Israel is in the midst of a deadly terror wave that claimed the lives of 31 individuals in 2022 and another 35 in 2023. In fact, aside from 2006 (165 casualties in the Second Lebanon War) and 2014 (75 casualties in Operation Protective Edge), 2023 is already the deadliest year since the days of the Second Intifada, which lasted for about six years and during which over 1,000 Israelis were murdered.
The attacks this year, in which around 140 additional people were injured, some of them severely and many are still recovering, have left behind numerous shattered and grieving families, some of whom have lost more than one loved one.
As of now, the security forces have yet to apprehend at least three terrorists - responsible for Monday’s deadly attack in the Hebron Hills, the murder of Meir Tamari in the settlement of Hermesh in late May, and the killing of a father and son in Huwara over the weekend. These are the stories of the victims.
On January 27, while many Israelis were sitting down for Shabbat dinner, terrorist Khaire Alkam, 21, from East Jerusalem arrived at a synagogue in the capital's Neve Ya'akov neighborhood and shot dead seven people outside a synagogue before being killed by cops.
Alkam arrived by car in the northern Jerusalem neighborhood and parked on Tabenkin Street near the Ateret Avraham Synagogue. He got out of the car on the main street and then opened fire on passersby.
Shaul Chai, a 68-year-old gabbai at a synagogue, had dinner at a relative's house and after the meal, he made his way to the synagogue. "He was the father of all of us, a dear and beloved man," his acquaintances recounted.
Irina Korolova, a 59-year-old Ukrainian national, was also killed in the Neve Yaakov attack. She came to Israel in December 2016 without any family members and worked in nursing care.
“She was very friendly, a person you bond with quickly,” said the sons of the elderly man Korolova cared for before her death.
“Every evening she would go on a stroll around the block with her friends after she was done taking care of our father.”
Rafael Ben Eliyahu, 55, was killed in the attack when he stopped the car his wife Tina and two sons were in, after a woman standing nearby shouted that the terrorist had shot her son. The family believed the terrorist had fled, but then Alkam appeared from the other side and began shooting from point-blank range.
“He shot my husband, and [my son] Matan jumped in front of me so the terrorist wouldn't hurt me. He saved my life and got injured,” the widow said.
Eliyahu Mizrachi, 48, and his wife Natalie Ziskin Mizrachi, 45, had been married for only two years. They were in their home when the shooting started. Eliyahu went down to the street to try to help the victims, but the terrorist noticed him and killed him. Natalie tried to care for her husband, but the terrorist shot her too.
Natalie had worked for 20 years in the food court at Hadassah Medical Center.
Tamara, Natalie's mother, said, "They took a part of me with her. Every day she went to work, and I waited for her. She always took care of my medications and food. What will I do now?"
Eliyahu's father, Shimon, said, “He was a modest, religious person. He wanted to help. He heard shots and wanted to help the wounded.”
Ilya Sosanssky, a 26-year-old DJ, left his parents' home in Neve Yaakov on his motorcycle and was shot by the terrorist while on his way to work at a bar in central Jerusalem.
"He was a good guy, a ticking energy bomb that you just want to wrap in a hug," said Sosanssky’s friend Asher Azran. Adi Yona, another friend of Sosanssky’s, wrote in his memory: "You are a charm, a walking smile, a good soul who only did good. My heart is broken."
Asher Natan Morali, 14, was the youngest victim of the attack. He was the eldest of eight children and had left the house following Shabbat dinner to meet up with some friends. When his parents heard gunfire, they frantically searched for their son for about an hour, only to discover that his body had been found at the scene of the attack.
"He was such a hero, he came to fix the world," said his father, Aaron. His mother, Chaya-Mushka, said that he would never have given up a kiss from her on his hand when he received a blessing on Shabbat evening.
Shimon Ma'atuf, 75, a father of six and grandfather to 13, was severely wounded in the deadly axe attack in Elad on Independence Day last year. He passed away on February 2. The terrorists, armed with axes, assaulted Ma'atuf, who had been working as an armed security guard at an Independence Day event.
According to his daughter, Aviva Hillel, Ma'atuf was "moved from one hospital to another. He had an infection and went through months of torment and anguish. The terrorists struck him in the head and jaw and he never recovered." Shimon was counted among the victims of 2022 and was not included in the 2023 victim count.
On February 10, Hussein Karakah, a 31-year-old resident of East Jerusalem, deliberately ran over two young brothers and another man before being neutralized in the capital’s Ramot neighborhood.
