Yerucham Sagi (Baruchi)
My first born son, Yerucham was born on the ninth of Iyar 5731 (3.5.1972) in Petach Tikvah where he learned in Charedi educational institutions. When he was eight we moved to Ashdod and when he was 12 we moved again to Gush Etzion. We lived in Alon Shvut for five years and then moved to Efrat where we live today.
When Yerucham turned 18 he changed his mind and left the Charedi Yeshiva "Ponavich" and transferred to "Yeshivat Od Yosef Chai in Shechem (living with other yeshiva boys in Yitzhar). Yerucham was a bookworm with an incredibly vast amount of knowledge and was troubled by the fact that his own curiosity and love of learning led him to invest time and effort in History and Science thereby taking time away from his study of Torah. Yerucham was as careful with what are considered easier mitzvoth as he was with more difficult ones. The study of Torah, performance of its commandments and the settling of Eretz Yisrael were of the utmost importance to him and this is what he clung to.
As a result of his sensitivity to others' distress he performed, with great humility, wonderful acts of kindness and never told anyone. These acts of Chesed he performed with total self devotion and with great perfection. In this way for years he helped a handicapped soldier, Kollel student, to kasher his house for Pesach. At the end of each day he would take care of a housewife's children so that she could rest... or how he adopted a lonely senior citizen. The same way in which for several long months he took care of the small children of a married soldier who was still serving his basic army service, and how for three years he took care of an infant who was born while her father was serving a prison sentence, until he was released.
The friendly Yerucham loved children and was very devoted to our family. When he arrived home exhausted from the Yeshiva or the army, and had barely arrived on the threshold of our house he would immediately ask what he could do to help and only after great pressure from us would give in and agree to rest first.
In the beginning of July,1991 Yerucham enlisted in his Hesder army service. He aspired with all his being to serve as a combat soldier but because of a vision problem this was prevented from him. When I saw how much this troubled him I found myself pleading to the Bakum officer to allow him to join a combat unit. The staff at Bakum were impressed by his readiness and his strong personality and promised that they would do all they could to allow him to be in charge of the religious duties in the Tank Corp and to participate in other activities that were of a combat nature. Yerucham loved serving in the army where he was surrounded by good friends. According to the friends in his unit, Yerucham was a brilliant, sharp, stubborn guy who always stood up and fought for what he believed in but together with that had a good sense of humor and was easy to get along with. One of his army friends said "Yerucham was law, justice and integrity" His officers saw in him a soldier who fulfilled his duties efficiently and with great faith.
On the heroic day of Tel Chai, 11th of Adar 5754, I lost my first born son. Yerucham ended his own life. Since then I ask myself, every day, why my beloved son, 22 years old (and 10 months), the light of my life, chose death. A happy young man who made people happy, and who was also handsome, smart and loved by all.
When he arrived in the Yeshiva in Shechem in the beginning of 1989 he was amazed at the lack of actions against the cruelty bestowed on the Jewish population by the police of Shechem and particularly against the yeshiva students and their Rabbis. There wasn't a yeshiva boy or Rav that had not been abused by the Shechem police. Everyone had been injured by their long badgering arm - either by arrests, by being followed, by being chased; those whose movements were limited, or produced with search warrants, those who had criminal records opened and those who had futile court cases against them. Yerucham, very quickly identified the motives and was able to define the problems: The enclave of Jews in Shechem, especially in the center of town constituted a political and security nuisance that had to be removed. If they were not able to wipe out the Jewish presence by legal means, they would count on the terrible harassment to produce the desired results. Yerucham was sure that these directions were being given from the top, the Israeli government. There were Jews along with Arabs in the police force in Shechem who jumped at the opportunity to perform this assignment.
It became clear that Zahal had also been enlisted in this "National Operation", but the soldiers, unlike the police, did not confront and harass the residents and yeshiva students. The army contributed its part by ensuring the status quo of the Shechem Yeshiva and by not reacting to the Arab harassment of the Jews. When the army was summoned they did nothing most of the time to take care of the problems caused by the local Arabs or to strengthen the feeling of security for the Jews in the area. Complaints about security made by the residents were defined as civilian complaints and handed over to the police for their attention, knowing that they would do nothing. I visited my son in the Yeshiva twice when there were high ranking officers there with only one goal and that was to prevent any damage to the status quo in the area. The urgent national matters that they attended to were with relation to changing light bulbs and adding chairs to the yeshiva. I was present at exhausting negotiations of this kind.
Yerucham felt the burden on his thin soldiers of the Jews of Shechem's struggle and the yeshiva students' struggle as well. One man against the system, a young man, not much more than a boy, against the police, the army and the country.
Yerucham who wrote well took his personal weapon-- paper and pen-- and went to the battle field. He searched and researched and recorded a diary of events that described the consistent lack of action on the part of Zahal in cases of theft and fires set to Jewish property, stone throwing and Molotov cocktails on the roads and similar harassments within the Yishuvim. This diary appeared as written in Attorney Elyakim Haetzni's book "A Handcuffed Army".
Simultaneously, Yerucham began to gather complaints by residents of the area against the cruelty displayed towards them by the police in Shechem and began writing letters to Knesset Members, Ministers, Government offices, departments that investigate police officers, State Comptroller, and even to the civil rights organizations. He also ensured a constant flow of information to the press.
As a reaction to his activities, the police began to focus on Yerucham and thus the noose of persecution and abuse tightened around his neck. Police cars appeared constantly in Yitzhar, especially when he was home from the army. In each of these instances Yerucham had to run away and he became the main wanted/hunted person. Yerucham did not give in. He was determined to continue his activities and with great courage signed his full name on each article that he wrote. People begged him to abandon his struggle and go home but he was determined "No one will fight in place of me, this is not a personal battle, this is a battle against the Jewish Yishuv in Shechem, against the divine order given to Avraham and his children. Yerucham did not leave the battle field even during his army service.
Dozens of criminal records were filed against Yerucham by the police and were then dismissed for lack of evidence. Yerucham was found not guilty in three separate trials. Several threatening cases remained open. Three weeks before his death, in the midst of a cold rainy winter he was thrown into "Kasson" prison under sub human conditions and terrible abuse. The police, who requested he be detained longer, was reprimanded bitterly by the courts for incarcerating an innocent man. Yerucham was released from prison after 48 hours burning up with fever and very ill. Before he was even able to recover from this illness he was ordered to come to two additional trials in the never ending series of cases against him. The day before his death, the week that two more cases were to heard, Yerucham was called to the police to sign a renewal of personal documents that had been taken from him when he was sent to prison and lost by the police. Yerucham took his arrest file with him, which he called his "48 file" (named for the 48 hours he spent in jail) and set out to say good bye to his friends. They tried to calm him saying that after the reprimand that the other police officers received they would probably try to make peace with him. Yerucham, who had no delusions, underwent terrible abuse at the hands of the Shechem police on that day as well.
That evening he told me that he felt he would not be able to hold up much longer and for the first time I noticed cracks in his wall of determination and in his voice. I pleaded with him that at the next trial in two days, for his mother and only for me, he should deal with exonerating himself and not with his usual patriotic activities. Yerucham was still convinced that at the trial he had stand for his principles. "Ima this is not my personal battle, this is a battle against all Israel and Hashem, and a battle of the right of Am Yisrael to Eretz Yisrael, Yosef is being sold once again". These were the last words I heard from my son.
The next day "Katzin Ha'ir" and their staff came to give me the terrible news. My son was found dead in his room with his Uzi in his hand. They didn't understand that my son had fallen, heroically in the battle field.
Naomi Baruchi (Efrat)