Ari Fuld, 45, had such the strength of a lion that it did not occur to family members that he could have been the victim of the terrorist attack at the Gush Etzion junction.
On Monday afternoon, Ari’s younger brother Hillel sat on a low plastic mourner’s chair on the lawn in front of his brother’s stone house, and spoke of the moments just prior to the attack.
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Hillel was concerned about the hurricanes in Hong Kong and the United States, without realizing that a very different type of storm was about to turn his own life upside down.
Perusing Ynet, he learned of the attack and quickly wrote on the family WhatsApp group, “Everyone OK in the Gush? Smiley face, thinking ‘obviously everyone is OK, it’s not going to happen to us.’ My older brother Doni called and said, ‘Hillel, it was him.’ I quickly deleted the question from the WhatsApp group.”
Doni told him to go immediately to Shaare Zedek Medical Center. The news said he was in grave condition.
But, Hillel said, “Anyone who knows Ari knows that a fatal condition is small on him. He is getting up in 10 seconds. That is what I thought was happening.”
On his way to the hospital, Hillel called his brother again. This time Doni told him “‘There is no reason to rush.’ So then I knew,” he said.
The grandson of a Holocaust survivor, Ari was brought up in New York in a strong Zionist family. He was one of five brothers, all of whom, including the parents, immigrated to Israel. Ari made aliyah in 1994.
Family members described a man of strong convictions who stood his ground against all odds. A scholar, with a sense of fun, Ari loved his family, his country and his religion.
Even before his death, there was an arsenal of legendary stories about him, including the time he miraculously dodged a bullet while serving with the IDF in Lebanon.
It came, therefore, as no surprise to his family, that his final moments involved an act of courage. Although fatally stabbed by a Palestinian terrorist, and shot him before collapsing.
“Ari was, by all definitions of the word, a hero – a superhero,” Hillel said.
“The guy [the attacker] came from behind – that is the only way anyone was getting Ari down. He came, and he got a main artery. There was no blood pumping to his heart anymore. Somehow, he ran 60 meters, chased the guy, jumped over a wall, got down in firing position and shot the guy. That is not human,” said Hillel.
His instinct was not to stop his own bleeding, but to run after the terrorist, Hillel added.
The doctors told them that it was the last blood pumping, but Hillel said that his older brother Moshe believed it was Ari’s soul that gave him strength when he no longer had any breath left in his body.
Ari’s actions on Sunday saved lives, said Hillel. He explained that a Russian woman who worked in the falafel stand by the Harim Mall had come to Efrat earlier in the day to say that she would have been the terrorist’s next victim were it not for Ari.
“Ari in his life protected the Nation of Israel,” Hillel said.
He spoke in a house packed with mourners who came to the family for the traditional week-long shiva mourning period, including opposition leader Tzipi Livni (Zionist Union), who arrived earlier.
Prior to the funeral, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Bayit Yehudi Party leader Naftali Bennett visited Ari’s parents in their Jerusalem home.
Fuld was buried after midnight in the Kfar Etzion cemetery. Traffic to the graveyard funeral was so heavy that the hearse carrying his corpse was delayed. As the mourners waited, they sang religious tunes. Among those in attendance was US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman.
Ari’s widow, Miriam, recalled for the mourners how her late husband nearly lost his life as an IDF soldier in Lebanon. He had kept the shrapnel that had lodged in his bullet-proof vest.
At that time, Fuld jotted down his thoughts in a notebook. Miriam brought the notebook to the funeral and read the passage which spoke of the importance of courage, and Fuld’s prayer that God let the IDF persevere over its enemies.
At the time he wrote, “I pray only that I won’t die. I hope that the fear will subside,” Miriam said.
Years later, when Fuld received his discharge papers at age 40, he tore them up because he felt so privileged to serve in the Israeli army, she said.
Miriam addressed much of her eulogy to her husband.
“My dearest Ari, this is my last chance to say all the things that need to be said, so you better be listening. You were a good man. I am not sure how to go on without you. We were born less than 24 hours apart, and it seems that we lived our lives side by side. No one knew it would be cut so short this morning on your way to do the shopping, that I asked you to do. You were always running toward danger instead of away from it. You never backed down from a fight, because you knew you were in the right. You fought for what you believe in. You left behind a legacy for the entire world to savor.
“We always watched the news together and wondered how families and wives could be so strong. But that is what we do. We get knocked down and we get right back up, because life is a package deal and we can’t pick and choose. We must accept the good and the bad.
“Now it is my turn to be strong and continue onward.
“I used to tell you, just tell me that everything is going to be all right. I would give anything to hear you say that right now,” said Miriam, as she promised to take care of the children.
“But you have to do your part as well and watch over us from above,” Miriam continued.
“Thank you for 24 crazy years together. I love you, I love you, I love you. I always will,” she concluded.
Ari’s daughter Tamar, 22, recalled that she laughed when she saw her father that morning, because he wore a skullcap, which she had crocheted for him, that finally matched his shirt. She held it up for the mourners to see.
“I always told myself that I am exactly like my Dad. The way I think, the way I talk, the way I do things,” she said.
“One sentence my father always told me, that has stuck with me forever, is ‘If life is easy, you are living it wrong.’ Life is meant to be hard. That is what I am doing now, it will be hard, I am sure, but at least I know I am doing something right.”
Fuld’s son, Yakir, 17, said his father only appeared to be old, but that inside, he was still five or six years old.
“Every time me, or Natan (his 12-year-old brother) or anyone else would get a birthday present, he would be the first one to say, ‘Open it. Check what’s inside.’ If it was a remote control car, or anything else he would be the first one to take it outside and try it, before we even got our hands on it.
“He would always take things to the extreme. It was never enough. He was always a fighter. He lived and went down a fighter. He would have wanted nothing more.
“Us, we need to keep fighting – not just for him, but for yourselves, friends, family and everyone who is here,” Yakir said.
Ari’s father Yonah said, “Generally a person dies of old age, not at 45, this way.”
His son, who had “the courage of a lion” was taken by surprise, he said.
In the Bible, Isaac is spared, but, in his case, Ari was taken, his father said.
“Our son became a brave sacrifice,” he said.
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