United States District Court, District of Columbia
COLLEEN KOLLAR-KOTELLY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
case arises from the March 6, 2008 death of 18-year old
Yonadav Hirshfeld, while he was at the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva
in Jerusalem, Israel where he went to school. See
Transcript of April 24, 2018 Bench Trial held before the
Honorable Colleen Kollar-Kotelly (“Tr.”), ECF No.
38, at 4-5. Plaintiffs-the estate, heirs, and immediate
family members of the deceased-allege that Yonadav Hirshfeld
(“Yonadav”) was killed by a shooter affiliated
with Hamas, a terrorist organization. Proceeding under the Foreign
Sovereign Immunities Act (“FSIA”), Plaintiffs
allege that Defendant Islamic Republic of Iran
(“Iran”) provided material support and resources
to Hamas and accordingly should be held liable for
Yonadav's death. The Court agrees with Plaintiffs'
has not answered or otherwise participated in this
litigation, and therefore, the case proceeded in a default
setting, with Plaintiffs filing a  Motion for Default
Judgment. The Court held a bench trial on April 24, 2018.
Upon consideration of the pleadings, the relevant legal
authorities, the demeanor of the witnesses, and the record as
a whole, the Court has determined that Plaintiffs have
established their claims by evidence satisfactory to the
Court and accordingly will GRANT default judgment against
Defendant. The Court will also consider the issue of
appropriate damages for each Plaintiff.
filed this lawsuit on July 10, 2015. Compl., ECF No. 1. An
Amended Complaint was filed on December 8, 2015. Am. Compl.,
ECF No. 7. Plaintiffs then grappled for years to fulfill the
requirements for service on Defendant Iran, due to the lack
of diplomatic relations between the United States and Iran.
On October 10, 2017, this Court issued a Memorandum Opinion
and Order deeming service effective pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
Section 1608(a)(4). Memo. Op. and Order, ECF No. 27.
Approximately one month later, the Plaintiffs filed a Motion
for a Default Judgment; a supporting Memorandum and Proposed
Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law; and sworn
declarations by the Plaintiffs, two witnesses to the
incident, and two experts. Mot. for Default Judg., ECF No.
30; Memo. in support of Mot. for Default Judg., ECF No. 30-2.
Plaintiffs urged this Court to bypass holding a hearing and
to find the sworn declarations and proposed findings of fact
and conclusions of law sufficient to satisfy the requirement
of the FSIA, 28 U.S.C. Section 1608(e), that a claimant must
“establish[ ] [his] claim or right [to] relief by
evidence that is satisfactory to the court.” Reed v
Islamic Republic of Iran, 845 F.Supp.2d 204, 211 (D.D.C.
2012). In its discretion, however, this Court decided to hold
a bench trial with live witnesses instead of relying solely
on sworn declarations.
Court held a bench trial on April 24, 2018, at which time
Plaintiffs offered documentary, photographic and video
evidence, and they presented: (1) live testimony by
Yonadav's parents, one sibling, and two expert witnesses;
(2) deposition testimony of two eye witnesses and one
additional expert witness; and (3) deposition testimony
and/or affidavits by Yonadav's other eleven siblings.
This hearing addressed both the Plaintiffs' claims on
liability and the resulting damages. After the trial,
Plaintiffs submitted Post-Hearing Proposed Findings of Fact
and Conclusions of Law, ECF No. 39.
entry of default judgment is governed by Fed.R.Civ.P. 55.
“The determination of whether a default judgment is
appropriate is committed to the discretion of the trial
court.” Hanley-Wood LLC v. Hanley Wood LLC,
783 F.Supp.2d 147, 150 (D.D.C. 2011) (citing Jackson v.
Beech, 636 F.2d 831, 836 (D.C. Cir. 1980)). Before
granting default judgment, the Court must satisfy itself of
its jurisdiction, and “[t]he party seeking default
judgment has the burden of establishing both subject matter
jurisdiction over the claims and personal jurisdiction over
the defendants.” Thuneibat v. Syrian Arab
Republic, 167 F.Supp.3d 22, 33 (D.D.C. 2016).
