The family of Eliyav Gelman, the IDF officer in reserves who was tragically killed by friendly fire during an Arab terror attack at Gush Etzion Junction in Judea on Wednesday, spoke about his heroism on Friday.
Gelman's widow Rinat is sitting shiva (the traditional seven-day period of intense mourning) at their home in Karmei Tzur, with many visitors coming to comfort her.
"Rinat isn't speaking out because it isn't (about) Eliyav, it isn't (about) her, as they are private individuals and it isn't appropriate for them to be heroes. The only thing that Rinat wants now is her husband," members of the family were quoted as saying on Friday morning by Yedioth Aharonoth.
In another month-and-a-half Rinat is due to give birth to their third child, joining Yair (5) and Yoav (2). The new baby will never know its father.
Eliyav's brother Eyal, who is married to the sister of Sayeret Givati Reconnaissance Unit Commander Banya Sarel who fell in 2014 Operation Protective Edge, said on Thursday, "both Eliyav and Banya express Israeli heroism."
Quiet confidence saving lives
Sarah, Gelman's mother and the bookkeeper at Ulpana Kiryat Arba high school, told journalist Yifat Erlich that "a military official from the unit Eliyav served in, a unit whose task is to coordinate between the infantry and the air force, came to comfort us."
"He told us something that Eliyav didn't speak about. Thanks to the firmness of Eliyav, the life of a company commander who was wounded in Protective Edge was saved," she said.
Sarah explained that in the incident, the upper echelons of the army were hesitating as to whether it was possible to land a rescue helicopter to save the officer due to the difficult conditions, but "Eliyav insisted, and with his quiet he induced confidence among the higher levels, and the helicopter was sent."
"Afterwards it became clear that that's what saved the officer's life. We were moved to hear it, and we hope to meet the officer."
"In the attack as well Eliyav shot the terrorist and in doing so saved the lives of others," she noted, pointing out how the Arab terrorist was moderately wounded and subdued while trying to conduct his stabbing attack.
A Torah in his uniform
The bereaved mother spoke about the ordeal after the attack, as medical staff at Shaare Tzedek Hospital in Jerusalem tried to save Eliyav's life.
"When we reached the hospital two days ago we thought there was still hope," she said. "They told us that the kidneys aren't functioning. So I said immediately: kidneys aren't a problem, everyone in the family will happily agree to donate. We were sure that by the coming birth (of his third child) he would recover already."
"We separated from him. His face was peaceful and calm, that calmness really characterized him."
In the reserve IDF uniform Gelman was wearing at the time of the attack were found a copy of the Torah and the Gemara, which he carried around on a fixed basis to study.
"Eliyav made sure to get up diligently every morning to pray with the sunrise. Even during his military service. But he was also a man of action with golden hands," said his mother, noting the beautiful wooden table and benches on the porch that he built himself, along with a huge chair that he refurbished by sewing and upholstering it.
"He asked me to thread the needle for the machine and just sewed. He also made sure to bake challot (challah bread – ed.) every Shabbat."
"Every bullet has an address"
The family has sent a message supporting the IDF soldiers who shot to neutralize the terrorist but accidentally hit Eliyav.
"We spoke with the brigade commander and we told him that we ask him to strengthen the hands of the soldiers and to raise their spirits," said Ra'anan, Eliyav's eldest brother who is the community security coordinator at Karmei Tzur.
"We have no bad thoughts about them in our hearts, God forbid. They did their duty. We told the brigade commander that if there's a need we will come immediately in order to embrace them. Like every military incident, it is necessary to investigate the incident in order to learn from it, but all of the soldiers – and these soldiers in particular – need to move on, to return to the post and continue to defend the lives of the civilians."
Ra'anan emphasized that "we don't want them God forbid to hesitate to shoot a terrorist who is liable to pounce there at the junction. Friendly fire is a part of our war here in the country."
"As far as we're concerned Eliyav fell in the war of Gush Etzion. He joins warriors who fell here in the War of Independence."
Noting the tragic irony of the situation, he added, "Eliyav shot the terrorist twice, one bullet hit him in the leg and the other in the stomach. Two additional bullets from the soldiers hit the terrorist, but despite that he was only wounded moderately. Only one bullet hit Eliyav and he died."
"As people who believe, we know that every bullet has an address," he said.
Yesterday small cakes decorated with candies and a small Israeli flag were sent to all the soldiers who serve in the area, showing the courage and magnanimity of the Gelman family and residents of Karmei Tzur in their gesture supporting the soldiers who are dealing with the difficult incident.