On Sunday, four Israeli soldiers were murdered in a terrorist attack in Jerusalem. Behind memorial photos of their smiling faces, each one of them had a story, and this is the story of one of the soldiers, Erez.

Erez Orbach, one of the four soldiers killed on Sunday.

Erez Orbach was the son of Uri and Keren, two immigrants to Israel from America, and was the oldest of six children. He actually had a number of health problems, which meant that his medical profile when he enlisted for the army was 21 – the lowest profile one can receive, and one that gives a full exemption from IDF duty. However, Erez requested numerous times to volunteer to serve, despite his medical conditions, and eventually was allowed to join. He rose up in the ranks, and when he was murdered, he was a cadet in officer school. He was only twenty years old.

Erez is not the first member of his family to have been killed in Israel. His uncle and great uncle were killed while serving during Israeli wars. From the perspective of Erez’s great-grandmother, an elderly woman names Chana Beri, this is her third family tragedy. Her son Meir was killed in 1973 in the Yom Kippur War, her grandson Moshe was killed by a bomb in South Lebanon in 1993, and now her great-grandson Erez was killed in a terrorist attack in Jerusalem in 2017.

The tragedy is also another loss for Erez`s community of Alon Shvut. Shayna Goldberg, a resident of Alon Shvut, recounted the following. “My husband, an ER doctor, got a call from a local ambulance volunteer, who informed him that one of the murdered soldiers was from Alon Shvut, and they wanted a doctor present as the family members were informed.

I couldn`t breathe. I had not allowed myself to entertain the possibility that we would know one of the soldiers. After all, Alon Shvut is only made up of 800 families and we were already struck with direct tragedies three times in the past year, with the murders of Nechemia Lavi, Yaakov Don and Eliav Gellman. What are the chances?”

Pedaya Mark sharing the message of hope with an IDF soldier, a compatriot of Erez

But as always, in moments of tragedy, Israelis produce moments of human beauty, that shine through to illuminate the darkest moments. After the funeral of Erez, friends of Erez from the local high school, Mekor Chaim, distributed candies and chocolates to the soldiers from Erez’s company, who had come to attend the funeral. Written on the chocolates was their message to the soldiers – “We love you, stand by you, and give you a big hug – on behalf of the Jewish people.” One of the children giving out the candies was Pedaya Mark – whose father Miki was killed in a terrorist attack only six months ago.

Disgustingly, there were the familiar scenes of Palestinians celebrating the murder of Israelis by handing out sweets in the street. But Israel responds as it always does in these situations – by mourning the loss of wonderful children, coming together as a nation, and by praying and hoping that decades of Palestinian terror will finally come to an end.

May the memories of Erez, Shira, Yael and Shir be a blessing.

Yael Yekutiel, Shira Tzur, Shir Hajaj and Erez Orbach

Contributed by Aron White, CAMERA intern

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