Sibling of slain Yaniv brothers celebrates his bar mitzvah at their graves

Tzur Yaniv feted at Mount Herzl cemetery on Memorial Day; sister Rachel Yaniv addresses Knesset ceremony: ‘Despite the incomprehensible price we have paid, we continue to love’

Amy Spiro is a reporter and writer with The Times of Israel

Shalom and Tzur Yaniv, the father and brother of slain brothers Hallel and Yagel Yaniv, recite the Kaddish mourning prayer on Memorial Day at the Western Wall ceremony, April 24, 2023. (Erik Marmor/Flash90)
Shalom and Tzur Yaniv, the father and brother of slain brothers Hallel and Yagel Yaniv, recite the Kaddish mourning prayer on Memorial Day at the Western Wall ceremony, April 24, 2023. (Erik Marmor/Flash90)

Tzur Yaniv, whose two brothers were killed in a shooting attack earlier this year, celebrated his bar mitzvah alongside their graves in Jerusalem during Memorial Day on Tuesday.

Hallel Yaniv, 21, and Yagel Yaniv, 19, were shot dead as they drove through the West Bank Palestinian town of Huwara in February. The brothers were survived by their parents, Shalom and Esti, and siblings Rachel, Tzur and Kama.

As the Yaniv family marked its first Memorial Day since the murder of the two brothers, their pain mingled with joy at the celebration of their younger son’s bar mitzvah.

The crowd sang “Happy Birthday” and then “Siman Tov U’Mazel Tov” to Tzur at Hallel and Yagel’s gravesite, as the 13-year-old — wearing a T-shirt with a drawing of his two slain brothers — was flanked by his parents and other family members.

While neither brother was actively serving in the military when they were killed, the family requested that they be laid to rest side by side in the Mount Herzl military cemetery.

Hallel had just completed his army service in the Navy and was returning to his yeshiva studies as part of a Hesder program, while Yagel was hoping to join a top elite unit when he started his military service.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a special message to Tzur as he marked the complicated milestone.

“We are all brothers. Brothers in pain, brothers in grief and also in joy,” Netanyahu tweeted. “Today, of all days, a young boy from [the West Bank settlement of] Har Bracha, Tzur Yaniv, the brother of Hallel and Yagel, reached the age of 13 – bar mitzvah.”

Netanyahu added: “As every bereaved family does, Tzur carries with him the memory of his loved ones — his older brothers.”

Brothers Hallel (left) and Yagel Yaniv, who were killed in a terror attack in the West Bank town of Huwara on February 26, 2023. (Courtesy)

On Monday evening, as Memorial Day began, Tzur and his father, Shalom, jointly recited the Kaddish memorial prayer during the official state ceremony at the Western Wall.

Also Monday evening, Rachel Yaniv — Hallel and Yagel’s teenage sister — addressed a Memorial Day gathering at the Knesset.

“I never imagined in my life that on Memorial Day I would stand here as part of a bereaved family — now part of a much larger family whose members never planned to be like this,” she said, choking back tears.

Rachel said that she hoped that the memory of her brothers could help the nation “come back and unify as one people — because when we are united, they cannot beat us… despite the incomprehensible price that we have paid, we continue to love — to love our land, to love the State of Israel and the Israel Defense Forces.”

Rachel’s comments on Memorial Day echoed those made by her parents the day of Hallel and Yagel’s funeral.

“People, we are brothers,” said Esti Yaniv in February. “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 be the last such incident. That all the children can marry, have children and build homes.”

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