the FSIA specifically, this Court cannot enter default
judgment against a foreign state “unless the claimant
establishes his claim or right to relief by evidence
satisfactory to the court.” 28 U.S.C. § 1608(e);
see Fraenkel v Islamic Republic of Iran, 892 F.3d
348, 353 (D.C. Cir. 2018) (To obtain a default judgment in a
Section 1605A action, plaintiffs have to establish a right to
relief by providing “evidence satisfactory to the
court.”); Roeder v. Islamic Republic of Iran,
333 F.3d 228, 232 (D.C. Cir. 2003) (“The court . . .
has an obligation to satisfy itself that plaintiffs have
established a right to relief.”). “[T]he FSIA
leaves it to the court to determine precisely how much and
what kinds of evidence the plaintiff must provide, ”
Han Kim v. Democratic People's Republic of
Korea, 774 F.3d 1044, 1047 (D.C. Cir. 2014), and
“[u]ncontroverted factual allegations that are
supported by admissible evidence are taken as true, ”
Thuneibat, 167 F.Supp.3d at 33. Section 1608(e)
“does not require the court to demand more or different
evidence than it would normally receive; . . . indeed, the
quantum and quality of evidence that might satisfy a court
can be less than that normally required.” Owens v
Republic of Sudan, 864 F.3d 751, 785 (D.C. Cir. 2017)
(citations omitted), petition for cert. filed, 864
F.3d 751 (Mar. 6, 2018) (No. 17-1406).
FINDINGS OF FACT
following Findings of Fact recount a tragic event. They
detail the murder of Yonadav Hirshfeld, a young man attending
a school in Jerusalem, Israel, where a shooter purposefully
targeted Jewish students. As discussed further below, in
addition to expert testimony received by the Court, three
members of Yonadav's family testified at the Court's
bench trial regarding the circumstances surrounding the death
of their loved one. The Court appreciates that providing such
testimony was extremely difficult for each witness, as it
required them to revisit publicly what was likely the most
tragic event in their lives. The Court also acknowledges that
the current legal proceedings cannot make these family
members whole again or even ease their pain.
Court's Findings of Fact are based on testimony presented
at the bench trial held in this matter on April 24, 2018, as
well as evidence submitted prior to and during that
trial. The Court's findings fall into three
overarching categories: (1) Hamas and Iran's material
support for it; (2) how that support resulted in the death of
Yonadav Hirshfeld in this case; (3) facts relevant to the
determination of the damages which are warranted with regard
to Yonadav's parents, siblings, and his Estate.
Iran's Material Support for Hamas
facts contained in this section are largely derived from the
testimony of two experts with extensive experience studying,
writing, and testifying about Iran: Dr. Patrick Clawson, the
Director of Research at The Washington Institute for Near
East Policy, and Dr. Matthew Levitt, a Senior Fellow and
Director of the Stein Program on Counterterrorism and
Intelligence at The Washington Institute for Near East
Policy. Clawson Tr. 71; Levitt Tr. 81. As a preliminary
matter, Hamas may be characterized as a Palestinian political
organization that was founded in 1987 with a purpose of
carrying out militant attacks against Israel, and which has
effectively controlled the Gaza Strip since
2007. Clawson Tr. 74-75; Levitt Tr. 89-90
(“Hamas is a U.S., European, and other-designated
terrorist organization, . . . [b]ut it is a movement and it
has other components too [political and social welfare] . . .
[and] these components are used to leverage its ability to
wage, in its terms, jihad, or a holy war[.]”); Am.
Compl. ¶¶ 13-14 (“Hamas is listed by the
United States Department of State as a Foreign Terrorist
Organization (“FTO”)” and has been listed
as [such] since 1997.”); Am. Comp. ¶¶ 15-16
(“Hamas is listed as a Specially Designated Global
Terrorist (“SDGT”) pursuant to Executive Order
13224” and has been listed like that “since
October 31, 2001.”) The relationship between Hamas and
Iran became close after 1993 - after the Palestine Liberation
Organization reached an agreement with Israel, the Iranians
turned to Hamas, a more militant organization, to sponsor
terrorist attacks against Israel, and this is when Iran
started providing Hamas with material support. Clawson Tr.
Court finds that Iran provided substantial material support
to Hamas leading up to and immediately before and including
the date of the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva incident, which occurred
on March 6, 2008. Clawson, Tr. 79-80. During this period,
Iran lent support to Hamas by providing weaponry, munitions,
training, and millions of dollars in financial support.
Clawson Tr. 75-79. The fact that Iran provided substantial
assistance to Hamas was acknowledged by the United States
Department of State in its Country Reports on Terrorism
covering the years 2007 and 2008. Clawson Tr. 76.
Furthermore, Hamas operatives went to Iran for military
training, and this connection between Hamas and Iran was
openly acknowledged insofar as the head of Hamas, Khaled
Mashal, went to Tehran and met with senior Iranian officials,
including the Ayatollah Khamenei. Clawson Tr. 76. In June
2007 and again in February 2008, the Iranian foreign minister
met with Khaled Mashal. Clawson Tr. 76.
Court finds that Iran provided most of Hamas's financing
and resourcing during the period leading up the Mercaz Harav
Yeshiva shooting, and this includes material support in the
form of funding, weaponry, training, in-kind services, and
ideological support. Levitt Tr. 89, 91, 112-113; Clawson Tr.
