Wielding massive knives and a gun, the two terrorists, Rassan and Uday Abu-Jamal, relatives from the Jabel Mukaber neighborhood of East Jerusalem, entered the Kehilat Yaakov synagogue on Harav Shimon Agassi Street, which includes both a synagogue and yeshiva (rabbinical seminary).
Four people were murdered, 8 people were injured including two police officers.
Rabbi Avraham Shmuel Goldberg z”l, 68, was murdered in the Harnof Massacre.
Rabbi Goldberg, a British-born rabbi from Liverpool, was for many years a resident of Golders Green in London and worked in publishing before moving to Israel in 1993. “He was the most wonderful person you could meet, a pillar of the community,” said one of Avraham best friends, David Osborne. He added that Avraham prayed at Kehillat Bnei Torah most days for the last ten years or so. “All he wanted was to live a peaceful life. His family are the nicest people you could meet. They had lots of children and several grandchildren.”
Rabbi Avraham Shmuel Goldberg is survived by his wife, six children and grandchildren.
Rabbi Aryeh Kupinsky z”l, 43, was murdered in the Harnof Massacre.
Rabbi Kupinsky was born and raised in the metropolitan Detroit area, where his family were members of what is today Young Israel of Oak Park, one of the biggest Orthodox Jewish congregations in Michigan. His parents taught at Wayne State University and were well known in the tight-knit community of Modern Orthodox Jews. Rabbi Kupinsky attended elementary school at Akiva Hebrew Day School in Southfield until he moved to Israel with his family around the age of 10.
Rabbi Kupinsky, who worked in computers, prayed regularly at the Kehillat Bnei Torah synagogue in Har Nof where he was killed. Aryeh was known to never refuse anyone seeking assistance in any form, always seeking ways to assist others.
Rabbi Aryeh Kupinsky is survived by his wife and five children, aged 5 to 16. His daughter Chaya Chana tragically died two years ago in her sleep at the age of 13.
Rabbi Kalman Ze’ev Levine z”l, 55, was murdered in the Harnof Massacre.
In 1977, he spent two years studying yeshiva at a yeshiva in Israel before returning to Los Angeles to attend a post-high school study program at Yeshiva University Los Angeles (YULA). Levine returned to Israel again in the early 1980s and this time he never left.
Kalman Levine devoted himself to study, at the Lev Avraham Kollel in Mea Shearim and the evening kollel at Kehillat Bnei Torah where he was killed. Part of his life’s work was putting Orthodox Judaism in a positive light. Levine’s neighbor said that he always lived righteously. “He was always the last one praying at the synagogue. He would get up at sunrise and go to bed at two in the morning. He hardly slept and always had a book in his hand.”
Shimon Kraft, Levine’s best friend from childhood spoke about their lives growing up. He described his friend as a very humble person who, while devoted to increasing his knowledge of Judaism and Torah, also had a sharp sense of humor and loved to joke around.
Rabbi Yerachmiel Levine, son of Rabbi Kalman Levine, eulogized his late father: “My father would study (Torah) all day long and would return home at night only to learn some more until he would fall asleep in his chair. Abba (Father), you were in the middle of saying the Shema (prayer) when your soul left your body and the terrorists came and murdered you.”
Rabbi Kalman Levine is survived by his wife, nine children and five grandchildren, as well as his parents, Bernard and Joan Levine who reside in Kansas City.
Rabbi Moshe Twersky z”l, 59, was murdered in the Harnof Massacre. Rabbi Twersky was a native of Boston who immigrated to Israel with his family in 1990. He lived next door to the Kehillat Bnei Torah synagogue where the terror attack took place and prayed there regularly. Moshe Twersky was the elder son of Rabbi Isadore Twersky of Boston, founder of Harvard’s Center for Jewish Studies, and a grandson of leading Modern Orthodox rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik. The Torat Moshe Yeshiva was one of the first established in Israel to cater to post-high school students from English-speaking countries. His wife is the daughter of the late Rabbi Abba Berman, and runs the Hadar Seminary for Women in Jerusalem.
