A rabbi killed in a West Bank terror attack Monday was remembered by family and friends as a loving teacher and idealist who devoted his life to education and to helping build the settlement where he lived.
Itamar Ben-Gal, 29, was stabbed to death while waiting at a hitchhiking post near the West Bank settlement of Ariel Monday as he headed to a circumcision ceremony for his nephew. His suspected killer managed to flee the scene.
Ben-Gal, originally from Rehovot, was a father of four and lived in the West Bank settlement of Har Bracha, a community of some 2,500 people on the outskirts of Nablus that he was remembered as devoted to building.
In a statement late Monday evening, Ben-Gal’s widow Miriam said she lost her husband “on the soil of the land of Israel.”
“I am here in my home, a home that my husband will not return to. Tomorrow we will bury him here in Har Bracha, a community that he loved so dearly and so wanted to develop.”
The town manager of Har Bracha, Yoni Hayisraeli, said the settlement would push to continue expanding in response to the murder.
“Itamar was a special person, dynamic, energetic, young and fresh-faced, full of life, who devoted his life to education and to adding life, adding Torah,” he told Hebrew-language media.
Ben-Gal was a middle school teacher at the Bnei Akiva yeshiva in the Tel Aviv suburb of Givat Shmuel.
“His moral and educational image will be engraved in us forever,” the school said, according to the Walla news website.
“He was a good teacher and educator and always helped everyone,” eighth-grade student Ariel Dubnik told the Ynet news site.
Yogev Cohen, a friend of Ben-Gal, said he was a “model father,” “amazing husband” and “idealist” who helped build Har Bracha, where he also studied in a yeshiva.
“He was a special mix of derech eretz and Torah, a man with a heart of gold,” he told Hebrew-language media, using a term for decency and morality.
“Just last week he told me how much he loved his students and loved to teach them the mix of Torah, science and values,” he added.
Condolences also poured in across from politicians after the killing.
“We all send comforting hugs and strength to the family,” President Reuven Rivlin said.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett, head of the pro-settlement Jewish Home party, called him a “man of values who loved the land and its people.”
“The people of Israel are in pain and with you in your mourning,” he said, addressing Ben-Gal’s family. “This is another attempt by Palestinian terror to terrorize our land.”
“Another terror attack and another rabbi who was murdered, Rabbi Itamar Ben-Gal,” opposition chairman Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) tweeted, alluding to a shooting attack last month that killed Rabbi Raziel Shevach, also in the northern West Bank. “My heartfelt condolences to his family, his wife and children and loved ones. We will continue, continue and overcome, together.”
Ben-Gal is set to be buried in Har Bracha on Tuesday at 10 a.m.
He is the second Israeli to be killed in an attack in the West Bank in under a month. On January 9, Rabbi Raziel Shevach, 35, was fatally shot near Nablus in the northern West Bank.
On Monday, Shevach’s widow Yael Shevach indicated that the families knew each other and shared a picture of her late husband with Ben-Gal.
“I never thought I would feel like I had a sister,” she wrote. “We’ll get through this together.”