Thousands gathered to mourn Ari Fuld from late Sunday night into early Monday morning in Kfar Etzion, a religious kibbutz in the West Bank.
Fuld, 45, left his home for a routine shopping trip and became a national legend for the way he shot a terrorist after he himself was mortally wounded near the Rami Levy supermarket in the Gush Etzion junction.
The father of four, Fuld was the grandson of a Holocaust survivor and had miraculously dodged a bullet while serving as an IDF soldier in Lebanon.
“If there is one word to describe my brother, it was a hero,” his brother Moshe told the mourners who surrounded the small chapel on the edge of the Kfar Etzion cemetery just after midnight on Monday.
“Who else could manage upon sustaining a fatal [stabbing] injury, to draw his pistol, jump a fence and shoot his attacker to make sure that his attacker would not hurt anyone else; only my brother, only my brother,” Moshe said.
Courage was not just something that came to him in his death, said Moshe, adding that Ari. “was a hero in every aspect of his life.”
Moshe was one of many family members who described a man of strong convictions who stood his ground against all odds. A scholar, with a sense of fun, Ari loved his family, his country and his religion.
Born in New York, Fuld, 45, immigrated to Israel in 1994. The dual US-Israeli citizen lived in Efrat with his wife Miriam, and was the father of Tamar, 22, Naomi, 21, Yakir, 17, and Natan 12. He served as a sergeant in an elite paratroopers unit in the IDF reserves, and also served on the Efrat emergency squad.
A well-known pro-Israel advocate his Facebook page stated: “Living the dream! I have a love for the Nation of Israel, Land of Israel and Torah of Israel.”
“Ari never did things half way, whether it was his family, his love for his country, his love for Efrat, his all encompassing religious observance, his karate, his commitment to the security team.
“He had a keen sense of self responsibility. There was never an instance where he would let the other person take care of it,” said Moshe.
“He was a scholar like no other. His head was always in the Talmud. He went through those pages, like us normal folk read a novel. The thirst for that next page, he could not put it down for anything.
“He was the most grounded person I know,” Moshe said, adding that he was able to stay focused and never neglect other facets of his life. “He had the weight of the world because he put it there and yet he managed to be everything for everyone,” Moshe said.
Ari’s wife Miriam spoke of how her husband had kept the shrapnel that had lodged in his bullet proof vest while he served in Lebanon. He also kept small notebooks in which he jotted down his thoughts during his IDF service.
His wife Miriam, read some of those words, in which he spoke of the importance of courage and his prayer that God would let the IDF persevere over their enemies.
“I pray only that I won’t die. I hope that the fear will subside,” Miriam read.
When he received his discharge papers at age 40, he tore them up because he felt so privileged to serve in the Israeli Jewish army, she said.
“My dearest Ari, this is my last chance to say all the things that need to be said, so you better be listening.
“You were a good man. I am not sure how to go on without you. We were born less than 24 hours apart and it seems that we lived our lives side by side.
“No one knew it would be cut so short this morning your way to do the shopping, that I asked you to do.
“You were always running toward danger instead of away from it. You never backed down from a fight, because you knew you were in the right. You fought for what you believe in. You left behind a legacy for the entire world to savor.
“We always watched the news together and wondered how families and wives could be so strong. But that is what we do. We get knocked down and we get right back up, because life is a package deal and we can’t pick and chose. We must accept the good and the bad.
“Now it is my turn to be strong and continue onward.
“I use to tell you, just tell me that everything is going to be all right. I would give anything to hear you say that right now,” said Miriam as she promised to take care of the children.
“But you have to do your part as well and watch over us from above,” Miriam said.
“Thank you for 24-crazy years together. I love you, I love you, I love you. I always will,” she said.
Ari’s daughter Tamar, 22, recalled that she laughed when she saw her father that morning, because he wore a skullcap, which she crocheted for him, that finally matched his shirt. She held it up in her left hand for the mourners to see.
“I always told myself that I am exactly like my Dad. The way I think, the way I talk, the way I do things,” she said.
“One sentence my father always told me, that has stuck with me forever, is, ‘if life is easy, you are living it wrong.’ Life is meant to be hard. That is what I am doing now, it will be hard, I am sure, but at least I know I am doing something right.”
Ari’s son Yakir, 17, said his father only appeared to be old, but that inside, he was still five or six year’s old.
“Every time me, or Natan (his 12-year old brother) or anyone else would get a birthday present, he would be he first one to say, ‘open it, check what is inside.” If it was a remote control car, or anything else he would be the first one to take it outside and try it, before we even got our hands on it.
“He would always take things to the extreme. It was never enough. He was always fighter. He lived and went down a fighter. He would have wanted nothing more.”
“Us, we need to keep fighting, not just for him, but for yourselves, friends, family and everyone who is here,” Yakir said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a surprise visit to Gush Etzion to visit the Fuld family prior to the burial.
"We are alive because of heroes like Ari. We will always remember him,” Netanyahu said adding that the embraced the family in the name of the nation of Israel.
Earlier under the night stars, teenagers gathered in the Gush Etzion parking lot to bid farewell to Fuld, a well-known social media personality and Israel advocate.
They carried Israeli flags, played guitar, sang mournful songs and placed candles on the pavement in the shape of a Star of David.
Well-known in Jewish communities around the globe, Fuld was assistant director of Standing Together, an organization that supports IDF soldiers. He was an outspoken defender of Israel in the media and online, regularly engaging with Israel’s critics through his Facebook and Twitter accounts.
According to his personal website, Fuld was about to launch a new Israel advocacy website in English.
He held a fourth-level black belt in karate and had taught the martial art to hundreds of children in Efrat.
In a commentary on the weekly Torah portion on his Facebook page posted September 14, Fuld spoke about Moses’s last words to the people of Israel before he died and speculated on the nature of leadership.
Moses tells them to be strong and brave because God will not abandon the people of Israel, Fuld said.
Fuld’s brother, Eytan, is the spokesman for MK Bezalel Smotrich (Bayit Yehudi).
Another brother, Hillel Fuld, a well-known high-tech guru, wrote on his Twitter account, “He lived as a hero and died as a hero. My big bro is gone. Thanks for the messages. Really. Just looking for oxygen now.”