Baruch Lerner was twenty-eight years old when he was murdered, and will always be remembered as such-young, handsome, and strong.He was killed on “Black March” 2002, during an outbreak of terror in Israel, when citizens were killed everywhere – on the roads, in shopping centers, buses, and coffee shops. Pictures were taken of the horrible sights, for the media, and then the bodies were removed, the blood washed out and life moved on. People were told to restrain themselves
To our Baruch it happened in the “Moment” caf in Jerusalem, near the Prime Minister’s residence. It was Saturday night, and he was sitting there, as usual, surrounded by friends. A terrorist walked in and activated a bomb-belt. Baruch was killed instantly, along with ten other young men and women. All of the bodies were found whole. We identified his body at the pathological institute. He was handsome almost as in life, only his mouth slanted a little to the right, his forehead coldThis was the end of it! All we are left with now are memories Files of pictures and voices and lettersThese files are now added to the family hoard of Jewish Heroic heritage on which Baruch Lerner grew.
On his mother’s side he was a descendent of the families of Rosenfeld and Rosenkevich who arrived in Israel in the 19th century and were among the founders of the colonies Rosh-Pine and Menachamia. These pioneers were known for their courage. They participated in the defense of the Galilee and some of them were killed in the terror outbreaks against the Jews in 1921 and 1936.Baruch’s grandfather, Abrasha Selman, came to Israel as a child, from Kharkov (Ukraine). As a young man he became the commander of the “Beitar” company in Rosh-Pina and later he was one of the founders of “Brit Habirionim” and a member of the “Lehi” underground (known also as the “Stern group”). When arrested by the British police, he was the first Jew to deny a British Judge’s right to judge him, declaring at court – “This is our country, you have no right to judge us. You must leave”.
On his father’s side, Baruch was a descendent of another heroic heritage, in Europe. His grandfather, Baruch (“Boria”) Lerner was second in command of the 2nd company (“The Jewish Company”), in the anti-Nazi resistance (FTP-MOI) in Paris, during the German occupation of France in WWII. He was in charge of the underground’s depot of weapons and explosives. He also participated in military actions such as an attack on a German Officer’s club and blowing up railroad tracks. In June 1943, Boria was caught by the French police, which collaborated with the Nazis. He was savagely tortured (after which, according to testimonies, he was unrecognizable) but never betrayed his comrades. He was then handed over to the German Gestapo and after a short “trial” he was executed on Oct. 1st 1943. On that day he wrote his last letter to his wife (translated from French):
“Fresnes Prison, Oct. 1st 1943.My beloved and adored darling. The Gypsy that told me I would live to be ninety was wrong by two thirds. Today my life ends. If I ever hurt you, think of me and forgive me. I am happy I have seen you that last time. There are many things I regret in my life and especially two – first, that I couldn’t give you and our dear child all the happiness you deserve and that I wanted so much to create for you after the war. Second, that I could not fulfill my true vocation – writing. I had so much to tell!You, my dear, keep away from loneliness. It isn’t good for the human soul. Contact your family or mine and go live with them, surrounded by love and tenderness. That is the most important asset, in this world.Our little Claude, bring him up well. Make sure he remembers me, his father. If it is possible, I would like him to carry my family name and my name. It is a small pledge for the future. Thus I will live in him. As for you, my love, don’t hang on to my memory, build a new life for yourself, new happiness, you certainly deserve it. Don’t forget I have another child in Romania, think of him and of my father, who is also left alone.As for me, I am calm and will face death as a man. It is just a small leap over a step, which I must take. Comfort my mother, if she is still alive. I kiss you and the child warmly and all those who are dear to me.With eternal love,Your Boria.My dearest, I keep your picture with the little one over my heart, you will be with me in eternity.”
He died at the age of twenty-eight.
