Prison Rabbi Uriel Malka, father of five from Karnei Shomron, was one of the 36 prison cadets to be consumed by the Carmel fire. Rabbi Malka, 32, is survived by his wife Ortal and five children, aged 9 and younger. He was an officer and rabbi in the IDF, served in the Paratroopers Commando Unit, taught in Canada and the U.S. for two years, and was studying to be an Israel Prison Service (IPS) rabbi. During the Second Lebanon War, he told of how he engaged in hand-to-hand combat with Hizbullah terrorists.
His last SMS message, sent to Rabbi Yehuda Vizner, Chief Rabbi of the IPS, from the ill-fated bus that overturned in the fire, stated simply, “I am on my way to rescue Jews. We’ll be in touch.” At the funeral, Rabbi Vizner said, “We’ll have to be in touch in this world via activities that he would have done, and that will now be done in his memory.”
Rabbi Malka grew up in the city of Yavneh, studied in the Karnei Shomron hesder yeshiva, and became an IDF rabbi. He spent two years teaching in Winnipeg and Denver, building ties to many dozens of students who contributed photos, videos and memories to the special Uriel Malka memorial website in both Hebrew and English.
“He was always concerned about others,” his brother Dudi said at the funeral. “He was a fighter in the Paratroopers, and he met near-death several times… He always gave me strength, and flooded the family with energies of Torah and mitzvot.”
A former principal at the Ohr Hatorah Day School in Winnipeg, Canada, Malka recalled in an extensive interview in October 2008 that he narrowly escaped death fighting Hizbullah two years earlier. “It is a miracle that I am alive, as there were times in the war when I was shot at directly by Hizbullah terrorist fighters,” he said. “I met them face to face. I could see their eyes.”
Twelve of Malka’s colleagues from his paratroop unit were killed in a Katyusha rocket attack on Kfar Giladi, as they were standing outside, in a parking lot, en route to deployment in the Lebanon War on August 6, 2006.
“I was not in Kfar Giladi with them because I was already in Lebanon,” he recalled in the interview. “We did not find out that those in our unit had died right away. Our commander had us take out the batteries to our equipment so we could not hear the names of those who died so we wouldn’t realize they were from our unit. Four days later our commander called us together in the [deserted] home of a Hizbullah terrorist and told us what had happened. He told us we had to be strong. It was very difficult.”
Malka, who is survived by his wife, Ortal, and five children, recalled in the 2008 interview that on his very first day in the Second Lebanon War he got a taste of how difficult things were going to be. While fighting in the village of Rabat Talatin, he said, “Hizbullah terrorists were shooting at us in one direction, and as we pursued them from that direction, another group of Hizbullah came from the other direction.
There were 60 of us from my unit in a Hizbullah home. Hizbullah had the opportunity to shoot three missiles at us in the house. Had they hit the house, all of us would have died. The first two missiles just missed the house. The third one hit the roof. We were all lucky to get out alive.”
At the time Malka got called up to fight with his unit, he was scheduled to go on shlichut (emissary service) with his family to teach in Denver.
“My ticket was booked and our suitcases were already packed. The Jewish Agency later told me that if I had explained the situation to the army, I would not have had to serve in the war. But I knew I couldn’t go to Denver and leave my friends. We are like brothers in my unit. I couldn’t have left them to fight alone. So I cancelled my ticket and we got to Denver later than planned. I left for Denver two days after the war ended.”
Malka reflected on his experience in the 2006 war, saying “We had lots of problems with not getting enough supplies sent to us. We would take over a Hizbullah home and we wouldn’t have enough to eat. So we were eating rice and potatoes and items from the homes of Hizbullah...."
“We underestimated how well Hizbullah was prepared for us,” he said. “They had better electronic and communications equipment than we realized, they knew the terrain and they had built extensive escape routes, which made it hard to find them.”
He added: “In Lebanon, my unit fought at night, because we had special equipment that gave us good night vision, which gave us an advantage over Hizbullah. But then it turned out we did not have enough of this special equipment, and this advantage was eliminated. We then fought also in the day. A lot of things went wrong. I don’t like to talk about it.”
Rabbi Levi Brachman remembers "If there is one thing I learned from Rabbi Uriel Malka it is his unwavering and unfaltering dedication and self-sacrifice to the Jewish people. Whether it was as a warrior, as a teacher, as a rabbi or as a chaplain, Uriel’s unrelenting dedication and self-sacrifice to his people will remain his legacy and a powerful example to us all."
|Damon Prison ~ in the way of the Carmel Fires|