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Terror attacks touch lives of SA olim

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David Badar was cooking for Shabbat after Yom Ha’atzmaut (on 5 May) when he got a call that there had been a terrorist attack in his hometown of Elad. As a Hatzolah volunteer, he rushed to help. He was the first medic there. He found taxi driver Oren Ben Yiftach dead in his car in a scene that “is too difficult to describe”.

But the worst was yet to come. As he ran into the local park, a boy came up to him and said, “There has been an attack – my father is dead.” The child was the son of his best friend, Yonatan Habakuk. When Badar rushed to his friend, he had been so badly attacked with an axe and knife, that “there was nothing I could do. He showed no signs of life”. A third victim, Boaz Gol, also died in one of the most gruesome terror attacks to take place in Israel. Three others were gravely injured. Badar worked until 05:00 helping the victims.

Meanwhile, Badar’s father, South African oleh Joel Badar, “was walking to my kollel, which isn’t far from the terror site. Suddenly three youngsters told me to turn back because there was a terrorist. Initially, I didn’t believe them and continued on my way. However, after about five minutes or so, I heard sirens and saw police cars driving at high speed. I realised that maybe the youngsters were right and that there was a terrorist.”

The three victims were murdered by two Palestinians from a town in the West Bank who came through a hole in the security barrier. According to Israeli media, Ben Yiftach knew his killers as he had driven them before in his job as a taxi driver. This time, after he drove them into town, they murdered him. They then went on a rampage, injuring three and killing two more. Together, the victims leave behind 16 children who will now grow up without fathers.

“It’s not easy to carry on with normal life,” says the younger Badar. “I lost one of my best friends. His family is having a very difficult time. Yonatan was a car mechanic and a wonderful person.”

“It was well known in Elad that if your car had a problem, you could always rely on Yonatan Habakuk to help, give honest advice, and reasonable prices,” says his father. “If people didn’t have money, they could pay when they could. Sometimes he just repaired for free. He was known as a tzaddik.”

“I just went to the hospital to visit the injured,” says the younger Badar. “One security guard is still seriously injured. I want to thank everyone who donates to Hatzolah, allowing us to respond to such situations.”

Elad was built in the 1990s for the haredi and religious Zionist population. It’s about 25km east of Tel Aviv. The elder Badar explains how he came to live there. “My family moved from South Africa [Germiston] to America in 1977. I made aliya in 1983. We lived in Herzlia for 16 years. My wife comes from Herzlia. I was never happy with the lack of religious observance in Herzlia and for many years, wanted to move to a more religious city. Jerusalem was unaffordable. My wife didn’t like Bnei Brak, and Beit Shemesh was too far out.

“One day, my sister told me that she saw an advert in the newspaper for a new religious yishuv [town], a place called Elad. I came to look and decided that this place would be great. After finally convincing my wife to leave Herzlia, we moved to Elad.”

They have lived happily there ever since. “Elad is a small and peaceful place. Nobody thought that it would be on the terrorists’ list. Now, things are pretty much back to normal. There are just lots of police which we never had previously.”

The terrorists were caught in a forest on the outskirts of Elad on Sunday, 8 May. “Kol Hakavod to the police and security forces,” says the elder Badar. “I would like to encourage all Jews in South Africa to make aliya. Israel is a great place to live. There’s a place for everyone here. Israel is our only real home.”

The Elad attack brought to 19 the number of people killed in terror attacks in Israel and the West Bank since 22 March this year.

On Sunday evening, Yair Maimon was drinking tea on his patio in the West Bank settlement of Tekoa, when he saw an armed Palestinian climbing the security fence a few meters away. He told Israeli media that he quickly rushed his family inside and grabbed his M16 rifle, which he had as a civilian member of the settlement’s security team.

“I shouted toward him, ‘Stop! Who is that?’ He mumbled something unclear and continued climbing. From that moment, we realised it was a terrorist attack.” Security camera footage showed the attacker then running into the town. Maimon saw the terrorist waving a knife, and shot him, killing him.

For South African oleh and Tekoa resident, Brenda Lemkus, the attempted attack brought back memories of another terror attack in which her daughter, Dalia Lemkus, was killed in late 2014. During that attack at a nearby bus stop, the terrorist first tried to ram his minivan into Lemkus and two others. When he failed to run them over, he left his car and attacked them with a knife, killing her.

“I grew up in Highlands North, Johannesburg. I made aliya in 1984 as a newlywed, having married an ex-South African who had made aliya and was serving in the army,” she says. “We have six children, and moved from Gilo, Jerusalem, to Tekoa in 1999 when we outgrew our apartment.

“Dalia had completed her degree in occupational therapy at Haifa University. She chose to work with handicapped children. She was active in our synagogue and also in the local Yad Sarah branch which supplied medical equipment to those in need. She would tremp [hitchhike as is common practice where we live] to and from work in Kiryat Gat. She was 26 years old when she was brutally murdered.”

After her death, they stayed in Tekoa. “This is our home, and the community is very supportive. We dedicated a community hall in her memory and called it Simchat Dalia. I’ve always felt safe, and still feel safe within and without Tekoa and in any other part of Israel.”

She lives very near to where the terrorist came into the settlement on Sunday. “It brought back memories of that awful day, although I live with those memories every day.” She knows Maimon: “A neighbour with seven children and very brave. He’s very cool, calm, and collected and volunteers for Magen David Adom.”

Now, in Tekoa “they’re beefing up security after concluding an investigation of the event. The whole community joined in a thanksgiving ceremony the day after the attempted attack. I’m definitely going to continue to live in Tekoa. This is my home, and I feel safe.”

Also on Sunday, one person was injured in a stabbing incident outside Damascus Gate in Jerusalem.

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