Marking a full five years since the horrific massacre of the Fogel family at their home in Itamar, Samaria, hundreds of friends, family members and residents of the town gathered on Tuesday night at Itamar's Mishkan Ehud Torah academy to learn Torah in their memory.
At the memorial the parents of the murdered couple Ehud and Ruth were present, as was their son Roi who survived the attack and recently celebrated his bar mitzvah. The couple, together with three of their children – 11-year-old Yoav, four-year-old Elad and three-month-old Hadas – were brutally slaughtered by two Arab terrorists from a nearby village who sneaked into their house on Friday night, March 11, 2011.
Three of their children survived; two of them – a six-year-old and a two-year-old – were asleep in the house at the time and were not noticed by the murderers, and then 12-year-old Tamar was out with her youth group at the time, before coming home and discovering the grisly scene.
Chaim Fogel, the bereaved father of Ehud "Udi" Fogel, eulogized his son at the memorial.
"Udi and Ruti were always emissaries [of good deeds]. They moved from place to place. From Netzarim to Ariel, and from Ariel to Itamar. They always tried to do everything in the best way," he said.
Ruti's bereaved father, Rabbi Yehuda Ben-Yishai, added: "our consolation, if there can be such a thing, is that due to this terrible event, many buildings were put up [in Judea and Samaria] with energy and spirit. Throughout the country, babies were named after our dear children: Udi, Ruti, Yoav, Elad and Hadas."
Since late 2013, two consecutive coalition governments have come under criticism for imposing a near total building freeze on Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria.
Former IDF Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Avichai Ronski, dean of the Itamar Yeshiva, spoke at the memorial about the decision to establish Mishkan Ehud immediately after the murder.
"The awful murder of the Fogel family hit us hard. Fifteen members of the town have been murdered over the years and suddenly this additional awful blow. We didn't know how to deal with it," he said. "We had a real fear that the town wouldn't stand up to this blow."
"The decision to establish Mishkan Ehud was made during the shiva (immediate seven-day period of intense mourning – ed.). In this way even during the time of the shiva tractors were heard working in the town. They heard the voice of the hope for a continuation of life. The dear members of the Fogel family will always be part of us."
During the memorial event lectures were held by Rabbi Chaim Shahar and Rabbi Tzion Twill. On Wednesday there will be a visit to the graves of the victims, and a central memorial event will take place at the Bayit Vegan Guest House in Jerusalem.