Asher Menachem Paley, aged only 7, and his brother Yaakov Yisrael Paley, aged 5, were waiting at a bus stop with their father and older brother on their way to a family event. The terrorist rammed into the station and struck the two young brothers.
"Two flowers, two saints, two pure hearts", they were eulogized at their funeral.
Alter Shlomo Lederman, a 20-year-old yeshiva student, was waiting at the bus stop with his wife, whom he had married six months prior. They were on their way for a Shabbat visit to Lederman's parents in the city of Elad when the attack occurred. Alter Shlomo was critically injured and taken to Shaare Zedek Medical Center, where he ultimately succumbed to his wounds after prolonged resuscitation efforts.
On February 13, Staff Sgt. Asil Sawaed, 22, was killed at an East Jerusalem checkpoint in Shuafat. Sawaed, who was from the northern Bedouin village of Hussniyya, was conducting a routine check on a bus when he was stabbed in the face by a 13-year-old Palestinian terrorist.
A civilian security guard who was with him opened fire at the terrorist, accidentally hitting Sawaed and fatally wounding him. He was pronounced dead in the hospital a few hours later. The 13-year-old suspect was arrested and charged with terrorism.
After his death, the police said that "at the end of his compulsory service, Asil fought to sign a permanent contract in the same place".
Friends of Sawaed, who is survived by his parents and six siblings, said that "he was the happiest person. He always assisted and helped everyone, he always got involved in every task and loved serving the security of the country.”
On February 26, Hillel Menachem Yaniv, 22, and Yagel Yaakov Yaniv, 20, brothers from the settlement of Har Bracha, were murdered in a shooting attack in the Palestinian town of Huwara.
The investigation into the attack revealed that a Palestinian terrorist pressed himself against the window of the brothers' car and shot them at point-blank range. Both brothers were pronounced dead at the scene.
The terrorist, Abd al-Fattah Kharousha, 48, a Hamas operative from Nablus, was killed in an IDF operation in Jenin about two weeks after the attack.
Hallel, who studied at the Kiryat Shmona Hesder Yeshiva in the northern city, had been discharged from the Navy shortly before the attack and had returned to continue his studies there.
"He was very much loved by his friends and rabbis, always with a smile, helping and aiding in every way possible," yeshiva dean Eliav Samuel.
Yagel, who attended the Givat Olga Hesder Yeshiva in Hadera, had enlisted in the IDF and was scheduled to begin procedures for combat service.
"He was a good man who taught us the value between a man and his fellow man," said his yeshiva classmate Gilad Friedman.
On February 27, 26-year-old Israeli-American Elan Ganeles was murdered in a shooting attack near Jericho. Terrorists opened fire on his car, and first responders who were called to the scene evacuated him in critical condition to Hadassah Mount Scopus Hospital in Jerusalem, where doctors pronounced him dead shortly thereafter.
Ganeles came to Israel for a few weeks to attend his friend's wedding. He grew up in a passionate American Zionist family and was educated in modern Orthodox schools.
In 2014, he told a local newspaper that he intended to postpone enrollment at the University of Michigan and enlistment in the U.S. Army to live in Israel for a year.
Ganeles fell in love with Israel and eventually enlisted in the IDF. Later, he returned to the U.S. to pursue a bachelor's degree in neuroscience and sustainable development in New York.
On March 9, 32-year-old Or Eshkar was murdered in a shooting attack on Tel Aviv's busy Dizengoff Street.
The Palestinian terrorist, Mutaz Salah al-Khawaja, 23, from the West Bank town of Ni'ilin, opened fire at passers-by, mortally wounding Eshkar who passed away 11 days later.
His friends Rotem Mansano and Michael Osadon were also injured in the attack before the terrorist was eliminated.
Or's mother, Natalie, eulogized her son: "A rare bright light was extinguished. He showed love and generosity towards everyone," she said.
After finishing his military service, Or moved to Tel Aviv where he obtained a bachelor's and master's degree in business administration.
In recent years, he worked for several high-tech companies. Or had a passion for traveling the world and competed in many marathons and "Iron Man" competitions.
Their mother, Lucy, was mortally wounded in the attack and succumbed to her injuries three days later.
Terrorists who were traveling in the opposite lane to the road where the family members were traveling opened fire at them in the area of Hamra Junction on Route 57.
The family attempted to escape, but the terrorists made a U-turn and chased after them. The Dee family's car, which was en route to a holiday trip, veered off into a ditch.
At this point, one of the terrorists positioned himself outside the vehicle and shot at the family's car. Twenty-two AK-47 bullet shells were found at the scene, and the sisters were pronounced dead on the spot.
