The parents of two brothers shot and killed in a terror attack a day earlier spoke Monday of their pain at having to bury their children, and issued a plea for unity among Israelis ahead of their funeral in Jerusalem.
Hallel Yaniv, 21, and Yagel Yaniv, 19 were killed as they drove through the West Bank Palestinian town of Huwara on Sunday. Their funeral procession set out from the Har Bracha settlement where they lived, and they were laid to rest at the Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem in the presence of thousands of mourners.
“Words can’t describe this disaster,” their mother, Esti Yaniv, said at a press conference ahead of the funeral. “Instead of accompanying children to the wedding canopy, we need to bury them.”
She called for unity among Israelis, who have recently been deeply divided over government policy.
“People, we are brothers,” she said. “We love the country, we love the army and we want security,” she continued. “The army is everyone’s and we shouldn’t use it for anything political.”
Their father, Shalom, added: “I plead that this is the last such incident. That all the children can marry, have children and build homes.”
“We are trying to accept with love the hard news that God gave us yesterday,” said Rachel Yaniv, the victims’ sister. “This is hard, and this hurts. We are going through not-so-simple times. But we are strong, and the Jewish people have gone through so many other difficult things. I am sure we will be able to bear it.”
At the funeral in Jerusalem, Chief Rabbi David Lau delivered one of the eulogies: “When we are here, next to a fresh grave, how can we possibly be comforted?” he asked.
Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, the rabbi of the Har Bracha settlement where the Yaniv family lives, also spoke at the funeral, decrying how Hallel and Yagel, “full of vigor and vitality, were killed for the sanctification of God.” While their lives were cut short, Melamed added, “in the real world, they are very much alive — and the girls and boys who play and are happy around the country are due to their strength.”
Melamed said that the fate of the Jewish people has always been “to carry the flag of morality, and to bring a blessing to the world… we did not return to our land to dispossess Arabs of their property but to add blessing to the world,” he adds, a clear reference to the riots in Huwara on Sunday night. “Whoever rises up against us, we will fight them and we will win — all within the confines of the law, through the army and the police.”
Rabbi Shmuel Yaniv and his wife Yona, grandparents of the slain brothers, spoke earlier to the Ynet news site, describing the brothers as “children of pure gold, faithful to the homeland, to the Jewish people and the Torah.”
Shmuel Yaniv said that Hallel had just finished his army service in the Navy as the deputy commander of a missile boat, and younger brother Yagel was hoping to join a top elite unit when he started his military service.
Then IDF said Hallel would be interred in the military cemetery and his brother would be buried next to him.
Hallel was still technically in the military, taking part in the Hesder program that combines military service with yeshiva study.
Shimon Naumberg, their uncle, told Ynet that they were “the salt of the earth.”
He described them as having different personalities, Hallel being more introverted, Yigal full of alacrity, and “jumping from place to place.”
“They were both full of goodness, giving benefit to all around them, each in his own way,” Naumberg said. “So different, so similar… They were children who lived for the land of Israel, the Jewish people.”
Naumberg also spoke out against the violence that erupted following the attack when settlers rampaged through Huwara in the wake of the shooting, burning homes and vehicles. A Palestinian was killed in the violence.
“We ask to not engage in that,” Naumberg said. “In the family, we are focusing on doing good, that people should do kind acts, that they continue the way of Hallel and Yagel.”
He recalled that Hallel was reluctant to go out on Sunday but Yagel convinced him to leave by offering to drive him to his destination.
Both brothers were heading to places where they planned to engage in Torah studies.
“They both died for the sake of Heaven, on their way to learn Torah,” Naumberg said.
On Sunday evening, family members arrived at the spot where they were killed to recite Psalms.
Shabtai Naumberg, the brothers’ maternal grandfather, said his “two holy grandsons” have “gone up to heaven.”
“God will avenge them, and they from above will pray on our behalf, for the Jewish people, for the Holy Land and first and foremost for the Torah of the Jewish people,” he said.
Esti Yaniv, the siblings’ mother, said Sunday nothing will fill the hole in her heart.
“We received a tremendous slap in the face from God,” she said in a statement picked up by Hebrew media outlets. “We are trying to find the good things, the kindness, that we had a family Shabbat together, good conversations with the kids.”
“We have a huge hole in our hearts,” she continued. “Nothing will close that hole, not [settlement] construction, not a protest — nothing.”
“The hole will remain and we will learn to live with it,” she said.
The family has three other children.
Ynet reported Monday that the brothers’ parents agreed that their sons’ corneas would be donated for a transplant.
Graphic footage from the attack in Huwara showed the victims’ car riddled with bullets. Troops at the scene found 12 nine-millimeter shell casings, indicting the attacker used a handgun or makeshift submachine gun.
An initial probe of the shooting suggested the gunman took advantage of a traffic jam on the highway to carry out the attack.
The IDF was searching for the gunman, who has not yet been apprehended.
Huwara has long been a flashpoint in the West Bank as it is just about the only Palestinian town through which Israelis regularly travel in order to reach settlements in the northern West Bank.
There have been several shooting attacks against Israeli motorists on Route 60 in Huwara.
In recent months, Palestinian gunmen have repeatedly targeted military posts, troops operating along the West Bank security barrier, Israeli settlements and civilians on the roads.