Saturday, January 17, 2015

Victim of Paris terror attack urged friend to keep Shabbat before he was killed

On the last morning of his life, Yoav Hattab, 21, urged a friend to try and keep Shabbat.

Less then two hours before the young man entered a Paris kosher supermarket to buy wine for Friday night dinner, Yoav had the following SMS exchange with a friend.

At 11:24 a.m. Yoav wrote, “try to make the Shabbat as soon as you arrive.”

The friend responded at 11:53, “this Shabbat is very stressful. I have exams tomorrow morning and I’m taking a flight, but after the Shabbat.”

Within seconds Yoav wrote back, “This is a difficult time in France for Jews. At least try.” He added in a subsequent message, “Do not do everything, but at least try to do something.”

At 11:54 the friend wrote, “Ok, don’t worry; of course I'll do it.”

Yoav wrote, “You’re the bomb.”

“Lol, thank you," the friend wrote.

Yoav, the son of the chief rabbi of Tunis lived in Paris where he studied marketing and worked in an office near the Hyper Cacher supermarket.

He had arrived home just one week earlier from Israel, where he had participated in a ten-day Taglit-Birthright trip to Israel for young adults from France. The trip strengthened his dream of immigrating to Israel. 

You was one of four victims of a terrorist attack at the kosher market. Their bodies were flown to Israel. The victims were eulogized by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin, before burial in Har HaMenuchot cemetery in Jerusalem.

Since then their families have sat shiva in Israel. On Thursday relatives and friends of the Hattab family gathered in a series of small apartments in a Jerusalem building, to mourn Yoav. 

People who did not know Yoav, but simply wanted to show support for the family, also made their way in the rain, to the shiva. 

His younger sister Hannah, 16, one Yoav’s eight siblings, told The Jerusalem Post that the morning of the attack started out as the most normal of days. 

She went to school and then shopped for a few items for Shabbat before arriving home.

There was no sense of the tragedy that would soon occur, she recalled, although her mother later said she had a sense of foreboding.

As she ate a snack in her kitchen with family members, Hannah said her oldest brother Avisahy walked in and asked where Yoav lived in Paris and explained there had been a terror attack.  

Hannah said she turned on the television to see what she could learn and they tried calling Yoav, but his phone was off, even his WhatsApp did not work. They called people who knew him including his best friend, who told them that he knew for sure that Yoav was in the kosher market because he had walked there with him.

Yoav was killed early in the attack around 1 p.m, Hannah said. But in Tunis, they did not yet know he had already died. As they wait for hours for more information they prayed, recited psalms and cried, she recalled.

“In our hearts we already felt the loss,” she said.

They learned of his death only around 9 p.m., said Hannah, who described the moment her father Binyamin looked at her mother and said, “Tamar, Yoav has died.” 

“It was I was like I was on another planet. It did not seem possible,” she said as she explained that she was very close to him.

“He always told me, ‘I love you, my dear one.’ And I answered him, ‘I adore you.”

Hannah smiled as she spoke of her brother who, she said, had a great sense of humor, a beautiful singing voice and a love of Israel and Judaism.

Just one month before his death he feel in love and called to tell his parents he had found the woman he wants to marry, she said.

Her brother, Hannah said, lived life to the fullest. “ I want to ask everyone to be like Yoav,” Hannah said.

“He was my inspiration. He was my everything,” Hannah said. “He was the perfect brother. When he looked a time it was like paradise.”

“He was the only one that understood me,” she said. 

No matter how big her problem was, he always assured her that it would be fine, because God was with her.

“I loved him more then everything,” she said.

“He always wanted to discover new cultures all around the world, he was in love with everything and everyone and  everyone love with him,” she said.

On Friday, Chabbad publicized Yoav’s SMS messages about Shabbat that he sent on the morning of January 9 and a letter that his father Binyamin sent out, in which he said his family had felt the love of the Jewish people in the last few days.

“This love touched our hearts deeply, and I feel the need to put to paper my feelings and share them with you. What can I write about Yoav—a charming young man, the love of my heart—who was snatched from us so suddenly? 

“Dear Yoav, you left us a gaping hole, an oozing wound in our hearts that will never be healed,” Binyamin said.

He recalled how his son had been killed after he was able to grab one of the terrorist’s guns so he could try to shoot him. He added that he believed Yoav was now in paradise, with other martyrs who had died sanctifying God’s name.

“Yoav was a great student. But even more than that, he was devoted to the service of G-d and overflowed with love for his fellow Jews.

“He was a cantor and Torah reader, whose songs and prayers were a pleasure to listen to. He would pray and read the Torah with his whole heart—and his voice touched everyone,” Binyamin recalled.

In the name of his son, he asked Jews around the world to do good deeds and increase their religious observance, particularly of Shabbat, the weekly holiday which his son so loved.

“If I can make one request, it would be to continue Yoav’s embrace of life, to perpetuate it, to be infected by his love and to try to love the Jewish people even more. And, like Yoav, to encourage everyone you know to increase in mitzvahs for the merit of his soul and the souls of his fellow victims, [Yohan Cohen, Philippe Braham and François-Michel Saada].

“Your good deeds will continue their lives, which were abruptly cut short.

“I’d like to ask specifically that all add in honoring the Shabbat queen, who was so dear to our son. Even if you do not yet feel ready to keep the entire Shabbat, try to keep it at least partially. Light the Shabbat candles, hold a Shabbat meal with your family, attend prayers at synagogue—and when you hear the sweet voice of the cantor, please remember the sweet voice of our dear Yoav, the voice that is singing in heaven for all the righteous souls, “Let us sing before G-d!,” Binyamin wrote.

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