Our Baruch, named after him, was very proud of the family’s heroic heritage and from a tender age wanted to follow it. When the time came for him to enlist, in November 1991, he joined the Givati Brigade. And because he was very strong, he was chosen to carry the regimental machine-gun during the training. He loved the army life very much especially active tactical operations. Later, when assigned to command trainees he didn’t like it and waited impatiently for more meaningful activity. At his request he was transferred to the Gaza strip area, where he served on the auxiliary company of the “Shaked” regiment. He participated in the capture of wanted terrorists. He served also in Lebanon, where he wasn’t idle either
After Baruch was murdered, we received a long letter from one of the soldier’s under his command: “for six months in March 93′, Baruch was my direct section commander in “Shaked” regiment, Givati brigade. I can still remember the first meeting with the section commanders. Baruch, the “giant” of the bunch, tried to look frightening and threatening, following “the rules of the game”. He lowered his cap, so we wouldn’t be able to see his eyes, and with an authoritative voice tried to tell us what a tough life we’re going to have, now that we’ve fallen into his hands. It didn’t last long. Even in that first meeting he suddenly broke, the corners of his lips rising in a smile and then – burst in a big laugh, that made him turn and clear the area for another commander, to try his own luck at being tough. One of the things that impressed me about him was his total conviction in the goals set before him and his ability to achieve them. I will never forget the simple calculation he drew up for us:If the IDF is the best army in the world, And “Givati” is the best brigade of all brigades,And in “Givati” the best regiment is of course “Shaked”,And in “Shaked” the best company is that of March 93′,And in it the leading platoon is the 2nd platoon,Of which the excelling soldiers are, of course, those in the 1st section (under his command),The conclusion is – we are the best soldiers in the world
As time went by, we found out that we were dealing with someone who had true faith and conviction in his way and goals and was willing to act to achieve them. That was the reason I never wanted to perform my exercises in his presence, because he would not make concessions. Even after I felt I was running out of strength, he would squeeze another pull-up on the bar, a few more sit-ups, etc. And what a disgrace to him who tried to give up, because Baruch could really shout I recall meeting him a day after we “lost” the stretchers – run to the 2nd section (he wasn’t there for some reason or another). He asked me very seriously – “Really, can’t you succeed when I’m not there?”Baruch knew how to encourage us with a good word at the right time. I’ll never forget how, during individual exercises, through the sand and stones he was heaping on us (with great pleasure), he took care to praise good soldiering, Indian crawl or assault. And when I happened to be the first to practice with live ammunition with the platoon commander, he said to me, his eyes glittering: “it’s a good feeling being the first with the platoon commander, isn’t it? I remember when I was first – I felt like a king!” Baruch wouldn’t argue with us. And since, as Yeshiva students, we were used to asking as many questions as possible and argue about everything, it took us time to adjust to his ways and him to ours, until we reached a certain balance. Even today I can’t perceive how I “gave in” to him when during an exercise on an armored troop vehicle I broke a tooth and asked him to stop the drill to check what happened. He answered angrily without looking – “How dare you stop a drill midway?”. When the drill was over and looked towards me and saw the missing tooth, he burst out laughingNine years passed from those beautiful days and still I remember Baruch, tall, straight, and strong, smiling, and self-assured. The day after he was killed, a friend called and said – “they took Baruch away from us”. I still can’t realize it. Baruch was everything that was life, endless joy, self-assurance and leadership, in control of any situation.I don’t know how to comfort you. I can only say – We, his soldiers, will always remember him. For us he will always remain an example of unlimited joy of life, devotion in achieving goals, combined with a total conviction in the justice of our cause. May his memory be blessed, and may you know only joy,
