A fallen hero: Israel bids farewell to Amichai Witzen

October 12, 2023 by J-Wire
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Thousands of Israelis gathered at Jerusalem’s Mt. Herzl cemetery to pay their last respects to Amichai Israel Witzen.

Israelis pay their last respects to Amichai Israel Witzen in Jeruslem on Oct. 11, 2023. Witzen was killed defending Kibbutz Kerem Shalom from Hamas terrorists. Photo by TPS

Witzen, a 33-year-old civilian security guard, was killed together with his closest friend, Yedidia Raziel, on Saturday trying to protect Kibbutz Kerem Shalom from Hamas terrorists.

Witzen and Raziel shared a lifelong friendship, growing up together in Psagot, in the Binyamin region, before moving to Kerem Shalom, a kibbutz of around 200 residents that abuts the Gaza border.

Dozens of Hamas terrorists breached the fence near the Kerem Shalom border crossing, launching a fierce and brutal assault on the kibbutz. Saturday’s attack coincided with Simchat Torah, a joyous holiday marking the end of the week-long holiday of Sukkot.

But instead of participating in dancing and a festive meal, the kibbutz’s 15-member emergency defence squad battled Hamas for six hours.

Survivors of the fight said Witzen maintained a remarkable calmness, providing guidance to his men and reassurance to his wife, messaging them amidst the fighting.

“I’m needed here – create a holiday atmosphere for them, dance with them, say a prayer, bring them all the sweets in the house. You have to make them feel good. That’s the mission,” he voice-recorded to his wife, Talia, a copy of which was obtained by the Tazpit Press Service.

As the fighting wore on, subsequent messages turned darker.

“But don’t really look out the window. Not suitable at all, there are things that should not be seen. Besides, we’re still in the action, it’s not over. Don’t sit unworried at home,” he said.

But in a sudden and uplifting tone, apparently trying to cheer himself up, he exclaimed, “Israel’s eternity will not lie!” a Hebrew expression of hope in victory, then immediately adding, “Just kidding, the kibbutz is in excellent condition. But nothing is certain yet.”

Those were Witzen’s last recorded words.

The terrorists ambushed Witzen and Raziel, killing them together.

But survivors said Witzen’s bravery saved the lives of more kibbutz members.

By nightfall, the forces regained full control of Kerem Shalom.

Raziel, who is survived by a wife and three children, was laid to rest in the Mt. Herzl cemetery on Wednesday.

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