74 (“Iran has always provided support for Hamas . . .
[a]nd during the times when the relationship was close, like
that in 2007, 2008, Iran provided Hamas with very substantial
material support.”) Millions of dollars were provided
by Iran to Hamas, with an uptick in spending in 2003, 2004,
and 2007. Levitt Tr. 110-111; Clawson Tr. 77 (“A very
respected Arab newspaper published in London called Al-Sharq
Al-Awsat . . . said, in May of 2008, that Iran pledged $250
million to Hamas.”) Financial support was not only
being provided to the active terrorist wing of Hamas known as
Qassam, but also to the rest of Hamas. Levitt Tr. 89-91
(“[T]he evidence of Iranian funding for Hamas is
overwhelming, including statements from Iranian officials
themselves, statements from Hamas officials themselves”
as well as “U.S. officials, again, just days before
this attack talking about how the majority of the financing
Hamas gets it gets from Iran.”)
days leading up to the March 6, 2008 shooting at the Mercaz
Harav Yeshiva, Hamas had threatened attacks. Levitt Tr. 92-94
(“In the period leading up to the attack in question,
we created the, kind of, environment of tension leading up to
what happened in Jerusalem in March 2008.”). In an
attack like the one at the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva, a shooter
would likely need training to learn to quickly load and
reload a weapon, and how to move around a location and fire
at the same time to ensure operational success. Levitt Tr.
107. The type of training provided by Iran encompassed
everything from small arms and special capabilities to sniper
training, making explosives, handling/reassembling weapons,
and kidnapping. Levitt Tr. 105-106. A few days after the
March 6, 2008 shooting, Iranian and Hamas officials made
statements whereby they noted that 300 Hamas operatives had
been sent to Iran for training, and 150 of them were still
there. Levitt Tr. 90-91.
immediate aftermath of the attack, the assailant was
identified by Israeli authorities as Alaa Abu Dhein. Levitt
Tr. 94-95. At that time, there were conflicting claims of
responsibility for the attack, and Hamas did not explicitly
say whether it took credit for the attack or not, although an
official Hamas announcement praised the attack. Levitt Tr.
95-97. There are political and operational/security reasons
for a delayed claim of responsibility regarding an attack,
particularly in sensitive cases such as this one involving an
attack on civilian students in Jerusalem, and these reasons
include concerns about preparing for reprisal against Hamas
in general and Hamas infrastructure in the Gaza Strip, as
well as providing time for persons who aided in the attack to
escape. Levitt Tr. 99-101. Ultimately, in December of 2010,
on the 23rd anniversary of Hamas's founding,
the Hamas prime minister and a head of the Qassam Brigade
[military terrorist wing of Hamas] made statements in an
official Hamas publication called Path to Glory,
whereby Hamas took responsibility for the March 6, 2008
Mercaz Harav Yeshiva attack, and this claim of responsibility
has never been rescinded. Levitt Tr. 100-104.
primarily relevant to this case, the support described above
by Iran was crucial to Hamas. The Court is satisfied by
Plaintiffs' showing that Iran's support and
sponsorship of Hamas was a well-known matter of Iranian
policy, and further, that Iran not only provided most of
Hamas's funding over the course of many years, including
at the time of the attack at issue, but Iran also assisted
Hamas in obtaining weaponry and providing training and other
resources. In short, the Court finds that Iran provided
material support to Hamas at the time of the incident
underlying this case - March 6, 2008.
Hamas, Materially Supported by Iran, Killed Yonadav
the Court finds that Hamas, supported by Iran, is responsible
for the death of Yonadav Hirshfeld. On March 6, 2008, Yonadav
visited his great-grandmother at her house, and he checked in
with his mother by telephone around 7:30 p.m. and told her he
planned to come home that night after his evening studies at
the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva because he wanted to lead some boys
on a hike the following day. Elisheva Hirshfeld Tr. 15-16.
Later that evening, Yonadav was standing near the entrance to
Mercaz Harav talking with his fellow students, Shimon Balzam
and Zvi Yehuda Kofman, when the three of them saw a man of
Arab appearance carrying a large television box. See
Transcript of April 10, 2018 Deposition of Shimon Balzam
(“Balzam Depo.”), at 9-10; Transcript of March
19, 2018 Deposition of Zvi Yehuda Kofman (“Kofman
Depo.”) at 9-10. When the man was approximately two or
three meters away from the boys, he put down the box and took
out a Kalashnikov rifle and began firing in the boys'
direction. Balzam Depo. 10; Kofman Depo. 12. The boys saw
other students running, and they began running away from the
man toward the building which houses the classrooms, which
was between 14 and 20 meters away. Balzam Depo. 11; Kofman
Depo. 13-14. Yonadav was running behind Mr. Kofman, and Mr.