Shlomo Rothshield, Baruch’s commander in the reserves, said on the 1st year memorial: “When he joined us in the Reconnaissance Patrol Company, we first noticed the smile. It was the kind of smile, which lights up the face and gives you a feeling of security and optimism.After we got used to the smile, we noticed that behind it was a magnificent young man, tall, strong, and handsome. But Baruch wasn’t only a man of smiles. It didn’t take us long to learn that he held strong views about almost every issue, views he was willing to hold even against the whole company.Baruch took a solid and constant stand about our rights on the land, our duty to the future generations in protecting it. When you went with him on guard duty, you knew you wouldn’t be bored. He was able to spend four-hour guard duty debating and arguing about what should be done in the country. Despite, or maybe because of his solid stand, he knew how to keep the discussion on a principal level and never move to personal argumentation, and if, by any chance, someone was offended, he was quick to make peace and make sure there were no hard feelings left.Baruch lived up to his principles in his personal life. Wherever he lived, worked, studied, all his actions revolved around the principles he expressed. He worked hard for his homeland that he loved and cared for so much. Whenever on reserve duty, in any assignment, from roadblocks to arrests and secret patrol, he was always volunteering, always initiating and always looking for whatever else there was to do. I remember him sitting with me, bringing forwards his own ideas how the company could be better used. And, unlike others, he didn’t only raise the ideas, but also took care of implementing them himself – in the same way he insisted on carrying the heavy hammer during arrests.But what captured the heart mostly were the warmth and brotherhood radiating from him. He was always willing to help, always listening to others’ troubles and dilemmas always prepared to share with others. The smile that didn’t leave his face from the time he arrived to the end of the service, that smile was by itself a source of strength and calm to all around him.Baruch, only after you’ve gone, we learned what a glorious family you originated from. I suddenly understood that your stands and actions were not just the stands of a young man defending his views, but part of a tradition and heritage of struggle against Jews’ enemies. And you had the privilege to do what your ancestors could only wish for, defend the Jewish people in their own country, under its blue and white flag.Baruch, we loved you and were happy with you, and with many others we will miss you very much.May your memory be blessed.
After his discharge from the army, Baruch worked as a security officer in the Israeli Embassy in Ecuador. He enjoyed his stay there but missed Israel. In one of his letters from abroad he wrote:
” I miss you and the country and life in Israel very much. Father, believe me, I prefer to have a beer and watch the basketball game with you than go out to pubs here (which, by the way, are great, although they are no substitute for the atmosphere in Israel). Yael, I prefer going to the “LOGUS” with you rather than go out with my friends here to fancy restaurants or any other entertainment. And mother, I miss our profound conversations so much that I feel my brain go dry. Some things may sound trivial but I would never trade them for anything in the world”.
After his return from Ecuador he started studying Political Science and Israeli Studies at Yehuda and Shomron University in Ariel. During his studies he worked as a security guard to the Jewish families in the Moslem Quarter in the old city of Jerusalem. He was enamored with the city. He loved walking through the alleys and meeting the people. He used to say “the people here are totally different”. He had great respect for the families who decided to live in that dangerous area of the old city, in order to establish the Jewish presence there. He could always relate to this kind of people, those who wanted something else from life apart of just earthly pleasures. It didn’t matter if they were orthodox Jews or new immigrant Jews from Russia, who never prayed once in their lives. The important thing was they understood the meaning of homeland. At his funeral, one of the residents of the Moslem Quarter told an anecdote about Baruch: “It was important for him to demonstrate confidence and Jewish pride at all times, especially inside the Moslem Quarter. He preached to the residents always to hold their heads high because, “you mustn’t lower your heads before the Arabs”. A short while before he was killed, Baruch saw one of the Jewish residents walking about the quarter with is head down, looking depressed. Baruch raised his voice at him, bellowing (with a wide smile on his face, of course): “heads up! A Jew in Eretz Israel walks upright!”
