newsIsrael at War

Families of fallen soldiers dedicate IDF base synagogue to loved ones

The synagogue, at the Lamed-Hey base in Gush Etzion, was also dedicated in memory of Ari Fuld, who was murdered by an Arab terrorist in 2018.

Soldiers and families of soldiers who fell in battle against Hamas pray at the renovated synagogue at the Lamed-Hey IDF base in Gush Etzion on Mon., March 4, 2024.  Photo: Josh Hasten.
Soldiers and families of soldiers who fell in battle against Hamas pray at the renovated synagogue at the Lamed-Hey IDF base in Gush Etzion on Mon., March 4, 2024. Photo: Josh Hasten.

Family members of 16 soldiers from Gush Etzion and Efrat who fell defending the State of Israel since Hamas’s Oct. 7 massacre gathered on Monday at a military base in the Gush’s western foothills to dedicate the base’s newly expanded synagogue in memory of their loved ones. 

The synagogue was also dedicated in memory of Ari Fuld, a well-known Israel activist, educator and Israel Defense Forces reservist who was murdered by an Arab terrorist just before Yom Kippur 2018.

The synagogue expansion was funded by the “Ari Fuld Project,” an organization formed in Fuld’s memory, whose main focus is to lend support to IDF soldiers, along with the Gush Etzion Foundation, which supports projects in many areas of life throughout Gush Etzion and beyond. 

Family members of IDF soldiers who have fallen in Gaza since Oct. 7 participate in the dedication of a synagogue expansion at the Lamed-Hey IDF base in Gush Etzion in memory of their loved ones, Mon., March 4, 2024. Photo: Josh Hasten.

Since the start of the war, both entities have been extremely active in providing soldiers on the front lines with essential equipment.

During the event at the Lamed-Hey base, which included the affixing of a new mezuzah to the synagogue’s main door, along with afternoon and evening prayer services, soldiers from the base offered support to the families, while the families themselves were getting to know each other, exchanging phone numbers. 

Alon Shvut residents Dov and Ayelet Silberg, who attended the ceremony, lost their son Netanel, a team commander in the elite combat engineering corps’ Yahalom unit, during a battle with terrorists in the Gaza City neighborhood of Shujaiya on Dec. 18. The Silbergs donated new prayer books to the synagogue. 

“The occasion was one of mixed emotions,” Dov told JNS. “We’re happy to give back to the army, and it’s great that more soldiers are be able to use the synagogue. And it’s also important for the families to be able to support each other,” he said.

However, he added, “At the same time, there are 16 soldiers who were lost, from this area. It’s such a high number. And of course it’s also sad that we lost Ari Fuld.” 

Stephen Leavitt, director of the Ari Fuld Project and Editor-in-Chief of JewishPress.com, told JNS, “We took on this project to expand the shul because this is something Ari would have done in a second.”

Stephen and Na’amit Leavitt of the Ari Fuld Project at the dedication of the expanded synagogue at the Lamed-Hey IDF base in Gush Etzion, Mon. March 4, 2024. Photo: Josh Hasten.

The base’s rabbi had contacted the military logistics coordinator of the central Gush Etzion command looking for assistance on the project, who then reached out to The Ari Fuld Project to see if they could help. 

“We saw that more and more soldiers from this area were losing their lives, and we felt we had to do something to honor their memory,” said Leavitt. “We approached the Gush Etzion Foundation, who joined as well.”   

He said his organization is also currently focused on completing a beit midrash (house of Torah study) in Fuld’s memory in the Zayit neighborhood of Fuld’s hometown of Efrat, along with a slew of other projects.  

Miriam Fuld, Ari’s widow, told JNS that two “memories” of Ari popped up on her Facebook feed this week which epitomized who Ari was, and why the synagogue dedication was so appropriate. 

“The first image was of Ari participating in arms training, and the second was of Ari patrolling in the Gush wearing his tefillin (phylacteries) in the midst of morning prayers,” she said. 

Ari Fuld on patrol in Gush Etzion during morning prayers. Credit: Courtesy.

Miriam explained “For Ari, the most important things were the physical and spiritual protection of the Land of Israel and the Nation of Israel. And at the same time he was always showing his support for the soldiers. And here we are putting it all together through this synagogue dedication.”

The day he was killed, she added, “and still managed to help neutralize the terrorist, thus saving other lives, the only thing on his mind, his entire being, was trying to make sure that no others in Israel would get hurt.”

Tzvi L., an IDF soldier from northern Israel serving in the Homefront Command and currently stationed at the Lamed-Hey base, told JNS the synagogue expansion made a huge difference. 

“I served here on this base around six months ago, and it was a tiny, cramped area. Now there is a proper women’s section, and we have space to open up tables for food after the services,” he said.

“Basically what we had before was just a room. But now, it is truly a synagogue,” he added. “We’re grateful for the gift…whose donors made a huge difference in our army service. Unfortunately, we’re living through difficult times and have suffered losses, but gestures like this truly have an impact for those of us defending our nation.” 

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