AN Israeli grandfather was brutally murdered in a terror attack, as his 23 children and grandchildren prepared for his birthday party 10 kilometres away.
The beaten body of Reuven Schmerling was found in a warehouse in the Israeli Arab town of Kafr Qasim.
In tragic scenes, a large crowd gathered at his funeral and heard prayers chanted in the tunes that he had used as the chazan of his community a few days earlier on Yom Kippur.
He was born on the first day of Succot and always celebrated his birthday in his succah. But this year’s special celebration for his 70th birthday never happened, and instead, the day after it was supposed to take place, his friends and relations came together in a cemetery.
Overcome with emotion, one of his sons struggled to finish the mourner’s kaddish, while a granddaughter eulogised him saying that the news still isn’t sinking in and she is expecting to see him enter his succah with a laugh or a smile.
“There wasn’t a dry eye among the people there,” noted one of his neighbours Amatzia Samkai. Schmerling died just before Succot, but only this week did the Shin Bet reveal that it is being treated as terrorism.
Until then, the the attack was widely thought to be driven by a financial dispute. The Shin Bet announced that its ”that this was a terrorist attack carried out for a nationalist motive.”
Two Palestinians have been arrested in connection with the murder, according to the Shin Bet.
As well as preparing food and drink for Schmerling’s birthday in the Elkana settlement where he lived, his family had printed t-shirts which had a picture and a message saying: “A sign that you are still young.”
Relations described him as “a person who contributed his energy and work for the benefit of the community and was willing to lend a helping hand to any needy at any time and many of the time did it secretly. ”
Chaim Navon, a well-known rabbi, has pointed to Schmerling’s regard for others – Jews and Arabs. He used to give rides to Palestinians, until his family decided it was too dangerous and begged him to stop.
“He then adopted another custom: every morning he would take a bottle of frozen water, and give it to Arabs waiting on the side of the road, so they shouldn’t be too thirsty on hot days.”