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July 28, 2017 11:43 am

A Tale of Two Israeli Heroes

avatar by Ruthie Blum

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An Israeli flag. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Last Friday night, an Israeli soldier on leave for the weekend acted coolly and courageously, ‎rushing to the rescue of neighbors he heard screaming. “Sgt. O.,” whose full name cannot be ‎disclosed due to the sensitive nature of the elite IDF special forces unit in which he serves, ran to ‎the home of the nearby Salomon family to investigate. When he saw through their window that ‎they were being butchered, he promptly grabbed his rifle and shot the perpetrator.‎

By the time the scene was over, Yosef Salomon, 70, his daughter Chaya Salomon, 46, and son ‎Elad Salomon, 36, were lying in pools of blood on the kitchen floor. Tova Salomon, 68, would ‎only learn of the death of her husband and two of her children upon awakening from the surgery ‎she underwent to repair the multiple injuries she sustained in the knife attack.‎

The terrorist who maimed and murdered the Salomons was evacuated to an Israeli hospital, ‎where he was treated for the bullet wound from Sgt. O.’s weapon.‎

The Salomons had been celebrating the birth of a grandson when 19-year-old Omar al-Abed from ‎a neighboring Palestinian village entered their home through the front door, which was left open ‎for the guests arriving for dinner. As soon as al-Abed began his stabbing spree, Elad Salomon’s ‎wife (now widow) ushered all the children who were present into a bedroom, then locked the ‎door and called police.‎

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Sgt. O.’s swift action prevented a far more extensive blood-bath. While al-Abed, who had ‎written a Facebook post about his plan to kill Israelis, is being hailed in the Palestinian Authority ‎as a “heroic martyr” — and will receive a salary of more than $3,000 per month for his actions — ‎Sgt. O.’s commanders are recommending that he receive an official citation for bravery from ‎the IDF chief of staff. ‎

Such an honor would be more than well-deserved, as this is the second time that Sgt. O. ‎risked his life to save a family in his community. Three years ago, he physically restrained a ‎terrorist who had infiltrated another home in Halamish, holding him until the arrival of security ‎forces.‎

Sgt. O. is an Israeli hero whose identity cannot be published, but whose life is intact. A ‎different Israeli hero — one who has been a household name in the country for his decades of ‎musical prowess and gay-rights activism — was not so fortunate last weekend.

Amir Fryszer Guttman, 41, died on Saturday of organ failure, after rescuing his 9-year-old ‎niece from drowning off the coast of Atlit. Fryszer Guttman held the flailing child, his brother’s ‎daughter, above the surface of the waves, forcing himself to stay conscious while bobbing up and ‎down in the water until help arrived. It was not until he was told that the little girl was safe that ‎he passed out for good. He was rushed to the hospital in a coma, and died the following day.

Fryszer Guttman’s story gripped the nation more profoundly than the international crisis ‎surrounding the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The ongoing chaos, sparked by an Arab terrorist ‎attack on July 14 — in which two Druze Israeli Border Police officers were killed outside Al-‎Aqsa mosque — feels like yet another chapter in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. By now, the ‎matter-of-fact heroism displayed by people like Sgt. O. is something that the public has ‎come to take for granted.‎

But Fryszer Guttman’s death caused everyone — even the most secular of his peers in the ‎entertainment industry and LGBT community — to gasp at its eerily divine significance. This is ‎because he lost his life on the very day that he and his friends and family were celebrating the ‎anniversary of the beginning of his new life.‎

A year ago last July, Fryszer Guttman, a married father of a young son, received the news that he ‎had been misdiagnosed three months earlier with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. After undergoing ‎heavy doses of chemotherapy for cancer he did not have, Fryszer Guttman — whose career ‎suffered along with his health — was told that a mistake had been made. His joy was mitigated ‎only by the fact that the treatment had managed to wreak havoc on his body. A couple of weeks ‎ahead of the beach party he held in honor of his “first birthday” with a clean bill of health, ‎Fryszer Guttman filed a NIS 5 million ($1.4 million) malpractice suit against Tel Aviv ‎Sourasky Medical Center for the travesty. ‎

At his funeral on Tuesday, his brother, Eyal Perry — whose daughter’s life was saved by Fryszer ‎Guttman — said, “You ascended in a storm to the heavens, as only you know how. We thank you ‎for every moment you were with us.” ‎

In her heartfelt eulogy, actress Gila Almagor, who had performed Fryszer Guttman’s wedding ‎ceremony to his husband, Yanai, also spoke in religious terms. “The ways of God are beyond my ‎comprehension,” she said, expressing the sentiment of a nation shaken by the sense that the ‎timing and method of our death is predetermined. The only control we may have — as the tales of ‎Sgt. O. and Fryszer Guttman illustrate — is over how we choose to live. On that score, Israel ‎is doing pretty well.‎

Ruthie Blum is an editor at the Gatestone Institute.‎

This piece first appeared in Israel Hayom.

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