Large numbers of Israelis gathered to pay their final respects Monday to an American-born Israel Defense Forces soldier killed in an apparently accidental grenade explosion a day earlier. A crowd of over 1,000 — with some reports putting the number at 2,000 and even 3,000 — heard Sgt. Shlomo Rindenow described as an exemplary young man who was full of life and driven to help.
Rindenow, a 20-year-old lone soldier from New Jersey, was killed along with Staff Sgt. Hussam Tafesh when a grenade held by Tafesh went off near an army post on the Golan Heights on Sunday.
Rindenow was laid to rest at Netzer Hazani in central Israel around 4 p.m.
As some of Rindenow’s family members traveled from the US to Israel for the funeral, they urged the public to attend so that “at least in his last farewell he should not be alone.”
Rindenow was one of five brothers who moved to Israel to serve in the IDF, among nine siblings.
“My little brother was full of life, he never complained and was always smiling. He enlisted to be an example to us and the rest of the world to show that this is what Jews do,” Rindenow’s oldest brother, Menachem Rindenow, said tearfully at the funeral.
“We will never forget you,” he added.
Baruch Rindenow also delivered an emotional eulogy at the funeral, recalling his brother’s determination to enlist in the IDF.
“When he’d get it into his head that he wanted to do things, he’d do them. When he said that he wanted to come to Israel and learn Hebrew so that he could join the unit he wanted to, I knew that he would do exactly that,” he said.
“I don’t think I ever told him how much I looked up to and admired him,” he said.
Rindenow moved to Netzer Hazani from Passaic, New Jersey, when he was 18, and spent a year volunteering with a search and rescue organization in Israel before enlisting in the IDF. As a lone soldier he lived with a host family on Kibbutz Sde Yoav near Ashdod.
Netzer Hazani rabbi Yehiel Yaesh told mourners that they could be consoled by the fact that Rindenow was “buried in the Holy Land.”
“You had the privilege to immigrate to Israel, and you are an integral part of our community,” he said.
Rindenow, along with Staff Sgt. Hussam Tafesh, was killed early Sunday morning when a grenade exploded near an army post on the Golan Heights, the IDF said in a statement.
Tafesh, 24, was laid to rest in his hometown of Beit Jann, in the north of Israel, earlier in the day, with hundreds attending his funeral.
“Hussam was such an amazing person, he was always smiling and willing to help anyone. He was always there for me and would talk to me when I needed advice,” his brother Hassan said. “Hussam, you are no longer with us, but you will always be in our hearts.”
The IDF is still investigating what led to Rindenow and Tafesh’s death. At 7 a.m. Sunday, Tafesh drove his army vehicle up to a military outpost at the entrance to the northern town of Majdal Shams.
He exited the vehicle while holding a grenade, the army said, even though drivers are not supposed to be armed with grenades, and approached Rindenow.
The grenade then exploded, killing him and Rindenow, and injuring three soldiers inside the vehicle.
A special IDF committee headed by Col. Yoav Yarom has been tasked with investigating the circumstances surrounding the deadly explosion.