This brief sentence was so typical of his personality and views, that after his death, in a ceremony held in his memory at the Yehuda and Shomron University, his friends distributed to all participants stickers with that same sentence” “A Jew in Eretz Israel walks upright!”In the last months of his life, when terror raged everywhere in Israel, Baruch underwent a major change. He became more serious and started writing fervently, as if driven to write quickly, before something happened. Shortly before he was to receive his Bachelor’s degree, he decided to write his final paper about the “Shahid” phenomenon (those suicide bombers sent to kill Jews). He chose the subject himself and his thesis was that Palestinian politicians, misusing religious reasoning, cynically manipulated the suicide bombers, while the original Islam actually forbade suicide.He also wrote other things. ” I don’t know what is happening to me”, he said in one of our last conversations, “but I want to finish the paper as soon as possible and write other things, perhaps a book, an article, something!”And he wrote. He wrote at home, on the rooftops of the Moslem Quarter in between guard duties, he wrote in the “Moment” caf This was his “home away from home”, where many of the best young people of Jerusalem used to meet. After his death, we found in one of his notebooks quite a few handwritten pages. Here is a segment of what he wrote:
“For thousands of years people tried to destroy us, starting with Amalek and continuing on to Germany. Our people went through extreme hardships and many cruel wars when they didn’t have a country of their own. Even when a Jewish state was finally established, our people suffered many losses in the wars against those who wanted to banish or eliminate us. But we? We always took pity on our enemies. Starting with King Saul, who kept Agag of Amalek alive, down to the Israeli goventment’s behavior during the Oslo agreements, the second “Intifadah”, etc.I can’t understand why we’re incapable of learning the lesson, why we are always absorbing and forgiving. In my humble opinion, there is nothing wrong with a little grudge and in certain cases – revenge for the murdered. Each nation or group that hurt Israel should know that the Israeli response would be immediate and unrestrained. It seems that Israel must sake the “Vichy syndrome” that stuck to it and go back to the days of the Six-day war. Whenever we restrain ourselves, the message to those who wish to hurt us is that it’s possible to do so and there will be no retribution”.
In the beginning of 2002 things went from bad to worse. One terrorist attack followed another. Instead of taking the bull by the horns and dealing with the problem, there began talks about building a “separating wall”, between the settlers in the West Bank and the rest of the population. Baruch was furious. He wrote an open letter to the Prime Minister, but he was murdered before he could send it. Here it is:
Honorable Prime Minister,In your speech to the nation, you told us that in times such as these we need to restrain ourselves and remain calm. I agree. The road you have chosen forces us to be silent, while our blood is forfeit. All of us, a public of two hundred and fifty thousand settlers, who supported you, must be silent while we pay with blood the price for the policy of your expanded and strange government and the price of the upcoming war in Iraq.Yes, Mr. Prime Minister, while we are being murdered we must remain silent, and restrained. I only hope that the murderers will improve their methods of killing and play some light classical music during terror attacks, so we can relax a little before we die and not raise our voices with a nonsensical shout such as – Why did you let them have guns?Yes, Mr. Prime Minister, you are right when you express your confidence in our ability to maintain the national honor of the state of Israel. You are right even now, when you decide to fortify the seam line and place land mines along it, thus isolating the only population whose percentage of army shirks, in these dark days, is zero, and which is preserving with it’s blood the same national honor you waste so easily.Your claim, Mr. Prime Minister that the government does not restrain the army’s actions. That bothers me, because it means that the army simply doesn’t function properly. I tend not to believe that. So what is going on here? I am confused. Does the government restrain the army or does it not? Well, you say there is no constraint, and you never lied to the settlers And after all, I still admire you, Mr. Prime Minister, for the way you carry yourself proudly and say – Determination is strength! Indeed, your determination to isolate and abandon the strong idealist core of true Israeli patriots is admirable.I am simply enchanted by your show of courage since the “Yom Kippur” war until today. You have succeeded in almost everything you ever did. You took active part in the evacuation of Sinai, the evacuation of Hevron, and now, in the process of evacuating Yehuda and Shomron.I wish you would show such determination in other aspects of life, such as improving the economy, solving the unemployment issue and raising the moral of the people. But it seems that in these respects the efforts are directed mainly towards the Palestinians, and if so – things should be done with much more determination.In other words, Mr. Prime Minister, you declare day and night that you will not evacuate any settlement (1), but at the same time you are exposing the settlers to daily murders on the roads and in the settlements. It is conceivable that the settlements will gradually weaken and the Palestinians will rapidly close in on the “green line” border. Then the road is clear – use Palestinian workers to build the border areas and all at once and with great determination you will solve the unemployment and economical problems of the Palestinians and surely raise their moral.Good work!!!Baruch Lerner, Eli, Binyamin County.
