Yael Holds Yanai (Again)

Sometimes you want to see the photos and sometimes you don’t. Because it can be so heartbreaking. And yet, if you don’t look at the photos, it’s difficult to keep the details in your mind that help to cement the memory of the victims.

The photos of baby-faced Yanai Weissman and his sparkly-eyed wife Yael, were the kind of photos you do and don’t want to see. Yanai was off-duty, shopping for Shabbos with Yael and their baby daughter in their local Rami Levy supermarket in Sha’ar Binyamin, when terror struck a few aisles away. Though unarmed, Yanai ran to help, fighting off with his bare hands, not one, but two terrorists, armed with knives, who were stabbing as many shoppers as they could reach.

Sergeant Yanai Weissman (HY"D) and wife Yael Weissman.

Sergeant Yanai Weissman (HY”D) and wife Yael Weissman.

Yanai was murdered, cut down in cold blood as he tried to help his fellow Jews who were guilty only of buying groceries for Shabbat. He was a hero who gave up his life attempting to save others and his wife was left widowed, his baby daughter, fatherless.

I know I could not forget the faces of Yanai and Yael. They were so young and sweet and shiny with youth and promise. You could see they were friendly, kind people; in love, happy and good. I couldn’t help but wonder if Yael was strong enough to weather life alone without her husband as a single mother, coping with widowhood and single motherhood along with PTSD, because she was THERE where it happened. Right there. With the screams and the blood and the horrible end of her young love in a puddle of blood on the floor of her neighborhood supermarket.

Could she shop there again without seeing it, hearing it happen all over again before her mind’s eye?

But this morning, there was some comfort when Eddie Dvir of OnlySimchas News shared this story culled from Yael’s Facebook page, that helped square the circle for me:

“During the past week, some of Yanai’s blood-stained items were returned to me. These items are special to me because they absorbed [the] last living blood of Yanai. May G-d avenge his blood.

Today we merited to attend a covenant of blood. Life’s blood, at the bris of Yanai Yehuda, the son of Eli and Shani Shmerler. The whole story began only a few hours earlier, today at 1pm, when I got the following message on Facebook.

‘Dear Yael, Shalom U’Veracha,
We do not know each other in real life… rather in the virtual world I’ve been watching you for quite some time, in appreciation and great amazement.

I wanted to tell you today, in a few hours, we will bring our son into the covenant of Avraham, and we have decided to call him “Yanai” in honor of your departed husband, May G-d avenge his blood.

Yanai and his entire story has been a role model for us. Our son was born the 5th of Iyar, Independence Day of the State of Israel, and we decided it only fitting to name our son after an Israeli hero who gave his all and sacrificed himself to save his fellow Jews.

With this blood covenant to be held tonight we pass the torch of the life blood and the continuity of the late Yanai Weisman to our little Yanai….

We are appreciative and excited,
Eli and Shani Shmerler, Talmon.'”

Yael Holds Yanai Again

As Eddie relates, Yael attended the Bris and afterward wrote a thank-you note to the Shmerlers, which she then also posted on her Facebook page:

“Eli, Shani and the entire family,

Today we merited to meet your special and amazing family.

It is hard to put into words our appreciation that you have decided to name your son in honor of our Yanai. We are confident that from now, [there] will be a strong bond between our families and wish you much pleasure. You will get a lot of nachas from little Yanai Yehuda.

We are wishing him that just like our Yanai, he brings knowledge to others at every opportunity. We love and embrace together with you, the sweet and little Yanai Yehuda.

Yael Weissman and family”

When I read this small story, hope rose up in my heart for this young family. For now I knew that Yael was made of the stuff that makes the Jewish nation strong and proud, to serve as a beacon of light for the world. I knew that behind her pretty exterior was a steely resolve to follow in her husband’s path and that Yael would raise her daughter to be a fine young woman, worthy of being a hero’s daughter, and a credit to her people.

Little Yanai Yehuda Shmerler is lucky to carry such a name, the name of a Jewish hero.

I wish the Weissmans and Shmerlers, only joy, always.


Varda Epstein

A third-generation-born Pittsburgher on her mother’s mother’s side, Varda moved to Israel 36 years ago and is a crazy political animal who spams people with right wing political articles on Facebook in between raising her 12 children and writing about education as the communications writer at Kars for Kids a Guidestar gold medal charity.