Kofman felt Yonadav's blood spraying onto his arm and
vaguely remembered Yonadav shouting as Mr. Kofman ran toward
the women's section of the building. Kofman Depo. 13-14.
Mr. Kofman was not injured, but as he ran, his shirt became
covered with blood that must have been Yonadav's because
Mr. Balzam started running later and was farther away. Kofman
Depo. 14-15, 24-25.
ran to the entrance where there were stairs that went down on
the left side, and he made it to the bottom of the stairs
before falling, and it was estimated that running to that
point would have taken him approximately 15 seconds, as it is
20-25 meters from where they were standing when the shooting
began. Kofman Depo. 14, 16-17. When Mr. Balzam entered the
building and started going down the stairs, he observed
Yonadav lying on the landing between the two stairwells, so
he concluded that Yonadav must have run ahead of him, but Mr.
Balzam kept going past Yonadav because Mr. Balzam had been
shot and was in shock. Balzam Depo. 11-12. Neither Mr. Balzam
nor Mr. Kofman could say exactly when Yonadav died, but they
both indicated that Yonadav was alive immediately after he
was shot because he ran into the building until he reached
the stair landing where he fell, which is about 4 meters from
where he entered the building. Balzam Depo. 15-16; Kofman
Depo. 17-18. Medical help arrived approximately 20 minutes
after the attack commenced, and Yonadav's lifeless body
was found on the staircase at that time. Balzam Depo. 13-15,
29; Kofman Depo. 15-17.
was the fifth of thirteen siblings born to Elisheva Hirshfeld
(“E. Hirshfeld”) and her husband Zemach Hirshfeld
(“Z. Hirshfeld”). E. Hirshfeld Tr. 7, 9, 10. When
Yonadav was one year old, his parents, who resided in Israel,
registered him as a United States citizen. E. Hirshfeld Tr.
9; see Ex. 2 (Certification of Birth Abroad of a
Citizen of the United States). As a child, Yonadav was full
of life and mischievous; he liked challenges and was
“quick on his feet” during arguments, and he was
also friendly and loved to read and play with balls. E.
Hirshfeld Tr. 10; Z. Hirshfeld Tr. 40-41. Yonadav's
father recalled that Yonadav liked school and enjoyed trips,
particularly those that involved a bit of a risk. Z.
Hirshfeld Tr. 41. Yonadav always did well in school but it
was not until high school that he developed discipline in his
studies, particularly his religious studies. E. Hirshfeld Tr.
12-13, Z. Hirshfeld Tr. 41-42. In high school, Yonadav was a
talented student who scored high grades, and he liked to
learn, write poems and stories, play the recorder, dance and
hike. E. Hirshfeld Tr. 12-13. He was also a counselor for a
community youth group. E. Hirshfeld Tr. 13-14. Upon
completing high school, Yonadav began his studies in 2008 at
the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva in Jerusalem, which offered
religious studies. E. Hirshfeld Tr. 14- 15. He was 18 years
old and in his first year at the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva at the
time the shooting incident occurred. Tr. 4; E. Hirshfeld Tr.
Hirshfeld described Yonadav's relationships with his
siblings as follows: “[e]verybody thought [Yonadav]
liked them the best” and “he loved to play with
them, he loved to talk to them, he loved to have fun.”
E. Hirshfeld Tr. 10, 12. Yonadav loved to play with and talk
to all his siblings as well as playing ball and other games
with his nieces and nephews. E. Hirshfeld Tr. 11-12. Yonadav
was also very thoughtful about spending time with his
grandparents. E. Hirshfeld Tr. 14. In Yonadav's family
“everybody felt close” and Yonadav was
“very much” liked by his brothers and sisters,
but because of the age spread among the siblings, some of
whom were adults, they saw each other mostly on the weekends.
E. Hirshfeld Tr. 10, 12.
Incident and Immediate Aftermath
approximately 8:30 p.m. on March 6, 2008, Elisheva Hirshfeld
received a call from one of Yonadav's friends, inquiring
if she had been in touch with Yonadav and informing her that
there was a terrorist attack at the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva. E.
Hirshfeld Tr. 15-16. Zemach Hirshfeld was volunteering on
ambulance duty that evening, when he heard that something had
happened at Mercaz Harav Yeshiva, and he returned home to
await further news. Z. Hirshfeld Tr. 42. Yonadav's
brother Shalom Hirshfeld (“S. Hirshfeld”), who
was 14 years old, was on his way back from a visit to the Old
City in Jerusalem with some friends, in a car operated by his
neighbors, when one of his friends heard about the attack on
the radio and conveyed that information to Shalom, who
started trembling uncontrollably. S. Hirshfeld Tr. 50. By the
time Shalom got home, everyone in the family was very nervous
and people began coming to their house to await news of
Yonadav. S. Hirshfeld Tr. 52-53.
evening, Elisheva Hirshfeld tried to contact Yonadav, who did
not have a cell phone, by calling his friends at the Mercaz
Harav Yeshiva. E. Hirshfeld Tr. 16-17. At some point,
Elisheva Hirshfeld or her son-in-law spoke to someone at the
Mercaz Harav Yeshiva office who said that they had seen
Yonadav and would tell him to call home. E. Hirshfeld Tr.
