Around 200 family members and friends of Rabbi Shai Ohayon, who was killed in an apparent terror stabbing in Petah Tikva, gathered for his funeral in the early hours of Thursday morning.
The mourners accompanied his body to the cemetery in Petah Tikva, but only 40 were allowed in for the service due to coronavirus restrictions, the Kan public broadcaster reported.
Ohayon sustained multiple stab wounds in an attack on Wednesday afternoon. A Palestinian suspect was arrested near the scene with a bloodstained knife, police said.
Evyatar Cohen, Ohayon’s neighbor, said at the funeral, “He was a humble man, kind and quiet. It turns out there was a genius among us and we didn’t know it.
“Only now, after his murder, I found out that he passed exams to be a city rabbi. It’s a great loss to us as a neighborhood, and to the people of Israel,” Cohen said, according to the Ynet news site.
Rabbi Micha Halevy, the city of Petah Tikva’s head rabbi, said, “Today the nation of Israel knows who Rabbi Shai was. We ask Rabbi Shai to pray for all of us from above.”
MK Uriel Buso of the religious Shas party said, “The world was shocked by this terrible tragedy. In recent weeks we’ve discussed the subject of destroying terrorists’ homes. But I know that you would surely wave your hand and say that it would not help.”
Ohayon, who was 39, is survived by his wife Sivan and their four children: Tohar, 13, Hillel, 11, Shiloh, 9, and Malachi, 4.
The service was held at Petah Tikva’s Segula Cemetery.
Also overnight Wednesday-Thursday, Israel Defense Forces troops raided the home of the suspected killer in the West Bank village of Rujeib, near Nablus, Ynet reported.
Soldiers from the Kfir infantry brigade confiscated documents and questioned the suspect’s family members, with the help of the Shin Bet internal security service, about whether they knew about the attack before it happened.
On Wednesday, friends and family described Ohayon as a respected father, husband, son and Torah scholar.
“He was an excellent son-in-law, a good father to his children and a good husband to his wife. He was like a son to me,” Ohayon’s father-in-law Ofer Karaz told Hebrew media outlets.
“People loved him very much. Everyone would come to hear his Torah lessons. People would say the lessons could give those who heard them goosebumps,” he said.
Ohayon’s friend David Yosef Mugrabi told reporters that his study partner managed to receive his rabbinic ordination “while working to support his family at the same time.”
“He was determined, even though he didn’t have a college degree, to provide for his family with love, support and work,” he said. “He was righteous; the Holy One took a holy man.”
Ohayon had moved with his family from Sha’ar Efraim in central Israel to Petah Tikva, a Tel Aviv suburb, three years ago.
The suspect in the attack — identified by Israeli authorities as Khalil Abd al-Khaliq Dweikat, 46, from the northern West Bank — was in Israel with a legal work permit, according to the Shin Bet. He was arrested near the scene shortly after the attack at Petah Tikva’s Segula Junction, police said, confirming suspicions of a terror attack.
Dweikat, a father of six from the Nablus area, had no history of terrorist activities, the Shin Bet said.
Upon his arrest, officers searched the suspect and found a bloodstained knife that was apparently used in the attack, police said.
The police handed over Dweikat to the Shin Bet for interrogation. The security service said it was looking into the possibility that he had a history of mental illness, but that it was “too soon to tell” if that could explain the attack.
It is highly unusual for Palestinians with legal work permits to carry out attacks in Israel, since they undergo background checks and regular screenings by Israeli security services. It is similarly uncommon for these kinds of attacks to be carried out by middle-aged men; typically assailants are in their teens or 20s.
On Wednesday night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said of the attack, “My wife Sara and I embrace the family, the wife and four children who were left today without a father. We will work to demolish the home of the terrorist and seek the most severe punishment.”
“Our thoughts are with the Ohayon family, whose son Rabbi Shai was murdered by a despicable terrorist,” tweeted President Reuven Rivlin. “We have lost a man of Torah, a fount of knowledge, a father of four children. The terrorist and his accomplices must face justice. Terror must not win. May his memory be a blessing.”