'No training could have prepared us for what happened there'

Man to Bedouin cop who rescued son at Meron: You saved my child, saved the world

‘Rami didn’t ask what party I belong to or if I’m Bedouin or Arab. Rami saved us,’ says Avigdor Hayut, whose eldest son Yedidia was killed in disaster

Police officer Rami Alwan hugs Shmuel Hayut, whom he saved at Meron. Father Avigdor Hayut sites to the left at their home in Bnei Brak, May 3, 2021 (Flash90)
Police officer Rami Alwan hugs Shmuel Hayut, whom he saved at Meron. Father Avigdor Hayut sites to the left at their home in Bnei Brak, May 3, 2021 (Flash90)

A man was reunited on Monday with the police officer who saved him and his son last week at Mount Meron when the officer paid a visit to their Bnei Brak home, where they were mourning a second son who was killed in the tragedy.

Avigdor Hayut told Rami Alwan that he wanted to thank him from the bottom of his heart for saving his child, paraphrasing the Talmudic phrase that “he who saves a life, saves the world.”

“Rami did not ask me what party I belong to, what stream [of Judaism] I belong to, or if I am a Bedouin or an Arab. Rami saved us,” said Hayut.

“Anyone who saves a soul in Israel, it is as if they saved the whole world. Rami, you saved my child, and for me you saved the whole world,” he said.

Rabbi Avigdor Hayut (C) and his son Shmuel (R) meet with police officer Rami Alwan (L) who saved their lives at Mount Meron, at their home in Bnei Brak, May 3, 2021 (Flash90)

Hayut recalled the moment amid all the chaos when Alwan found him and managed to rescue his son Shmuel.

“I was on the floor with all the mass of people who were on top of us. My son was to my right and my eldest son was a few meters from us,” Hayut said. “I saw Alwan and he shouted at me: ‘Give me a hand, I’m pulling you out.’ But I told him: ‘Save the boy.'”

Alwan said that the scene at the Meron disaster was difficult to describe and that there was no amount of training that could have prepared him for the tragedy.

Yedidia Hayut, 13 of Bnei Brak, killed during the fatal crush in Mt. Meron on April 30, 2021. (Courtesy)

“It’s hard to explain in words what happened there. Amid all the cries I approached Avigdor and he told me, ‘Save my child,'” recounted Alwan.

“I tried to pull them both out and then another officer arrived. We pulled them out together and we managed to save them. It was all shouting and chaos.”

Hayut was at the pilgrimage site on Lag B’Omer with his sons Shmuel and Yedidia, 13, and his son’s friend Moshe Levy, 14.

Both Yedidia and Moshe were killed in the crush that claimed the lives of 45 people early Friday morning. The victims of the Lag B’Omer disaster included at least a dozen children and teens, including two sets of brothers, as well as young fathers and rabbis.

“We were dragged into the crowd,” Hayut recalled to Kan. “I saw that it was extremely crowded and things were getting out of control, so I made the decision to leave with the kids.”

Moshe Levy, 14, who was killed in the crush at Meron (courtesy)

Hayut said he and the three children were quickly “sucked into the crowd. At a certain point my younger son and I were thrown to the floor. That was when we lost Yedidia and Moshe. Everybody who was behind us fell one after the other. I couldn’t breathe. I heard my son screaming, ‘Dad, I’m going to die.’ I was trying to encourage him, even when I felt like the end was near, and I was losing feeling in my body.”

Hayut said that as he was lying on the ground, unable to move, he did not know what had happened to Shmuel, Yedidia or Moshe. Once Hayut was brought to the hospital, he continued frantically searching for information about the children.

While Shmuel was taken to the hospital with only minor physical injuries, Hayut couldn’t track down Yedidia or Moshe.

“It wasn’t until Friday afternoon, when my brother identified his body at the Abu Kabir Forensic Institute, that we knew what had happened,” he said.

Yedidia was buried in Bnei Brak on Saturday evening, and Hayut was released from the hospital to attend. Moshe was laid to rest on Friday in Petah Tikva.

Mourners gather around the grave during the funeral of Yedidia Hayut at a cemetery in Petah Tikva, May 2, 2021 (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

Hayut and Levy’s father David met on Sunday in Bnei Brak amid their shared grief.

“We lost two sons. I did what I could,” Hayut sobbed to Levy as they met for the first time since the tragedy, when Hayut came to pay a shiva call to the Levy family in Bnei Brak.

Rabbi Avigdor Hayut, left, and Rabbi David Levy, right, both lost their sons during the Meron tragedy in Israel over the weekend. (Screenshot)

“We held hands the entire time, until we fell and were thrown to the floor,” recounted Hayut, who teaches at the yeshiva where both boys studied. “Moshe and Yedidia were separated from us. I lost them. He was like my son,” said Hayut, who arrived at the Levy home in a wheelchair due to his injuries from the incident.

David Levy told the Kan public broadcaster that his son had begged for years to be allowed to attend the festivities at Meron on Lag B’Omer, and went this year as a reward for excelling in school. “He was a good kid. An angel. Everyone loved him, his friends loved him.”

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