16-17; Z. Hirshfeld Tr. 42-43. Hours passed with no phone
call from Yonadav as the family grew increasingly more
worried; finally, at around 11:45 p.m., their community rabbi
came by to inform the family that Yonadav had died. E.
Hirshfeld Tr. 18; Z. Hirshfeld Tr. 43.
early morning hours of March 7, 2008, Zemach Hirshfeld had to
go to Jerusalem to identify his son's body. E Hirshfeld
Tr. 19; Z. Hirshfeld Tr. 44. The atmosphere in the house
later that day was “very, very heavy” and
“[e]verybody was confused, [with] very mixed
feelings” and “there was no room for anything
else but the feelings and thoughts about what ha[d]
happened.” S. Hirshfeld Tr. 54, 56. Yonadav's first
funeral service was combined with a service for the other 7
boys who died because of the shooting, and there was also a
second, smaller, private service at Kochar Hashachar, where
he was buried. E. Hirshfeld Tr. 20-21; Z. Hirshfeld Tr.
44-45. Yonadav's death certificate lists the
“reason for death” as “terrorist
attack.” See Ex. 3 (Death Certificate).
Testimony of Family Members
Elisheva Hirshfeld, Yonadav's mother
Hirshfeld's description of the events of March 6, 2008
follows. When Elisheva Hirshfeld (“Elisheva”)
found out that there was an attack in progress at the Mercaz
Harav Yeshiva and she could not get in contact with Yonadav,
she began to have a feeling of dread and imagined Yonadav
hiding in a closet and being afraid to come
E. Hirshfeld Tr. 16-17. Elisheva suggested to her husband
that they drive to Jerusalem and go look for Yonadav, but her
husband told her that the roads were closed anyhow. E.
Hirshfeld Tr. 17. Her first thought upon learning that
Yonadav was dead was disbelief because “[h]e was such a
special boy, [this] can't happen to him, ” and
later she felt “dried out and empty.” E.
Hirshfeld Tr. 18. Discussing the funeral, Elisheva noted that
the first service was for all 8 boys that had been killed at
the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva and it was “something very
big, ” and broadcast over television and the radio. E.
Hirshfeld Tr. 20. The second service was a private ceremony
for Yonadav, but it drew a crowd of hundreds of people. E.
Hirshfeld Tr. 21. Elisheva stated that “[i]t was like
nothing real, ” and her family members were
“crying and hysterical.” Id.
and her husband attended a support group comprised of other
families dealing with similar attacks, for a period of two
years after the incident, which was helpful, and several of
her children went to a psychologist, and some went to art
therapy for a month or two. E. Hirshfeld Tr. 21-23. The
family has memorials every year to remember Yonadav - one
sponsored by the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva and a more private
memorial at the cemetery - and it makes her feel good that
Yonadav is not forgotten. E. Hirshfeld Tr. 23.
testified that she and her husband opened an estate for
Yonadav in New York State, with Dr. Michael Engleberg as the
administrator. E. Hirshfeld Tr. 23. See Ex. 4
(2/5/2016 Decree granting Limited Letters of Administration
issued by New York County Surrogate's Court).
Zemach Hirshfeld, Yonadav's father
Hirshfeld's recollection of the events of March 6, 2008
follows. Zemach Hirshfeld (“Zemach”) is a
circumciser by trade but he also volunteers with an ambulance
service. Z. Hirshfeld Tr. 39, 42. While on an ambulance call
on March 6, 2008, he heard a communication regarding
something happening at the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva and the news
that many people had been injured. Z. Hirshfeld Tr. 42.
Zemach headed back home and waited with his wife and family;
he remembers calling the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva and hoping to
hear from Yonadav and further, that people were gathering at
their family home. Z. Hirshfeld Tr. 42-43. Zemach assumed
that Yonadav was safe until the rabbi and social worker
arrived, and then he understood that Yonadav was dead. Z.
Hirshfeld Tr. 43. Zemach was asked to come to identify the
body, and he said that while he seemed strong because he was
focusing on what he needed to do, he later had a feeling like
he “could not contain or grasp what [was]
happening.” Z. Hirshfeld Tr. 43-44. He described his
feeling at the funeral as follows:
In the first funeral I had no function or position, just to
be - - to fe[el] torn. In the second funeral, I was able to
speak for - - or, to give the - - give the - - I cried, I
yelled continuously. I prepared ahead of time the headlines
of what I was going to say. I felt like I had help from the
All Mighty to do it in a good way.
