Widow of Slain IDF Soldier Proud of Military Honor Bestowed on Late Husband for Fighting Palestinian Terrorists With Bare Hands
by Ruthie Blum
The widow of an off-duty IDF soldier killed in February while trying to tackle knife-wielding terrorists at a supermarket in the West Bank said the decision to award her late husband the Israeli equivalent of a purple heart for bravery conveys an important message, the Hebrew news site nrg reported on Tuesday, the eve of Memorial Day for fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism.
“I personally wouldn’t need this military honor to know that Yanai was a hero who saved lives,” Yael Weissman told nrg. “But it’s important for young people and soldiers to know what we, as a society, expect of them, and it’s important that the state acknowledged what he did.”
What Tuvia Yanai Weissman did, as The Algemeiner reported, was confront two Palestinian teenagers on a stabbing spree at a store in Sha’ar Binyamin not far from the couple’s home in the settlement of Ma’aleh Mikhmas. Twenty-one-year-old “Yanai,” as he was called by family and friends – a staff sergeant in the Nahal Brigade — had encountered the terrorists when he was out grocery shopping with his wife and 4-month-old daughter. Because of IDF directives at the time about soldiers not carrying their weapons when on leave, he was unarmed when he tried to thwart the attack, in which a 36-year-old Israeli was moderately wounded and Yanai died of multiple stab wounds to his upper body.
Yael told nrg about receiving the phone call from the commander of Nahal informing her that Yanai – who held dual American-Israeli citizenship – would be granted the military honor normally reserved for bravery in battle.
“We were especially moved because the news came right before Memorial Day,” she said. “We didn’t know how we were going to make it to this day. I don’t think there is a single bereaved family who knows how to prepare for it, especially when it is still so fresh for us and not much time has passed [since he was killed]. Suddenly, we have to deal with Memorial Day from the other side – the side of bereavement.”
However, she added, “This news is a form of comfort. It provided some light and a bit of strength… It is also important for our daughter, Neta, who will grow up and see that the country and the army appreciated and acknowledged what her father did — and that the state recognized him as a hero.”
Yanai Weissman’s assailants were 14-year-old Palestinian boys from a village outside of Ramallah. As a result of his intervention, two armed shoppers were able to shoot the terrorist teens, one of whom was killed and the other of whom was treated at the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem.
In March, Yael Weissman won a minor battle of her own, this one with the IDF, which initially refused to have the words “killed in combat” engraved on her husband’s headstone. After consulting with and making her case to the Defense Ministry and IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot, it was determined that the inscription was appropriate.
Eizenkot said: “The official position of the IDF regarding the death of Sgt. Tuvia Yanai Weissman is that the event in which he was killed was indeed battle – and that this is one of the commitments we have to him as a combat soldier, to his family, and to the ethos of IDF combat. The fact is that Yanai attempted to stop the terrorists with his bare hands – this reflects his bravery and the fact that he was in battle with terrorists.”
Yanai’s murder came amid a surge in Palestinian terror attacks that began in September and has continued for the past eight months.