The letter was published in the written Israeli media posthumously.
Something else he wrote to himself, shortly before he was killed:” For a long time I have been silent. I can’t anymore I must talk, speak, and shout what I have to say, for everyone to hear. Sometimes people and sometimes even whole nations must be taught the hard way. Today, we are in the midst of a learning process while our teachers blow themselves up in the streets of our cities, wearing bomb belts. It’s the kind of education we never knew before and could have avoided. Perhaps we should learn from them, not the methods of fighting but their uncompromising determination and devotion to their cause. No doubt, they are an atrocious enemy, but in order to fight them we must understand and evaluate them correctly.I am greatly preoccupied by the question – why, when we sign agreements with the Palestinians, we take great trouble in analyzing the reaction of the world to these agreements, but we never consider the possible reaction of those signing the agreements with us. “I’m afraid that our total disregard of our enemies’ culture weakens our ability to fight them. There is no doubt in my mind that the situation is very complex, but as any normal state would do, we must do everything to prevent the shedding of Jewish blood. This is the only important consideration. Any other consideration will lead eventually to collaboration to the murder of Jews, on Israeli land.After every terrorist attack we see on television Jewish mothers crying. What ever happened to the ancient verse: “Do not speak in Gat, Do not tell in the streets of Ashkelon, lest Palestinian daughters will rejoice lest the gentile’s daughters be merry”. In all of the media’s exaggeration and the presentation of the most horrible pictures, we, with our own hands, encourage the fighting spirit of our enemy and weaken our stand in the terrible reality around us.The intellectuals define Jewish tales of heroism through history as myths unfit to our times and so reduce what little pride we have left as a Jewish nation that suffered through the ages so many losses in order to enable us to return to Israel and live safely there. Now we are left with a state whose definition is scribbled on a piece of paper, but isn’t worth the price of the parchment on which the declaration of independence was written. It will remain so until we are able to straighten our shoulders and, with no fear, look straight into our enemies’ face.We must defend ourselves. We have no choice. Giving up our lands is not a solution but just a delay – mechanism. It is possible that this fierce Jewish wish to get rid of parts of their land, truly derives from the wish to be “just” or “understanding” towards minority’s distress, but in my mind it comes mainly from fear and nothing else. It can be the fear of terrorist attacks and it can also be the fear of the word’s reaction towards Israel. What is certain is that we might loose part of our land and that is unthinkable! Why can’t we learn from history? Everyone saw where Chamberlain’s policy brought him and Great Britain. We all saw where the Vichy government took France and the French people. No factor should influence the judgment concerning lands and national honor”
Those were the last words he wroteproud words. Indeed, Baruch was a proud Jew. Even in the darkest days of terror he would not give in to fear and kept going out to central places. In the last week of his life his mother asked him not to go out to central Jerusalem, for there were attacks almost every day. He did not agree and said, “We mustn’t live like mice in holes”.
On Saturday night, 9 March 2002, while Baruch sat with friends in the “Moment” Caf, a terrorist entered and blew himself up. Baruch was killed instantly, true to the end to the fighting heritage he was so proud of.
There is a saying: “He, who takes pride of his lineage, is presenting a bill without presenting the receipt for the payment”. Baruch paid the bill in full.
Internet sites with information on Baruch:
3. www. Resistancejuive-france.net
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