The family immigrated from England several years ago. Maia studied at the Neve Hanna Ulpana - a girls-only Jewish high school - and later at the Midreshet Lindenbaum in Lod, before volunteering for national service. Rina studied in 10th grade at the Kiryat Arba Ulpana.
Their father, Leo, who was traveling in his car with his two other children and had to return to the scene after hearing reports of the attack on the media, said, "We felt an embracing love from Jews in Israel and around the world, and we are confident that justice will be served."
In another attack on April 7, an Italian tourist named Alessandro Parini, 36, was murdered on the Tel Aviv promenade when terrorist Yusef Abu Jaber, 46, from Kfar Qasim rammed his car into a group of tourists from Italy and Britain near the Charles Clore Park.
Abu Jaber then proceeded to ride on the bike lane along the boardwalk before veering onto the grass and overturning. Initially, a police officer and municipal inspectors stationed nearby assumed it was a mere car accident.
However, they soon realized that the suspect was attempting to reach for an object - that appeared to be a weapon - in his possession. Subsequently, they shot and killed the attacker.
Parini excelled in his law school studies and became a lawyer in 2014. Five years later, he obtained a doctoral degree in law from the University of Rome. Italian media reported that he worked for an international law firm and loved traveling the world.
His friends said, "We were walking on the sidewalk, and suddenly a car came at us at high speed and ran over our friends. We were about 10 meters away from there." They recounted that "the car came with force and directly hit Alessandro, who fell and started bleeding from his head."
On May 11, during Operation Shield and Arrow, Inga Avramyan, 82, was killed by a direct rocket hit in Rehovot. Avramyan assisted Sergei, her husband who had lost a hand and a leg in an accident many years ago, in reaching the shelter in their home after the sirens sounded.
However, the couple didn’t make in time. Sergei, who was still lying in bed, fell along with it through the hole that opened in their apartment as a result of the rocket hitting it. Ten other people were injured in the attack. Sergei passed away about a month later, and their grandson Adam said he "died of sorrow."
Their granddaughter Aya shared, "One of the consistent things about grandma was that she always hugged, kissed and cooked for us. She loved us; her love was constant and gave us the strength to move on. We will remember you as a warm, joyful and optimistic grandma. You were everything to your family. We love you, grandma, and we will never forget you."
On May 13, Abdullah Abu Ghaba, 34, a worker from the Gaza Strip, was killed while his brother Hamad was severely injured by shrapnel from a rocket fired from Gaza. Another worker, 36, sustained moderate injuries. All three were working in a field near the Moshav Shokeda in the Sdot Negev Regional Council.
On May 30, Meir Tamari, 32, was killed by Palestinian gunmen in a drive-by at the entrance to the settlement of Hermesh. Tamari, a father of two young children from the settlement, was taken to Hillel Yaffe Medical Center in Hadera where he was pronounced dead.
According to a preliminary investigation, a passing vehicle with two Palestinians inside overtook the victim's car and fired seven bullets, presumably using an M16 rifle.
Despite the considerable time that has passed, Tamari’s murderer is still at large and was even spotted in Jenin and interviewed on a Hamas channel. Tamari’s wife Tal said, "I want to believe that everything is being done to catch the terrorists, but the time that has passed is concerning. No military official has spoken to me about the matter."
On June 3, three IDF soldiers were killed on the Israel-Egypt border. Sergeant Lia Ben-Nun, 19, from Rishon LeZion; Staff Sgt. Ori Itzhak Ilouz, 20, from Safed; and Staff Sgt. Ohad Dahan, 20, from Ofakim.
Ben-Nun and Ilouz were shot to death at a guard post near Mount Harif by an Egyptian policeman who entered Israel through a breach in the border fence. The terrorist was identified during subsequent searches and was killed in a shootout, during which Dahan was also killed.
On June 20, Elisha Antman, 18, Harel Masoud, 21, and Nachman Shmuel Mordoff, 17, were killed in a hummus restaurant at a gas station during a deadly terror strike near the settlement of Eli. Ofer Fayerman, 60, was shot dead by the terrorists at the gas station while he was filling his car.
Antman was a 12th-grade student at the Bnei Akiva Yeshiva in Eli, preparing for his IDF conscription. He was working at the restaurant when the attack occurred. He is survived by behind parents and seven siblings.
Antman's high school principal and teacher Rabbi Hezekiah Darmon, described him as "charismatic and proactive," noting that he "exemplified the value of dedication and sought to help the community." He added that Antman "never shied away from challenges or effort, set personal goals for himself and pursued them remarkably."
