This morning, Baruch Cohen went to the synagogue in Efrat at his usual sunrise time. The 59-year-old father of six and grandfather of 11, performed his morning ritual of blessing the community with the Priestly Blessing, Birkat Kohanim."Baruch" is the first word of this blessing, and Baruch Cohen gave his blessings daily.
As Baruch left Efrat in the early daylight hour enroute to work in Jerusalem, he did not realize that his last Priestly Blessing had just been recited. As he passed the Neve Daniel junction on the Jerusalem Tunnel road, a car of Arab murderers drove by and sprayed his car with 12 bullets. Baruch was hit, lost control, and drove into an oncoming semi-trailer. He was killed instantly.
The killing of Baruch Cohen was the result of the latest re-opening of Palestinian roads and villages. For two weeks during the blockade, we had relative peace and quiet; now we have pieces of Baruch's body, and another funeral to plan in Efrat. The terrorists escaped to Bethlehem, passing the PLO"police" checkpoint which allows murderers to escape into protective areas after the killing of a Jew.
Amnon Cohen, Baruch's son, is an IDF lieutenant general in charge of Hebron area security. His beeper went off and was told of a drive-by shooting on the tunnel road. He instructed his troops to seal off the area and he drove to the shooting area. From a distance he saw the familiar Hyundai vehicle in which his father, years ago, had taught him how to drive. Upon seeing the car and his dead father, Amnon, an IDF commanding officer, tore his uniform in mourning. He handed over the investigation to the next-in-command, and began weeping on the road.
The roads were closed, and the city of Efrat turned to mourning. The Cohen house, one block away from me, was packed with soldiers, police and rabbis. Outside, Baruch’s distraught daughter was placed into a wheelchair as she nears her eighth month of pregnancy.
The latest survivor of a drive-by shooting, Ronnie Diament of Efrat, who was shot at and survived last month, had been discharged from Hadassah Hospital only 24 hours earlier, and had celebrated a dinner of gratitude to God -- where he was toasted in a blessing by Baruch.
Ronnie was interviewed on Israel radio, and in a breaking and haltering voice tried to repeat the blessing and words of his friend Baruch last night as they sang and rejoiced together.
Today Ronnie was a pallbearer for Baruch.
We watched the thousands line the street of the synagogue where Baruch gave his blessings daily, and then the hundreds of cars in procession down the same Jerusalem Tunnel road, enroute to the Har Menuchot cemetery, where Baruch -- who gave blessings to so many -- would now receive the kaddish blessings of his sons.
As the entire procession stopped on the highway where only hours before Baruch and his blessings were extinguished by Palestinian murderers, the noises of tears and silence could be heard.
As the antitank missiles hit last night at Nachal Oz inside the green line, and as Baruch Cohen's fresh grave has been dug, I ask: Does our collective guilt about the well-being of Palestinian masses outweigh the concern for our own Jewish survival in our own land of Israel?