Z. Hirshfeld Tr. 45.
testified that he had a strong faith that allowed him to have
sorrow without frustration and helped him get through the
difficulties of dealing with Yonadav's death.
Id. Zemach participates in the annual memorials for
Yonadav, as do some members of the community, and every year
when Zemach speaks at the memorials, he tries to take
“Yonadav's stories or poems [ ] to build what [he]
ha[s] to say around [them].” Z. Hirshfeld Tr. 46.
Zemach misses the “future that will never be” in
terms of not seeing who Yonadav would have married or knowing
Yonadav's children or “how would be his
future.” Z. Hirshfeld Tr. 47.
Shalom Hirshfeld, Yonadav's brother
Hirshfeld (“Shalom”) testified live before the
Court at the April 24, 2018 bench trial. At the time of
Yonadav's death, Shalom was 14 years old. S. Hirshfeld
Tr. 54. On the evening of the incident, Shalom was traveling
back from a visit to the old city in Jerusalem with his
friends and some neighbors when he heard a report on the
radio that there was an attack at the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva.
S. Hirshfeld Tr. 50, 52. Shalom started trembling
uncontrollably as he contemplated whether Yonadav was safe.
S. Hirschfeld Tr. 50-51. The neighbors operating the car had
a son who also studied at the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva, and the
mother was able to contact her son, but she was crying in the
car, which added to the “heavy and intense”
atmosphere in the car. S. Hirshfeld Tr. 52. When Shalom got
home, the atmosphere was “very, very stressed”
for several hours. S. Hirshfeld Tr. 52-53. Shalom sat around
and drank water to try to deal with his stress, while more
and more people began arriving at his family's home. S.
Hirshfeld Tr. 53. Finally, the rabbi arrived and Shalom
overheard the rabbi's voice along with a loud cry from
his mother, and his father asking for verification, and
that's when he knew Yonadav had been killed. S. Hirshfeld
Tr. 53-54. Shalom slept that night and when he woke up, the
“atmosphere at home was very, very heavy.” S.
Hirshfeld Tr. 54, Shalom testified that Yonadav's death
did not seem real until he got off the bus going to the place
where Yonadav's funeral service was being held and he saw
the death announcement with Yonadav's name on it, and
then he started to cry. S. Hirshfeld Tr. 55. The funeral
service was crowded with people, and many people from inside
and outside of the community came to the family's home to
show their respect. S. Hirshfeld Tr. 55. For a period after
Yonadav's death, Shalom felt like there “was no
room for anything else but the feelings and thoughts about
what had happened” and everyone in the family
“was confused, [with] very mixed feelings” and
family members were laughing and crying over stories about
Yonadav. S. Hirshfeld Tr. 56.
was “very, very close” to Yonadav - he and
Yonadav and their brother Elyashiv shared a room. S.
Hirshfeld Tr. 54, 58. He and Yonadav had an arrangement
whereby they would bike over together or take turns biking
over to clean the area around the synagogue. S. Hirshfeld Tr.
58. Shalom looked up to Yonadav as a “perfect
person” and recollected his “great sense of
humor” and “well-developed imagination”
which Yonadav used to make up stories to humor his siblings.
S. Hirshfeld Tr. 58-59. Shalom also recalled that Yonadav was
a serious student, especially when it came to religious
studies. S. Hirshfeld Tr. 59.
Zimrat Bracha Zuckerman (nee Hirshfeld), Yonadav's sister
Bracha Zuckerman (“Zimrat”) is the oldest sibling
in the Hirshfeld family, and she was 25 years old when
Yonadav died. See Transcript of Zimrat Bracha
(Hirshfeld) Zuckerman's April 10, 2018 Deposition
(“Zimrat Depo.”), at 7. Zimrat thinks that she
heard about the terrorist attack at Mercaz Harav Yeshiva on
an Israeli news website. Zimrat Depo. 8. She contacted her
parents, who said that they could not reach Yonadav, but
someone had seen him, and Zimrat waited for further
information. Zimrat Depo. 9. Zimrat's brother Yedidya
later called Zimrat's husband, and from the exchange on
the telephone, that's when she realized that Yonadav had
been killed even though no one explicitly said so. Zimrat
Depo. 10 -11. Zimrat and her husband drove to her
family's house, and it was a “very difficult
atmosphere” in the car. Zimrat Depo. 11. There were
many people at the house and Zimrat stayed there that night
with her parents. Zimrat Depo. 12. Zimrat described the Shiva
as a “very funny week” when the family kept
talking about Yonadav and his jokes and pranks. Zimrat Tr.