Beside him, 17-year-old Nachman was also killed. His father Chaim Mordof eulogized him during his funeral. "You were so connected to the land; you would give us uplifting talks. Such things are rarely found among today's youth, except among your group here," he said, addressing Nachman's friends.
"I know that people do not always understand you, but you are saints, and you are good. You would always reassure, 'Dad, Mom, don't worry, don't be afraid.' How much you worried about us not worrying. You respected us deeply."
Lior Barda, his cousin, then said, "Nachman lived his life calmly and peacefully. I'm certain that even in his final moments, he remained composed and serene. Even when they fired at him - he was brave. I'm sure he left this world with a smile that stopped in an instant."
At the restaurant was also 21-year-old Harel, who had recently been discharged from the army. His mother, Yael, eulogized him: "Our beautiful Harel, our precious one. I can't grasp that you're not here with us. How can I speak of you in the past tense? You had just been discharged from the army, from the toughest place, and you were just blossoming. Now, just as you finally began to live, to realize your dream and to settle the land you loved - now it takes you into its embrace. You made an impact everywhere you went; you were so handsome, I was so proud of you."
Fayerman, 64, was shot dead while refueling and was the only one among the victims who was outside the restaurant. He left behind two children, Matanel and Yifat, and his widow Tziona.
"I have only one father,” his son Matanel eulogized him. “I did everything so he would be proud of me. He was with me in the simple things. Everyone knew him, every soldier who entered Eli. On Fridays, he would bring me schnitzels to the base. I'd get a half-empty food tray, and he'd say, 'I left some to the guard at the gate."
Sergeant First Class David Yehuda Yitzhak, 23, from Beit El, who served in the elite Egoz unit, was shot at the beginning of the IDF's withdrawal from the Jenin refugee camp on July 3, as part of a broader counterterror operation. He was airlifted to HaEmek Medical Center in Afula, where he was pronounced dead. The IDF also investigated whether he had been hit by friendly fire.
His father Moshe Binyamin said at his funeral, "I wanted to tell everyone about your army leave, when you'd come home out of uniform, and about the badges you earned with hard work - but you immediately put them in a drawer so no one would feel uncomfortable. You saw everyone's troubles as if they were your very own. A child with a heart full of soul, you touched the hearts of everyone and sought the simple and pleasant truth."
On July 6, a terrorist tried to infiltrate the settlement of Kedumim. Staff Sergeant Shilo Yosef Amir, who was first to engage, was fatally shot by him. "Our world collapsed on the 17th of Tammuz," his mother Orly said at his funeral, naming the date her son died according to the Hebrew calendar.
"In the middle of Tammuz. You couldn't bear to see sad people, but you left a family and friends in sorrow. Do you know how hard it is to return a gift like you, after 22 years of joy? You understood your mission and remained committed to it." At his funeral, Amir's friends and commanders spoke of his great bravery, as well as his generosity and dedication to helping others.
On August 5, Chen Amir, 42, a member of the Tel Aviv municipality patrol unit, was shot at point-blank range on the city’s Montefiore St. Amir and his patrol partner, who neutralized the attacker, suspected him. The suspect opened fire on them after they called on him to stop. The two officers' actions prevented an even larger and more deadly terrorist attack.
"He was a hero even in his final moments," his colleagues eulogized. Vered Amir, Chen's wife, spoke in an interview about coping alongside their three shared daughters, mentioning that she promised him they would be happy. "It's my life's mission," she added.
Last Saturday, Shay Silas Nigreker, 60, and his son Aviad Nir, 28, were gunned down and killed while washing their car in the Palestinian town of Huwara. They had gone there to fix the car's air conditioning at one of the garages.
Rina, Shay's partner for the last 20 years, shared that he frequently traveled to the Palestinian town and had made many friends there. Just last week, the couple celebrated Shay's 60th birthday, during which he promised her, "I love you, and I'll be here for you all my life."
Shay was a father of four, and his son Aviad was married to Leah, with whom he had a young child. He and his wife were set to move into a new apartment they bought in Ashkelon. "They were eagerly anticipating the move; it was a dream come true for them," recounted Aviad's close family members. "They wanted to expand their family there."
Batsheva Nigri, a mother of three from Beit Hagai, was killed while hitchhiking. She was fatally shot in front of her 6-year-old daughter, who was unharmed, and alongside the car's driver who was driving them and was severely wounded. She worked as a preschool teacher in the settlement of Efrat where her family lives.
"Batsheva was a golden woman, full of giving. She warmly adopted foster children and gave them stable ground and a warm home. She was a beloved kindergarten teacher - truly God takes the best," a relative of Nigri told Ynet.