of the killing spree. Hamarsheh then proceeded to Herzl Street, where he shot Yehezkel.
As Hamarsheh continued down Herzl Street, two officers on a police motorcycle confronted him and began firing. Hamarsheh returned fire, striking Khoury, who later died of his wounds.
The second officer succeeded in killing Hamarsheh, bringing an end to the deadly spree.
The attack, the third deadly terror incident in a week, exacerbated concerns about an escalating wave of violence ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.