14. She indicated that she “[didn't] think [she]
had a more special relationship [with Yonadav] than any of
the other siblings” although she did “run after
him when he was very naughty, when he was younger” and
she babysat for him. Zimrat Depo. 14-15. When Yonadav was
older, he would show her poems and stories he wrote, and she
thought they were funny. Zimrat Depo. 15. To this day, she
thinks of Yonadav and the kind of life he might have and the
jokes he would have shared with the family, and she remembers
the funny stories he would tell during family car rides.
Zimrat Depo. 15-16. Zimrat stated that “[b]eyond the
loss and the sorrow and the pain, ” Yonadav's death
affected her health insofar as she was pregnant at the time
he was murdered, and she developed diabetes. Zimrat Depo. 16.
Zimrat never sought any counseling after Yonadav's death.
Zimrat Depo. 16-17.
Hamital Novik (nee Hirshfeld), Yonadav's sister
Hamital Novik (“Haya”) was 24 years old when
Yonadav was killed. See Transcript of April 10, 2018
Deposition of Haya Hamital (Hirshfeld) Novik (“Haya
Depo.”), at 7. She learned about the attack at the
Mercaz Harav Yeshiva from a neighbor who told her. Haya Depo.
8. Haya called her parents, and they did not have
information, so she started praying for Yonadav and others at
the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva. Haya Depo. 12. Haya realized that
Yonadav had been killed when her husband's rabbi asked to
come and see them, and she “couldn't quite
comprehend what was happening.” Haya Depo. 13.
described her relationship with Yonadav as her being on
“good terms with all [her] siblings” in contrast
to having “an unusually special relationship with
him.” Haya Depo. 9. She remembered Yonadav playing the
recorder with his friend and always having a joke to tell
when he answered the phone. Haya Depo. 11. She described
Yonadav as “very popular” in their family.
Id. Haya thinks about Yonadav on the anniversary of
his death and every time there is a family wedding or
celebration. Haya Depo. 13-14. Haya speculates that her
brother would have been a rabbi considering his
“talents and capabilities.” Haya Depo. 17. Haya
talked about going to the annual memorials for Yonadav and
visiting his gravesite. Haya Depo. 14. Haya's husband has
started a non-profit religious organization called
“Close to Me” in Yonadav's memory, and its
purpose is “to increase the study of Torah among Jewish
people.” Haya Depo. 17.
Yedidya Hirshfeld, Yonadav's brother
Hirshfeld (“Yedidya”) was 22 years old when
Yonadav was killed. See Transcript of April 10, 2018
Deposition of Yedidya Hirshfeld (“Yedidya
Depo.”), at 6. On the evening that Yonadav was killed,
Yedidya was at the Mitzpe Yericho Yeshiva, where he was a
student, when he heard about the attack at the Mercaz Harav
Yeshiva. Yedidya Depo. 8. Yedidya called home and was told
that Yonadav had been seen outside the library but that he
had not been heard from, so Yedidya should check back in a
half hour. Yedidya Depo. 8-9. Yedidya called repeatedly, and
a neighbor who answered the phone told him to come home, so
he understood that Yonadav had been killed, and he then
informed his brother and sister who lived in the same town
and were unaware of what had happened. Yedidya Depo. 9-10.
described his relationship with Yonadav as good; they were
“always very, very happy to meet one another, to be
together[, ] [a]nd [they] had [their] family jokes that
[they] shared[, ]” and they studied the Mishna (basis
for Jewish law) together. Yedidya Depo. 10-11. Yedidya was
very impressed with Yonadav's knowledge of the Mishna,
and he indicated that Yonadav studied seriously and was
unusually talented in his knowledge of the Mishna. Yedidya
Depo. 11-14. Yedidya misses Yonadav's sense of humor, and
he noted that Yonadav was “dominant” within the
family in a positive way because he was pleasant and made
people laugh, and he was interesting. Yedidya Depo. 13 -14.
Yedidya especially misses Yonadav at family celebrations, and
he finds it difficult to talk about Yonadav. Yedidya Depo. 14
Shandorfy (nee Hirshfeld), Yonadav's sister
Shandorfy (“Hana”) was 20 years old when Yonadav
died. See Declaration of Hana Shandorfy (“Hana
Decl.”), at ¶3. Because of their proximity in age,
she and Yonadav were very close and had a strong connection;
they used to help each other with schoolwork and they were
both camp counselors. Hana Decl. ¶¶ 4, 6. Hana
described Yonadav as very happy, always laughing, helpful and
giving to others, and energetic. Hana Decl. ¶ 5. Hana
and Yonadav were confidants who had many conversations, both
about serious subjects and day-to-day matters. Hana Decl.