“He was a big and righteous man during his life – not just after his death,” Rabbi Shmuel Aurbach, a leader of the Lithuanian ultra-Orthodox community, said in his eulogy at Twersky’s funeral. “He was so close to God during his holy life and was murdered in the middle of his prayers.” His son added, “On Shabbat nights he never slept but rather learned Torah. One time I woke up at 2 am and he was still studying.” He came “from a family of princes,” said Rabbi Marc Penner, dean of Yeshiva University in New York.
Rabbi Moshe Twersky is survived by his wife Miriam and five children – three sons and two daughters – aged 23-33, and ten grandchildren.
First Sgt Zidan Nahad Seif, 30 years old, of Yanuh-Jat, was one of the first two policemen to arrive at the scene of the Harnof Massacre and was shot in the head during the ensuing gunfight. Zidan succumbed to his wounds later in the evening. He is survived by his wife and infant daughter, parents and five siblings.
“We are proud of our sons who act fearlessly on the front against terrorist attacks,” said Muefek Tarif, a spiritual leader of the Druze community.
Shmuel Yeruchem ben Bayla
Chaim Yechiel ben Malka
Eytan ben Sara
The terrorists attacked in a rampage, killing and injuring as they walked through the building, the wounded were “scattered” in different rooms. There were about 25-30 people inside praying at the time. The shocking photos of the wounded, included men with tefillin still wrapped around their arm.
Quotes from victims:
“I tried to escape. The man with the knife approached me. There was a chair and table between us … my prayer shawl got caught. I left it there and escaped,”
“It is definitely true to say that the images there – of casualties wearing prayer shawls – are very difficult.”
“I saw people lying on the floor, blood everywhere. People were trying to fight with (the attackers) but they didn’t have much of a chance,”
“There were people running from the synagogue, and a man sitting on the pavement covered in blood, it looked like he had been stabbed,” said local resident Sarah Abrahams, who was walking past when it happened. “Two people came out with their faces half missing, looking like they’d been attacked with knives,”
Yaakov Amos, a resident of the Har Nof neighborhood in Jerusalem, describes this morning’s attack. He was just completing the prayer for peace at the end of the Amidah prayer when he heard gunshots. He turned around, he says, and “saw a Jew wrapped in a prayer shawl on the floor.” Amos describes crouching down behind the wooden stand used to hold his prayer book and seeing one of the two terrorists racing up to the congregants and “shooting them at point-blank range.”
Another eye witness, Joseph Pasternak, a father of eight originally from Argentina, says he saw both terrorists run past him and that one of the congregants was able to throw a chair at the terrorist wielding the firearm but not to disable him. He describes stumbling out of the synagogue, filled with roughly 30 congregants during the early-morning prayer service, which began at 6:25, and taking cover in a utility closet until the police arrived on the scene.
Akiva, a Magen David Adom paramedic, said that he was greeted at the scene by the sight of a worshiper with stab wounds. “I ran into the synagogue, there was a gunshot victim lying on the floor. I tried to treat him, but the gunfire started in my direction and we fled. I pulled the wounded man along,” he continued, “The police arrived and surrounded the entrance and then the terrorist ran out and they shot him. there was wild gunfire. People ran out of the synagogue. It was hell.”
An official Hamas statement said that the attack was a response to the death of bus driver Yusuf Hassan al-Ramouni, who was found hanged at a Jerusalem bus terminal Sunday night. Autopsy results confirmed police’s suspicion of suicide on Monday afternoon.
Hamas also said that the attack was a response to “the ongoing Israeli crimes at al-Aqsa (mosque). The Hamas organization calls for the continuation of acts of revenge.”
The attack comes amid spiking tensions in Jerusalem, which has seen a spate of terror attacks against Israelis. Ten people have now been killed in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Tel Aviv in recent weeks.
In many ways, this attack is a reminder from the March 2008, Mercaz Harav Massacre, killing eight people and wounding six others.