JERUSALEM – Rabbi Chaim Yechiel (Howie) Rothman, a Canadian-Israeli injured nearly a year ago in a terror attack on a synagogue in the Har Nof neighbourhood of Jerusalem, died of his injuries just after the start of Shabbat.
Thousands of people gathered on Oct. 24 for his funeral. The funeral procession started at the Bnei Torah synagogue where the attack occurred on Nov. 18, 2014 during morning prayers.
Two Palestinian assailants entered the synagogue and rabbinical seminary in the Har Nof neighbourhood of western Jerusalem and attacked worshippers with a gun, axes and knives. Four other rabbis, three of whom were dual American-Israeli citizens, were killed, as well as a young Druze-Israeli police officer, who was killed in a shootout with the assailants. Police killed both assailants, cousins who were residents of eastern Jerusalem. Rothman, 55, had been in a coma since the attack.
He was the father of 10, who immigrated to Israel 30 years ago. He never regained consciousness after the attack, during which he fought against the terrorists to prevent them from harming fellow worshippers. The UJA Federation of Greater Toronto raised more than $100,000 to assist the family, which it presented to the family in January.
Steven Rothman, his brother who lives in Toronto, told The CJN that when he visited Rothman in Israel in January, they were encouraged by some improvements in his condition and he was transferred to a rehabilitation centre in Ra’anana.
“He was there for about six months. If anyone could have done something for him, it would have been the brain trauma centre at Beit Levenstein. After six months, they felt they couldn’t do anything for him so he was moved back to the Herzog hospital in Jerusalem so he could be closer to the family and the Har Nof community,” Steven said.
“He wasn’t making any progress at all. In fact, things were just slowly but surely getting worse for him. He came down with pneumonia and he was just getting all kinds of infection… he was just getting weaker and weaker.”
Visitors to his hospital room said in recent weeks that he seemed to be aware of the people around him. His Candian-born wife, Risa, spent every day at his bedside. In March, one of his sons was married.
Steven Rothman said the doctors called the family together so that they could have an opportunity to be by his side.
“Risa and the children and my brother, Jeff, who lives in the northern part of Israel, were called to be by his bedside along with some close members of the Har Nof community so they could say their goodbyes to him. My brother, Jeff, called my mother, Molly (who lives in Toronto) and he put his cell phone beside Howie’s ear so that my mother could say a few last words to him. It was very sad.”
His mother travelled to Israel from Toronto to sit shivah with the family.
With files from Sheri Shefa