Zidan Saif’s family ‘honored’ by baby name
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And His Name Will Be In Israel

Zidan Saif’s family ‘honored’ by baby name

Jewish couple in New York names newborn after Druze policeman killed in Har Nof synagogue attack

Alexander and Jennifer Chester with their sons Erez and Yaakov (Koby) Zidan, New York, December 12, 2014. (photo credit: Sharon Carfas)
Alexander and Jennifer Chester with their sons Erez and Yaakov (Koby) Zidan, New York, December 12, 2014. (photo credit: Sharon Carfas)

The uncle of the Druze policeman killed in the Har Nof synagogue attack in Jerusalem last month said that Zidan Saif’s family was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support in the past month from Jews in Israel and around the world.

Saif’s uncle, Sheikh Mohmoud Shef, said that a New York Jewish couple who named their son Zidan was a touching example of that support.

“The fact that everyone is so earnest, both in the United States and in Israel, makes them feel like part of our family,” said Shef. “We’re so thankful. The fact that a baby is going to have his name is such a huge honor for us.”

Alexander Chester, a corporate real estate attorney, told The Times of Israel that he and his wife, Jennifer, a medical resident at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, wanted to make sure that Zidan Saif’s name would be perpetuated within the Jewish community, naming their son Yaakov Zidan.

“We wanted to have [Zidan’s] name called among the Jewish people for all time.”

“The four rabbis who were killed left behind many children, so it can be assumed that their names will live on through their grandchildren and great-grandchildren,” said Chester.

“We wanted to have [Zidan’s] name called among the Jewish people for all time.”

Shef said thousands of people, including many from the haredi community, came to Saif’s funeral in the northern Galilee town of Yanuh-Jat and afterwards to express their support.

“We’re not surprised by this, because we know that we’re all part of the family [of Israel],” he said.

Mourners at the funeral of Israeli police officer Zidan Saif, 30, in the northern Druze village of Yanuh-Jat, on November 19, 2014 (photo credit: AFP/Jack Guez)
Mourners at the funeral of Israeli police officer Zidan Saif, 30, in the northern Druze village of Yanuh-Jat, on November 19, 2014 (photo credit: AFP/Jack Guez)

Saif was one of the first to arrive on the scene in Har Nof as two terrorists, armed with guns, axes and meat cleavers, attacked worshipers during morning prayer services at a synagogue in the Jerusalem neighborhood last month.

Rabbi Moshe Twersky, Aryeh Kupinsky, Rabbi Kalman Levine and Rabbi Avraham Shmuel Goldberg were killed inside the synagogue in the attack inside the synagogue. Saif fired at the terrorists from outside the synagogue, playing a crucial role in ending the attack, before one of the terrorists ran out and shot him at close range.

Saif was rushed to the hospital but later died of his wounds.

“This wasn’t his job,” Shef explained. Saif was a traffic cop who just happened to be near the site of the terror attack, and was posthumously honored by the police. “But he heard the shouts and the gunfire and he went there, even though some people said to him not to go near there. He asked them, ‘How could we leave them?’”

Shef added that the family visited the synagogue where the attack took place and was welcomed with open arms from the community. “It was so meaningful, they dedicated an ambulance to him and all the people who died in the terror attack,” Shef added.

The Chester family hopes that by naming their son after Saif — who left behind a wife and a four-month-old daughter, along with his parents and five brothers — they are honoring the entire Druze community in Israel.

“In spite of their having to deal with discrimination within Israeli society, it is very impressive how patriotic the Druze are to the State of Israel,” Alexander Chester added.

Shef echoed this sentiment and said that while he appreciated the outpouring of support, the Druze community is still fighting for basic rights.

“We want to bring back that strong connection between Jethro and Moshe,” Shef said, referring to the relationship in the Bible between Moshe and his father-in-law Jethro. The 122,000 Arabic-speaking Druze, who live in 22 villages in northern Israel, believe they are descendants of Jethro.

“As Druze, we are people who fight for our country,” Shef said. “We’ve been here for thousands of years, for many generations, and we have a blood covenant with Israel. In our communities, the draft percentage is much higher than in the rest of Israel, as is the percentage of Druze who have been killed [in wars and terror attacks]. We have checked off all the boxes we need, but we need our rights.”

Shef said Druze regularly face discrimination and difficulty receiving government benefits.

Zidan Saif, the fifth victim of a terror attack at a synagogue in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Nof. on November 18, 2014 (photo credit: courtesy)
Zidan Saif, the fifth victim of a terror attack at a synagogue in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Nof. on November 18, 2014 (photo credit: courtesy)

He also said that while the family mourns, they find some comfort knowing that Saif’s actions prevented even greater bloodshed during the terror attack. “He really saved people who were going to pray,” said Shef. “It doesn’t matter where people are praying, or who are praying to, [attacking] people during prayer was crossing a red line. But we also say, ‘whoever saves a person, saves a whole world.’”

Chester said he was proud to name his son after Zaif, whom he called “a hero for humanity.”

While blessing the baby, Chester said: “My prayer for you, Yaakov Zidan, is that you strive to do as much for the betterment of the Jewish people and all mankind as Zidan Saif did in his final moments.”

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