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SA oleh mourns friend killed in Ariel terror attack

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“We were like brothers,” says South African oleh Nathaniel Landau (25), reeling from the murder of his close friend, Vyacheslav (Daniel) Golev (23), by terrorists while on guard duty outside Ariel on Shabbat on 30 April.

Speaking to the SA Jewish Report in his South African accent after visiting the Golev family shiva house on 3 May, Landau said, “I was on the way back motzei Shabbos to the university because I have studies on a Sunday. When I put on my phone, I heard there was a pigua [terror attack] in Ariel, and someone was killed.

“When I heard that the person protected his fiancé, and that he was from Beit Shemesh and came from a haredi family, I knew it was him. He always did guard shifts with his fiancé. There was no way they were apart from each other. I just burst into tears.” He sent his friend a WhatsApp message, “Please let me know you guys are okay and that nothing has happened to you.” That message went unanswered.

Landau and his family made aliya in August 1998 to Beit Shemesh. “I met Daniel [Golev’s Hebrew name] in high school, in Grade 7. We became good friends. We had a lot of conversations about faith and our purpose in the world. Daniel made aliya with his family from Russia, and he used to tell me stories about Russian history.

“He was very clever – In Israel when you do matric, you can get up to five points in each subject. He got five points in English, maths, physics, and computer science. We did all of these subjects together. He was very strong, physically and mentally.”

The friends stayed in contact after high school. “After we finished army service, we both enrolled in Ariel University. He studied criminology and psychology. I studied molecular biology. This was our second year at the university. Last year, we both lived in Ariel, at the dorms. We had meals together, mainly on Shabbos.

“He was always there for his family, as the eldest of seven siblings, and for his friends. I had an operation a couple of months ago, and I had to cancel my lease with the dorms because my recovery was going to take long. But thank G-d, it wasn’t as long as expected, so I got back to university, but I didn’t have anywhere to stay. Daniel immediately offered for me to stay at his dorm. I stayed for the whole semester.

“In one of our conversations a couple of weeks ago, we were talking about family and our plans for the future. The reason he decided to study criminology and psychology was because his dream was to become a psychologist. For his degree, he had do volunteer work, and he decided to volunteer at the police station in Petach Tikva. There he worked with detectives and police officers.”

When Golev’s death was confirmed, “my friends brought me home. I didn’t sleep all of Saturday night. We were waiting to hear what time the funeral was going to be. We were waiting to hear if he was going to be buried that same night or not. I was at the cemetery at 13:00 to make sure everything was set up [the funeral was at 16:00].”

Golev and his fiancé, Victoria Fligelman, became engaged just a few weeks ago. Hundreds attended his funeral.

Hamas has since claimed responsibility for the attack. Golev is the 16th Israeli to be killed in a wave of terror attacks since mid-March. Israel usually experiences about 15 to 20 terrorism-related deaths per year.

Though Hamas has encouraged and praised the previous attacks, this is the first time that the terror group has taken credit for an attack in the current spate of violence.

Two Palestinians were arrested on Sunday, 1 May, by Israeli forces in connection with the attack. According to Israeli media, the attackers planned the shooting for weeks, including acquiring a stolen vehicle and firearms and scouting the area for potential targets.

Ariel is an Israeli settlement in the central West Bank, about 16.5km east of the Green Line. It was founded in 1978. This is the first attack on Israelis in this region in the latest spate of violence. However, residents say it’s no different to attacks inside the Green Line.

“I’m saddened by the senseless loss of life of such a young man,” says Dr Yael Maizels, lecturer and scientist at Ariel University. Her husband, Hillel Maizels, is the rabbi of Ohel Efraim, an Ashkenazi shul in Ariel, and son of the late Rabbi Desmond Maizels of Cape Town.

“Because the attack was on Shabbat, I found out only after shul on Shabbat morning after my husband heard something from a Magen David Adom volunteer,” she says. “The past few months have unfortunately been tense all over the country: Beer Sheva, Hadera, Bnei Brak, Tel Aviv, and now Ariel. All Israelis have been a bit more cautious. I don’t think this feeling is unique to Ariel specifically or Yehuda V’Shomron [Judea and Samaria] in general – it’s countrywide.”

Both Beit Shemesh and Ariel have South African connections. South Africa is partnered with Beit Shemesh in the Jewish Agency’s Partnership2gether Peoplehood Platform (previously known as Partnership 2000), which connects Jewish and Israeli communities in 46 city-to-city and region-to-region partnerships.

Telfed Chief Executive Dorron Kline lives in Beit Shemesh and says the city and country is mourning a “hero and a beautiful soul”, but at the same time, they are “living their lives” and refusing to let terror affect them. Beit Shemesh is a multifaceted city of 150 000 people. Golev was from the ultra-Orthodox community, but people from all backgrounds came to his funeral, Kline says.

Kline is also the driving force behind the new medical degree in English in Israel aimed at South African students. The degree starts with a four-year pre-med at Ariel University. Maizels lectures in the course.

He says there are 16 000 students at Ariel University, “a considerable amount of which are Israeli Arabs. It’s a great example of co-existence. The university has its own security and is very safe. To travel there to and from Tel Aviv or Petach Tikva is one bus ride, on the highway.”

He says South Africans have been involved in Ariel since its inception, and there’s a hotel built by South Africans that’s still in operation.

This is the second friend that Landau has lost to terror. Four years ago, his friend, Yovel Mor Yosef, was doing a night shift in the army, protecting civilians at a bus stop near Jerusalem. A terrorist drove by and started shooting, killing Yosef and another soldier on the spot.

At the age of 25, this South African oleh has already had two friends killed in senseless shootings. As Israel marked Yom Hazikaron, he shared pictures of himself, Golev, and Yosef on hikes, hanging out with friends, and at yeshiva. Now, all that’s left are memories, telling their stories, and honouring their legacies.

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