December 19, 2018

Remembering Ari Fuld: The Lion of Zion

Ari Fuld, photo courtesy of Facebook.

This article was never meant to be written. The intended subject of this week’s “Humans of Israel” column was hi-tech guru Hillel Fuld. But when his older brother, Ari, was reportedly stabbed by a Palestinian terrorist in Gush Etzion on Sunday, everything changed. It was impossible to stem the flow of tears rereading the piece on Hillel, who said during our interview last week that he felt he was “living a dream” in which he had to “pinch myself every day.”

Hillel’s life, and that of his family, has since turned into a nightmare.

The tears flow afresh every time I open Facebook, which is almost exclusively filled with posts about the elder Fuld. I did not know him personally, but the effect he had was wide-reaching. As someone put it to me, “Everyone knew Ari, even those who didn’t know him.”

In keeping with his namesake, he was eulogized as a “lion of Zion,” a “hero” and a “warrior of the Jewish state.”

At his funeral, his brother Moshe said, “Who else could manage upon sustaining a fatal 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.”

One mourner described the scene at Kfar Etzion cemetery, where many thousands turned up despite the late hour. At close to midnight, the mourners were informed that it would be at least another 40 minutes before Fuld’s body would arrive and were told to go and get some air. Yet no one moved. Instead they started singing songs about Jewish unity.

“Who else could manage upon sustaining a fatal 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.”

“Ari was giving us hope that even though he was taken away from us we should keep going on, fighting and battling,” Kenny Braun told the Journal. “Ari gave us all a present Erev Yom Kippur. Something that klal Yisrael could take inspiration from and use it as a tool right now at this critical time.”

Another mourner, Gedalyah Reback, a former resident of Gush Etzion, told the Journal, “I feel like I’ve gotten numb to news of these attacks. But hearing Ari’s name it sort of broke me out of my complacency. And seeing his family –  his wife, his father – give eulogies, really made it sink in.”

Fuld, who left behind a wife and four young children, was a staunch activist who doggedly defended the Jewish state.

“We lost a general today,” Joshua Hasten, a friend of Fuld’s and the international spokesman for the Gush Etzion municipality told the Journal. “Somebody who was at the forefront of pro-Israel advocacy.”

A former paratrooper, Fuld was also the assistance director of Standing Together, an organization that assists lone soldiers. Fuld was not a person who waited for people to come to him to ask for help. He reached out. When Eric Schorr was drafted into the army, Fuld contacted his mother to ask for Schorr’s address in Israel. “He had never met me, but he wanted to send me hamantaschen for Purim and to make sure that my first holiday in uniform was a happy one,” Schorr told the Journal. “It was the kind of person he was, going that extra mile.”

Ruth Waiman said she connected with Fuld over a shared love of martial arts. Fuld was a fourth-level black belt in Karate who taught self-defense to children. “He gave everyone the feeling [that] what they’re doing is important, all the while doing such vital work himself,” Waiman said. “With such strong passion about everything he set his mind to, it was hard not to absorb a bit of that from him.”

“He understood the concept of a win-win and was willing to keep seeking it, even though he was 99% sure there was no immediate chance of finding it. Ari Fuld lived – and died – by embodying the ideal that this entails.”

Elie Shechter who has known Fuld his entire life, said, “He could give you the biggest hug just by looking at you.”

Several people commented that Fuld’s personality and compassion shone through even when he was embroiled in heated debate. Writer Laura Ben-David said she and Fuld “disagreed, often and publicly” but that his assertions came from a place of “deep caring for Israel and the Jewish people.” Their last argument took place eight minutes before he was stabbed. “I left his last counter-argument hanging; and there it shall remain. Forever,” Ben-David posted.

Another person who had left Fuld hanging was journalist Orit Arfa, who wrote that she had failed to answer Fuld when he questioned some provocative statements made in an earlier op-ed about her decision to move to Berlin. “Don’t rest in peace, Ari. Keep fighting up there,” Arfa wrote. “Meanwhile, please forgive me, but I’ll still stay in Berlin, a cowardly shadow in your heroic light.”

Michael Freedman also commented that he and Fuld “didn’t agree on everything.”

“But this was a man who listened intently to views that opposed his own, or if they overlapped a bit, was keen to seize on the common ground,” he wrote. “He understood the concept of a win-win and was willing to keep seeking it, even though he was 99% sure there was no immediate chance of finding it. Ari Fuld lived – and died – by embodying the ideal that this entails.”