APPRECIATION: Driven by a love of Israel

During this summer’s heatwave, many Israelis no doubt joined me in thinking how difficult it must be for our soldiers to function and continue protecting Israel despite the heat. Ari Fuld, of blessed memory, didn’t simply think about how our soldiers were doing; Ari initiated a “Cool-A-Chayal” campaign to provide 10,000 soldiers with a neck brace that provides refreshing cool air.

That captures the essence of my friend and colleague, who was murdered by a Palestinian terrorist yesterday. He had a fiery passion for the land of Israel and the State of Israel, but what truly drove Ari was his passionate love for the people of Israel.

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The further supports this side of him – and doesn’t surprise anyone who knew him. The cowardly Palestinian terrorist stabbed Ari in the back. Most people would collapse at that point and focus on their injuries. But Ari knew that there was a terrorist on the loose who could kill or injure others.

So, with whatever strength he had and while critically injured, he chased the terrorist and shot him. Thinking about others and not himself. That was the love which Ari had for the people of Israel that permeated his being and was the basis for all of his work, on behalf of our soldiers in the Standing Together organization, and as an advocate for Israel online and all around the world.

Ari and I had our disagreements, and he would argue his points with firmness, clarity and strength. Two things about Ari always inspired me when we debated. The first was how much he cared. He believed that he had to convince me to change my mind, and did not want to finish the debate with a “let’s agree to disagree.” In certain cases, he believed that my stance was dangerous for the state and people of Israel, and he would continue pressing to win me over – Ari would not let me get away without answering his pointed and poignant questions.

When Facebook shut down Ari’s page that expressed his strong political opinions, he founded a new website to make sure he could continue expressing his opinions and reaching as many people as possible. It was amazing to see his strength of conviction, and determination to convince others of what he saw as truth.

Ari was willing to debate anyone, anytime. He always came prepared with facts and figures to support his stance. He sought no personal gain in these debates. He wasn’t running for office, and didn’t earn a living from doing so. He just wanted to fight for truth and protect the state and people of Israel. I strongly recommend watching clips of Ari’s entertaining debates with Uri Zaki from the Meretz Party and Yariv Oppenheimer from Peace Now on ILTV’s Frenemies program, to understand Ari’s wisdom, remarkable debating skills, and dedication to his principles and values.

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The second point of inspiration occurred whenever the debate ended. In one particular situation, I recall how Ari was hammering me for a stance on a particular issue – and he slammed me hard. A few days later, I found myself in Los Angeles, and received the following Facebook message from Ari: “Hey Dov. Looks like we’re in the same area for Shabbat. We should do coffee.” The fierce debate we had a few days earlier didn’t stop Ari from reaching out to get together as friends when he discovered that we were both in Los Angeles for Shabbat. Ari demonstrated that we can put aside ideological disagreements – even from completely different political extremes as was the case regarding his views versus those of Oppenheimer and Zaki – and still be friends and even love one another.

Rather than focus on Ari’s last battle which cost him his life, we should focus on another battle of his, from more than 10 years ago. Ari was working as a martial arts instructor when his reserve paratrooper unit was called to action during the Second Lebanon War. They were in a difficult position within a Lebanese village, and took cover in an apple orchard. Five soldiers, including Ari, were sent to bring back fellow soldiers who had fallen in battle.

Ari recited the viduy, the confessional prayer, before leaving on this mission, in case he were to be killed. He left his heavy backpack under the apple tree where he had been taking cover, and set off for the difficult mission. He returned injured after shrapnel from a missile cut him, but was filled with relief and gratitude when he discovered that his backpack was destroyed by a missile which had landed nearby. This near hit led Ari to change course. He enrolled in a yeshiva, became an educator and ultimately became an internationally-known advocate for Israel.

That lesson – recognizing that life is a gift and an opportunity, and that we must use every skill and moment that we have to help others, whether our family, our state, our land or our people – is Ari Fuld’s legacy.

Israel has lost one of its greatest lovers and extremely talented ambassadors. He will be sorely missed by those who were blessed to know him, and by those who didn’t even know that he was fighting for them.

The writer served as a member in the 19th Knesset.

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