Messianic Judaism

Terror Victim Yaakov Don, Beloved Educator and Family Man, Touched Thousands

Funeral of terror victim Rabbi Yaakov Don on Friday in Gush Etzion. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

terror victim Ya'akov Don

Terror victim Yaakov Don. “His gigantic smile was not only deeply sincere, but also infectious,” recalls a former student.(Courtesy)

As the Talmud states, to save one person is to save an entire world. Indeed, with each victim of terror, a world is destroyed. Rabbi Yaakov Don is a prime example.

As of Sunday, 20 innocent people were killed since the start of the current wave of violence mid-September, and 177 were wounded.

As the Talmud states, saving the life of one person is tantamount to saving the world. The truth in that statement is evident from the many individual comments and public eulogies about each of the victims.

Five innocent civilians died on Thursday in the deadliest day of Palestinian attacks in the past two months. One of those victims, Rabbi Yaakov Don, was killed in a shooting attack near the community of Alon Shvut in Gush Etzion, where he resided. In the same attack, Palestinian Shadi Arafa, 40, and 18-year-old American Ezra Schwartz, who was giving food packages to IDF soldiers, also lost their lives.

Rabbi Don, 49, was on his way to visit two of his sons at their school in Maale Adumim when the attack occurred

A son of Holocaust survivors, he was a beloved family man and educator who made a profound impact on students in Israel as well as in Toronto and the US, where he taught and served as an emissary for the Religious Zionist Mizrachi/B’nei Akiva movement.

funeral of terror victiim

Thousands packed the cemetery at funeral for Rabbi Yaakov Don. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“I thank God for the 22 happy years we had together. From heaven, please pray to God to give us strength,” his wife Sara cried out in her eulogy at the funeral in Gush Etzion Friday morning.

He was near completion of a doctorate in technology and education at the University of Haifa and a senior educator in a high school in the city of Efrat in Judea when he was killed.

Students in Israel and former pupils in North American discussed their shock and sorrow.

‘He Really Cared’

“Yaakov Don was one of those people whose smile and laughter would light up a room, who found real happiness in the success of others, who would give strength to those around him,” Simi Landau Suttner, a CHAT graduate, told United with Israel.

“He really, really cared,” another Toronto student said.

Anna Zolkower Sherman

Anna Zolkower Sherman, a former student, says Rabbi Don “touched and inspired literally everyone who ever met or knew him.”

Anna Zolkower Sherman of Toronto, another CHAT graduate, was Sara Don’s student from 1997 to 1999, and Rabbi Don often filled in as a substitute. Like so many others, she became a close friend of the Don family. In a letter to the bereaved widow, which she shared with United with Israel, Sherman expressed her condolences to the entire family, adding:

“When you arrived at our school and became our teacher, we were all curious as to which one of these new shlichim (emissaries/teachers) was your husband. When we finally met him, I was struck with two thoughts: 1) This makes sense. He is perfect for Sara. 2) How can one man be SO happy all the time? As I got to know both of you more intimately, I realized that Rabbi Don was so happy all the time because this is simply the person he was. He was a living, breathing example of simchat hachaim (love of life). His gigantic smile was not only deeply sincere, but also infectious. Anyone who interacted with him would walk away with the same smile, because this was the effect he had on those around him. The more I got to know both of you, the more I was touched by your family and the joy that emanated from your home. Rabbi Don was in love with you, he was in love with your children and he was in love with life itself.”

‘Thank You for Being My Inspiration’

“When I spent time in your home,” the letter continues, “I felt like a family member, because this is how you and your husband made us feel. You treated your students as if we were family. As I grew older and spent more time in Israel, whenever I met people from Alon Shvut or the Gush, they would ask if I had ever been to that area. I would answer, ‘Only to visit my teachers who live there, Yaakov and Sara Don.’ And EVERY SINGLE PERSON one of them would answer, ‘Yaakov and Sara Don? Those are my favorite people/teachers in the whole world!’

“I think I speak for the general community when I say that your husband touched and inspired literally everyone who ever met him. He was a light that shone bright above all else. On a personal note, whenever I was in your home and I watched the two of you together or with your kids, I used to think to myself, ‘Wow. I want a marriage like that.’ And now I have that. Everything I prayed for. Thank you both for being my inspiration. Sometimes the most special people, the brightest lights, leave this world early. We will never know why. Rabbi Don’s memory, soul and gigantic smile will live on in all of us who knew him and were touched by him.”

‘Someone’s Father. Someone’s Friend’

Another Toronto native, Miriam Hershkop, who made aliyah (immigration to Israel) and is studying to be a nurse in Jerusalem, did not know the victim personally, but she was on duty when he was brought to Shaare Zedek Medical Center in critical condition.

“It’s all fresh,” she posted on Facebook on Friday. “I didn’t read the news tonight, But do I have to? I was right there when the bleeding man came into the emergency room – really, now the deceased man. Someone’s father. Someone’s friend. The murdered Jew. My brother at heart.

“I saw the medical staff trying to bring him back. His tzizit (phylacteries) were on the floor of the trauma unit. Torn. Like many of us now. Like those people who loved him most, who are undoubtedly feeling such dreadful pain.

“I saw his HEART.

“The enemy is heartless. Ignorant. Evil. And only G-d can intervene and change the essence of their animalistic beings.

“But we… We have purity in our hearts. Holiness. It’s time to dig deep and awaken ourselves. Fulfill the potential that was given to us as a gift.

“He did not wake up. But we can. We have to. For what purpose are our hearts beating?”

By: Atara Beck, Senior Writer, United with Israel

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Source: United with Israel

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