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Bravery in Kiryat Arba

Aharon Granot

Kiryat Arba’s Shuki Gilboa, who subdued the terrorist who murdered 13-year-old Hallel Yaffa Ariel Hy”d, tells his story

Wednesday, July 06, 2016


Meir Pavlovsky (left) repays a long overdue favor to Shuki Gilboa, the man who helped save his life.

Shuki (Yehoshua) Gilboa leaped into action as soon as he got the call at 8:39 a.m. last Thursday that an intruder had jumped the perimeter fence in Kiryat Arba and was headed toward the yishuv at the gateway to Mearas Hamachpeilah. 

Gilboa — a member of Kiryat Arba’s rapid response team, which provides security to the yishuv’s 8,000 residents — met up with Eyal Gelman, the yishuv’s head security officer, and Rabbi Chanoch Kahana, a rav in the local yeshivah. They divided up the turf. Gelman went one way and Shuki and Rabbi Kahana headed to the most likely target, the Ariel residence, just as its owner, Rabbi Amichai Ariel, was pulling up. 

Rabbi Ariel knew right away something was awry. He headed straight for the bedroom where his 13-year-old daughter, Hallel Yaffa, who was home sick that morning, was sleeping. The next few horrid seconds will be forever etched into Shuki’s memory. Rabbi Ariel emerged, crying out: “They killed my daughter.” 

Assuming the murderer was hiding inside, Shuki and Rabbi Kahana entered and started searching from room to room, when the terrorist, a 17-year-old Arab from nearby Bani Naim, jumped them, kicked at Shuki, and pulled a knife on him. 

“I said to myself that either I shoot, or Shuki will be stabbed,” Rabbi Kahana said. 

His shot ricocheted off Shuki’s head and lodged inside the terrorist, who fell to the ground. It took a second gunshot to eliminate him. 

Three days later, Shuki, who lost his right eye from the gunshot wound, was recuperating in Hadassah Ein Kerem, when he received a special visitor — Meir Pavlovsky (the stepson of Mishpacha’s Aharon Granot). 

Shuki was one of the first responders when Meir was stabbed multiple times outside of Kiryat Arba at the beginning of last year’s outbreak of terror (“When It’s Your Son,” Mishpacha, Issue 581). 

“I only have one eye now,” Shuki says, “but for the first time in my life, I understand the true meaning of the term ayin tov.” 

He trained that ayin tov on Rabbi Ariel, who, although in deep shock from discovering his daughter’s body, returned to join Shuki and Rabbi Kahana on their search for the terrorist. 

“If Rav Amichai hadn’t returned, Rabbi Kahana and I would have split up. I would have entered that room alone and I might be dead now,” Shuki said. 

The cold-blooded murder of Hallel Yaffa Ariel, an eighth-grader known for her excellence at music and dance, shocked Israelis and Jews around the world. The terrible news had not yet settled in when the very next day, on Erev Shabbos, Rabbi Miki Mark of Otniel, another Jewish yishuv about ten minutes south of Kiryat Arba, was gunned down by terrorists in a drive-by shooting near his home. Rabbi Mark’s wife, Chava, was seriously injured in the attack, as were two of their ten children. 

The menahel of a hesder yeshivah in Otniel, Rabbi Mark, 48, was married at age 19 and a grandfather before he turned 40. He rose every day before dawn to learn and prepare shiurim that he gave to chaburahs throughout Israel. 

The deaths of Ariel and Rabbi Mark raised the Jewish death toll to 42 since the outbreak of the so-called “knife intifada” right before last Succos. After a few relatively quiet months, six of the murders occurred in June. 

“We are in a protracted fight against terrorism. This struggle has ups and downs,” said Prime Minister Netanyahu at the weekly cabinet meeting. “We are using various means, including aggressive measures that we have not used in the past.” 

Those measures include cordoning off the entire Chevron district, which is home to some 700,000 Arabs; and revoking work permits for residents of Bani Naim, the village five miles east of Chevron that has a tomb thought to be the burial place of Lot. 

The government also added two brigades to secure the southern stretch of Highway 60, which runs from Be’er Sheva in the south, past Chevron and Kiryat Arba, and through Jerusalem, before ending in Afula in the Jezreel Valley. 

Netanyahu added that at next week’s cabinet meeting, the government will submit a special plan to strengthen the communities of Judea and Samaria. 

Many right-of-center Israelis will accept nothing less than large-scale building plans to show terrorists that the more they try to destroy, the more Israel will build in response. But government talk of permits to build 42 new homes in Kiryat Arba was immediately dismissed by right-wing cabinet ministers who said the government was resorting to the oldest trick in the book in dusting off stale plans that have been long since shelved. 

At press time, some Knesset members expressed outrage at a government decision to build 600 new homes for Arabs in the Givat Hamatos neighborhood of Jerusalem, a move that would thicken the Arab presence between south Jerusalem and Bethlehem. The government tried to temper that announcement by unveiling plans to build 600 new homes in Maaleh Adumim, just east of Jerusalem along the road to the Dead Sea. But even this was scorned as throwing crumbs to the right, considering the government keeps postponing their centerpiece E-1 program, which was supposed to add 3,500 residential units, a commercial area, and a hotel zone to this city of some 40,000 people.

Rabbi Amichai Ariel (center) mourns the loss of his beloved daughter

Considering that the Netanyahu government still has President Obama to contend with for another six months, as well as a European Union that just accorded a standing ovation to Palestinian Authority chairman Abu Mazen, it is far more likely that the yishuvim in Judea and the Samaria will remain in the freezer. 

As a new week unfolded, children splashed happily in Kiryat Arba’s pool while others played in its sports facilities, as the yishuv once again opened its annual summer camp for special-needs youngsters from all over Israel. 

Most of the children are probably oblivious to the terrorist murder that took away the breath of a nation, but the parents certainly were not. 

“We were concerned that people would cancel, but everyone who registered came,” says Chaim Granot, a camp counselor. “We are still in tears. But we are resolute. We are an eternal nation on a long journey and we aren’t afraid of the steps we need to take along the way.”

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