Now you know his name, and something about his life.
One of the goals of my recent trip to Israel was to meet with the families of the victims of the ongoing Palestinian violence, sometimes referred to as the Knife or Stabbing Intifada.
Of course, the Knife or Stabbing Intifada hasn’t only been knives and it hasn’t only been stabbings — there have been shootings and cars turned into deadly weapons.
Unfortunately, because my two-week trip was reduced to three days because I had return to the U.S. due to a family medical emergency, I did not get to meet with any families.
I was to meet with the widow of Yaakov Don, but the call to me came just 30 minutes before our meeting, and I had to cancel.
With the news today of another terrorist shooting, this time in Tel Aviv, it’s important to remember that the Tel Aviv attack is just one in dozens of attacks the past few months.
You probably don’t recognize the name Yaakov Don.
But you may remember the name Ezra Schwarz, the American Teenager Murdered in Palestinian Attack on November 19, 2015.
Moment of silence for Ezra Schwartz, the teenager from nearby Sharon who was recently killed in Israel pic.twitter.com/W1xdUTRdFJ
— Ben Volin (@BenVolin) November 24, 2015
Yaakov Don was murdered in the same attack as Ezra Schwartz.
The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported:
Nov 19, 2015 – Yaakov Don, 49, of Alon Shvut was one of three people killed when a Palestinian terrorist opened fire with a submachine gun at cars in a traffic jam at the Alon Shvut junction, south of Jerusalem.
Every Thursday afternoon Yaakov Don would drive to Ma’aleh Adumim to study with his two sons, Aviad and Maor, who attend yeshiva there. It was the highlight of his week. He was killed shortly after leaving his home.
Yaakov Don was born in Kiryat Ono to parents who survived the Holocaust, and like his father, a professor of economics at Bar-Ilan University, he was a lifelong professional educator. He taught at the Derech Haavot High School in Efrat, was in charge of its social activities and worked with the Education Ministry on its school computerization program. Colleagues described him as the kind of teacher who loved his work and his students, taking great pride in their achievements. He and his wife Sara spent several years in Toronto, Canada as teaching emissaries.
Yaakov was completing a doctorate in educational technology at the University of Haifa. The family was already planning what presents they would give him – a coffee maker and the Book of Esther – for a joint event celebrating both his 50th birthday and the completion of his doctorate.
Yaakov Don was buried in the Kfar Etzion cemetery. He is survived by his wife Sara, and their four children: Aviad (21), Maor (19), Yedidya (17) and Raheli (13).
(Video also here if doesn’t load)
The Times of Israel also reported, At funeral, slain teacher remembered for warmth, dedication to students.
The resident of the settlement of Alon Shvut was shot dead by Palestinian gunmen on Thursday night in the Gush Etzion bloc in the West Bank, along with 18-year-old US national Ezra Schwartz and Hebron resident Shaadi Arfa.
Thousands of Israelis flocked to the Kfar Etzion cemetery on Friday to pay their final respects.
“You always told me ‘what did I do to deserve you as a wife?’ but I am the one who was blessed,” Don’s wife, Sara said at the funeral, according to the Ynet news website. “I was blessed with a loving, attentive husband, you had so much feeling and warmth — toward me, your children, and your parents.You were a simple man in the greatest sense of the word — you never wanted anything.”
“I thank God for the 22 happy years we had together,” she continued. “From heaven, please pray to God to give us strength.”
Also speaking at the funeral, Don’s son Aviad said: “I don’t understand why and how you aren’t here anymore. How a person like you could be murdered because of this evil.”
“Teach me how to be optimistic at times like these,” he added.
The funeral was emotional.
His widow issued a statement:
A former student of his issued a video tribute. From the YouTube description:
L’iluy Nishmat ♡ wrote this song while coming to terms with Rav Yaakov Don’s untimely death and hope it can be of some comfort to those who knew him and to all my Emunah V’Omanut girls who had him as their teacher ♡ chorus inspired by rabbi debow ‘s words on a rashi
Another former student read this statement
Published on Dec 11, 2015
This is Yaakov Don, aged 49, and my teacher when I was at Sem. He was born in Kiryat Ono to parents who survived the Holocaust, and like his father, he was a lifelong professional educator.
Yaakov taught at the Derech Haavot High School in Efrat, was in charge of its social activities and worked with the Education Ministry on its school computerisation programme. He was described by colleagues as the kind of teacher who loved his work and his students, taking pride in their achievements. As one of his former students, I can say how much he cared for his students, and how much joy we all brought him.
Yaakov was in the process of completing a doctorate in educational technology at the University of Haifa. However, he won’t have the opportunity of finishing his PhD because on the 19th November 2015, he was one of three people killed when a Palestinian terrorist opened fire with a submachine gun at cars in a traffic jam at the Alon Shvut junction, south of Jerusalem.
He won’t have the opportunity to receive the coffee maker and the Book of Esther that his family were planning on giving him to celebrate his 50th birthday and the completion of his doctorate. He won’t get the chance to see his students grow and develop.
Yaakov was buried at the Kfar Etzion cemetery with thousands in attendance. Mourners recalled his dedication to his students and his unwavering optimism. His wife Sara called him loving and attentive, and was seen as an “educator to the bone.”
When you light your Chanukiah tonight, also light a Yartzeit candle in memory of Yaakov, my former teacher at sem. Through this, we can make sure his light continues to shine.
We don’t yet know the names of the victims of the Tel Aviv terror attack.
We do now know the name Yaakov Don. And a little more about his life. May his memory be a blessing.
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