Noam Apter was everyone’s friend.
A rabbinical student at a hesder yeshiva, where army service is combined with study, he worked as a volunteer with disabled youngsters and wrote poems about the holiness inside each person.
But his ”-year-old life was cut short when terrorists burst into his yeshiva in Otniel five years ago and sprayed the room with gunfire. Noam thwarted the terrorists by locking and then blocking the door to the next room, saving more than 100 young men on the other side but sacrificing himself.
Noam’s parents, Yossi and Pirchia Apter of the Israeli town of Shilo, spoke last week at Cong. Beth Aaron in Teaneck to a hushed crowd, calling their son’s heroic death "a natural extension of the way he lived."
Noam was following a path that reflected a love of giving to his fellow man, said Yossi Apter.
Noam Apter was killed by terrorists and died saving fellow students.
"It wasn’t a random, spontaneous action. It was an accumulation of a lifetime of giving to others," he said. "Noam was always busy with volunteer projects and helping the needy."
Under fire, Noam must have been faced with an agonizing split-second decision, his father said: Armed with a gun in his pocket, he could either try to shoot the terrorists or run to lock the door.
He opted for saving lives over killing.
On the night of Dec. ‘7, ’00’, the Yeshivat Otniel students were enjoying a Shabbat meal. They sang "Shalom Aleichem" and other songs welcoming the Sabbath. Four students had volunteered to be the evening’s waiters and were busy in the kitchen dishing out the food. Noam Apter was among them.
The others were Yehudah Bamberger, ‘0, Zvi Ziman, 18, and Gabriel Hoter, 17.
When the terrorists burst into the kitchen, Noam sprinted to the connecting door and locked it. The terrorists shot him in the back. Fatally wounded, he fell to the ground and blocked the door with his body.
After they shot everyone in the kitchen, the terrorists tried to open the door to the dining room but failed. Next, they attempted to shoot into the room through a small glass window, but that didn’t work either.
Finally, they fled. Later, they were hunted down and killed by the Israeli army.
Noam was hailed a hero by students and rabbis at the yeshiva for his actions. Had he not locked that connecting door during his final moments, they said in news reports on the incident, many more people would have been killed that night.
After Noam’s death, his family discovered a trove of poems in his desk that he had written about the spark of holiness inside of each person and the potential for spiritual greatness.
"Everybody has within him his own temple," Noam wrote in poetic Hebrew. "In some, it’s in ruins. Some don’t realize that it even exists. But this temple is in every being. It’s our soul. Someday, all the private temples within us will stand upright and then we will be prepared to bring the Shechina into the world…."
They also found writings about the importance of giving and love. "Love is the tool through which one person can reach another," he wrote.
Noam, who regularly volunteered with disabled youth and enjoyed spending his free time on outings with them, also gave talks to their counselors about the nature of giving and loving.
He once printed up fliers, which he paid for himself, in order to explain the significance of the Beit Hamikdash, the holy Temple in Jerusalem, so that non-observant Jews would understand why Jews mourned its loss on Tisha B’Av. He distributed the fliers himself at bus stations.
Yossi Apter came to Teaneck during a whirlwind, 1′-day visit to the United States before Purim to speak about his son’s life. He spoke at schools and synagogues throughout the country. "I want to teach about Noam’s life as a giver and his belief in chesed and mission of helping other people," Apter said.
His presentation, which included a movie documentary about Noam’s life and death, was well received. "We got a lot of hugs and many warm wishes," said Apter, who has launched a scholarship fund in his son’s name. "A lot of people who heard our story told us they were very inspired."
Among them was David Sheffey, an attorney from Teaneck. When he and his wife, Debby, learned several years ago of Noam’s courageous act, they were so moved that they decided to name their son after him.
"When we heard the story of Noam Apter about his bravery, his selflessness it was a story that resonated with us on many levels," said David Sheffey, who has since introduced his 18-month-old son, Noam, to Yossi Apter.
"As we learned more about this exceptional personality and have come to know him through his family, we have come to understand that this act was reflective of a whole life of giving."