¶ 6. They enjoyed each other's company and had a lot
in common. Hana Decl. ¶¶ 4, 6. Hana's mother
testified that Hana and Yonadav were
“soulmate[s].” E. Hirshfeld Tr. 30.
day of the terrorist attack, Hana was at home with her
husband and child; when she heard from her brother-in-law
about the terrorist attack at the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva, she
called her parents. Hana Decl. ¶ 7. Hana's father
asked if Hana's husband could try to obtain information
about the shooting since he was also a student at the Mercaz
Harav Yeshiva and knew a lot of people, and so Hana's
husband made many calls to the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva to get
reports of where Yonadav was last seen. Id. Hana was
worried, and she felt like she was “hanging between
hope and despair” and she started to get stomach pains
and worried she was going into early labor. Id. When
she heard that Yonadav had been killed, Hana was in shock and
“couldn't digest it.” Hana Decl. ¶ 8.
Even today, Hana still feels Yonadav's loss and she
misses him, dreams about him, and wishes her children could
know him. Hana Decl. ¶ 9. Hana indicated that
“[a]t every family event there is a strong feeling of
something lacking, because Yonadav isn't with us”
and she laments that she did not get to see him get married
and raise a family. Hana Decl. ¶ 10. Hana's mother
testified that Hana was traumatized by Yonadav's death
and she was very sad and couldn't accept that someone
“so full of life” was gone. E. Hirshfeld Tr. 29.
Hana attends the memorials for Yonadav, and she talks to her
children about Yonadav. E. Hirshfeld Tr. 30.
David Yinon Hirshfeld, Yonadav's brother
Hirshfeld (“David“) was 17 years old when Yonadav
was killed. See Transcript of April 10, 2018
Deposition of David Yinon Hirshfeld (“David
Depo.”), at 7. He was in the classroom at the Mitzpe
Yericho Yeshiva when he heard about the terror attack at the
Mercaz Harav Yeshiva, and he started to worry about his
brother Yonadav and his bother-in-law, who also studied
there. David Depo. 8. David and his classmates gathered in
the hall to recite prayers and David remembers that he was
crying for hours because he was so worried. David Depo. 9.
Someone said that Yonadav had been seen and that he was okay,
so David went to sleep in his dormitory, but it was a
“sorrowful atmosphere and a lot of crying.” David
Depo. 10. David was lying in bed when his brother Yedidya
arrived and said they needed to go home. Id. They
went to Hana's house and David overheard his
brother-in-law talking about Yonadav in the past tense and
knew for certain he had been killed, although he felt like he
“basically knew it the whole time.” David Depo.
10. When he got home, “the dam burst” and they
“all burst into tears [and] were crying the whole
night, basically all of us together.” David Depo. 11.
David slept for an hour or two, and he woke up crying.
Id. At the funeral, he was surrounded by friends,
and he alternated between weeping and talking about Yonadav.
David Depo. 12. Afterward, David could not eat, and he had a
hard time returning to the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva. Id.
He felt “disconnected” from what was going on,
and while he did not seek counseling officially, his friends
helped him after Yonadav's death. David Depo. 13-14.
had difficulty putting his relationship with Yonadav into
words, saying that it went ”beyond just a relationship
with brothers, ” and it was more of a friendship where
David would wait expectantly for Yonadav to return from the
Mercaz Harav Yeshiva. David Depo. 14. David described Yonadav
as “fun to be with” and “full of
life” and “full of humor and joy.”
Id. He noted that he and Yonadav did “silly
things together” and Yonadav was a “wonderful
person to be with.” David Depo. 14-15. David and
Yonadav went on hikes and talked and laughed together. David
Depo. 15. They had a very close relationship - a strong bond
- and they enjoyed spending time together. David Depo. 15-16.
David misses seeing Yonadav at family events and he cried at
his own wedding when someone mentioned that Yonadav was not
there. David Depo. 16. Even today, David still experiences a
sense of sorrow, and he feels like he is a more sensitive,
empathetic person after the loss of Yonadav. David Depo. 17.
Aviya Freedman (nee Hirshfeld), Yonadav's sister
Freedman (“Aviya”) was 15 years old when Yonadav
died. See Declaration of Aviya Freedman
(“Aviya Decl.”), ¶ 3. Aviya recalled
spending many evenings filled with fun and laughter with
Yonadav, who was “always telling jokes and speaking
funny nonsense, ” Aviya Decl. ¶ 4. She
characterized Yonadav as “witty and happy” but
she also remembered him studying the Mishna late at night.
Aviya Decl. ¶ 4-5. Yonadav was generous to his friends
and family and he treated them well. Aviya Decl. ¶¶