Friends and family remember five victims who were killed in the terrorist rocket attacks from Gaza.

Aharon Smadja
Aharon Smadja

Aharon Smadja: A life of service despite personal hardships

Suffering from severe heart problems, Rabbi Aharon Smadja was unable to work in recent years. Yet he devoted himself with whatever strength he had to caring for his children, and to helping others wherever and whenever he could.

“There are so many people in Kiryat Malachi whose lives he touched,” said Ilan Biton, a close friend of Smadja.

“He was a true baa’l chesed,” said Chaim Steiner, a deputy to the mayor of the city, using the words for a person of kindness. “He helped so many needy families, even during this last year when his health was such a problem. Somehow he found the energy to help other families in need.”

Aharon Smadja and his wife had waited for fourteen years before they became parents to their now-ten-year-old twins, a boy and a girl and another nine years for their third child, a girl. Steiner says that during this past year Smadja could often be spotted walking around the town with his infant daughter, as he was frequently called upon – and always graciously accepted – to complete the required quorum of ten men for communal prayers at a variety of local synagogues.

During the emotionally charged funeral procession for Smadja in Kiryat Malachi, a siren alerted residents to an imminent bomb threat and people took cover. A few minutes after they returned another siren was heard.

“I thought that by the time we got to the cemetery many would have departed,” Steiner says, “but no one left because everyone loved Aharon so much, and it was important for them to fully pay their last respects to him.

“One of the participants echoed the entire community when he told me, “You have no idea of the kind of person Aharon was.”

Yitzhak “Itzik” Amsalem
Yitzhak “Itzik” Amsalem

Yitzhak “Itzik” Amsalem: Always With A Smile

Yitzhak “Itzik” Amsalem was described by friends as “a smiling and optimistic person” who was in the process of transforming his 24-year-old life when it was cut short by a terrorist rocket.

A lifelong resident of Kfar Malachi, Amsalem had only recently started to learn in a Chabad yeshiva for adult students, even as he continued to work for Bezeq, Israel’s leading telecommunications provider.

“Itzik was a person who loved life,” says Ilan Biton, a friend of the family. “He was always surrounded by friends, always with a smile on his face.”

Biton added that “Itzik was an amazing person, very kind, always taking care of everyone, and was especially close to his family. He loved working outdoors, meeting people, and was always friendly and kind.”

Amsalem had many plans for the future. “He planned to work and save some money and then continue his studies,” said Biton.

As Biton tried to comprehend the tragedy, he said that “we will never know why G‑d had chosen to take these three souls to him.”

Mira Scharf
Mira Scharf

Mira Scharf: Dedicated to Education

Born and raised in a Sadigura Hasidic home in Jerusalem, Mira Scharf became attracted in high school to the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory, which led her to dedicate herself to Jewish education.

“Mira was a very special woman who always wanted to do the best she could for other people,” said sister-in-law Rochi Scharf.

Mushka Gurevich, another sister-in-law, added: “Mira wasn’t just my sister-in-law, she was my sister. We were always very close and I would call her for advice, and to hear a good word.

“Her family lived under very tough conditions and very modestly. They hardly had any furniture, but she would never complain,” said Gurevich, adding: “If Mira would be able to speak to me now, she would probably try calm me down and tell me that everything will be okay.”

According to Gurevich, Mira stood out for the exceptional love and expertise with which she educated her children.

Mira also threw open her New Delhi home warmly to Israeli backpackers. One woman who Mira hosted there came to pay her last respects at the home of the mourners, and could not stop crying. “She was an amazing woman who only wanted to help people,” she said.

Mira Scharf was pregnant when she was killed, and her children, Geula, nine months old, Chana, 2, and the still-hospitalized Yosef Yitzchak, 4, are staying with their paternal grandparents while their father Shmuel Scharf recuperates from severe injuries he sustained during the missile attack. Friends point out that the family is struggling to meet their basic needs.

Yosef Nachman Partuk
Yosef Nachman Partuk

Yosef Nachman Partuk: A Tough Young Soldier

Friends of Yosef Nachman Partuk describe him as someone who would volunteer first for every mission and was scared of nothing. Some of his last words were posted on his personal Facebook page, expressing his state of mind just before he died: “Either you let us go into Gaza or let us go back to our homes.”

Partuk was born and raised in the West Bank town of Emmanuel, one of eight children whose mother is well-known for running many local charities.

Educated in the Haredi Ahavat Moshe Yeshiva in Jerusalem, Partuk was well liked by his peers. Nathan Zemach, who studied with him there, said that Partuk had “a huge heart and love for everyone. He never stopped smiling and always lent a helping hand to anyone who needed it.

“Whenever a new kid joined the yeshiva Yosef was the first to greet him,” Zemach said. “He was a true leader in his class.”

Ido Mushar, managing director at the council of Emanuel and a family friend, concurred. “It was very important for him to join the army,” Mushar said. “He would exercise every day to become fit so he’d be accepted to one of the elite units. He was given a special honorary decoration for his activity and behavior and for being a role model for his unit.”

Boris Yarmolnik
Boris Yarmolnik

Boris Yarmolnik: A dedicated physics student and soldier

Along with thousands of fellow Israel Defense Forces reservists, Lt. Boris Yarmolnick, 28, was abruptly called back to emergency duty as Israel readied itself for a possible ground invasion into Gaza.

Yarmolnik immigrated to Israel from Ukraine with his family when he was eight years old, subsequently graduated from Tchernichovsky High School in Netanya, completed his IDF service, and was accepted into Tel Aviv University’s physics department. When the call came, he eagerly rejoined his unit, and as a respected young officer was immediately placed in charge of ordinance.

While distributing ammunition and equipment to soldiers, a terrorist missile landed near the young officer and he was struck with shrapnel. He was rushed to a nearby hospital for emergency brain surgery but died later that day of his wounds.

Hundreds of friends and fellow soldiers joined family members at Yarmolnik’s funeral in Netanya to pay their last respects. Addressing the mourners, Yarmolnik’s battalion commander said: “You were a quiet and peaceful man, and anyone who thinks of you remembers your smile. Your top priority was always your troops, and you executed your duties so professionally."

Prof. David Andelman, head of the physics department at Tel Aviv University, told those assembled that "Boris was an excellent student who put a lot of effort into his studies, and I know it meant a lot to him. He was always peaceful and friendly, and when he was called up for duty, he didn't think twice."