The father of an Israeli reserve soldier who was killed in Gaza over the weekend eulogized his son by calling on US President Joe Biden to “cease and desist” from any attempts to stop Israel from “fighting your fight” and defeating the Hamas terror group.
Maj. (res.) Moshe Yedidyah Leiter, who had US citizenship, was killed on Friday by an explosion from a rigged tunnel shaft located near a mosque in the Beit Hanoun region.
Four other reserve soldiers from his battalion were also killed in the blast, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) announced on Saturday night, raising the number of soldiers who have lost their lives in Israel’s ground operation in Gaza to 42. The soldiers were not in the tunnel at the time of the explosion.
Leiter, a 39-year-old father of six from kibbutz Ein Tzurim in the Gush Etzion bloc outside of Jerusalem, was laid to rest at the Mount Herzl Military Cemetery in Jerusalem on Sunday. His father, Yehiel Leiter, a former chief of staff to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, delivered a powerful eulogy addressed directly at Biden.
Leiter opened his eulogy by drawing parallels between their origins and their shared experiences of loss.
“We were both born in Scranton, Pennsylvania,” Leiter began, “and as of last Friday, I, like you, am a bereaved parent; you lost a son, and I lost a son.”
“You know the pain that I’m feeling now. The harrowing sense of darkness, the stabbing at the heart, the longing to once again hug your boy, to talk to him about life,” he said, before outlining his son’s multifaceted life — including his 15 years in the IDF’s special forces, his medical studies, and his role as a father of six, with a newborn son “who will never know his father.”
“So we have two things in common. That’s why I’m taking the liberty,” Leiter said. “He was fighting your fight, Mr. President.”
Leiter then laid out what he saw as the stakes in the current Israel-Hamas war and the greater cause for which his son fought.
“He gave his life so the barbarians wouldn’t get through the gates of democracy and the Judeo-Christian Western values. He was fighting for human freedom and against all the lies and distortions of the freedom deniers who fooled so many Americans with their double talk. He was fighting against Hamas-ISIS,” said Leiter.
Addressing rumors of US pressure on Israel to cease its military offensive, Leiter urged Biden: “I respectfully ask of you, here on my son’s grave, cease and desist. Stand back, Mr. President, don’t pressure us. Let us do what we know how to do and what we must do: defeat evil.”
Leiter made similar comments to Netanyahu during a condolence call from the prime minister to his former aide on Saturday night.
“When the prime minister called me this evening to console me, I told him only one thing: ‘Bibi, my son’s blood was not spilled in vain. Finish this job. Don’t let any pressure in the world stop you. Because the only consolation of this loss is banishing evil,'” he told the Israel Hayom daily.
The other soldiers killed by the booby-trapped shaft were identified as Master Sgt. (res.) Matan Meir, Sgt. Maj. (res.) Yossi Hershkovitz, and Master Sgt. (res.) Sergey Shmerkin, all from the 551st Reserve Paratrooper Brigade’s 697th Battalion. Also on Friday, Master Sgt. (res.) Netanel Harush, a soldier in the Givati Brigade’s logistics unit, was killed in a separate incident in Gaza.
Including Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israeli communities, the death toll among Israeli troops stands at 361.
At his son’s funeral, Leiter described the Gaza battlefront as “a war of light against darkness, of truth against lies.”
Leiter concluded his eulogy by appealing to Biden’s leadership, suggesting that his entire career was a preparation for this moment. “It is the whole reason you are the leader of the free world,” he said.
“Stand with Moshe, who loved America,” he urged, highlighting Moshe’s connection with the US, including training with the US Army’s Delta Force. “Those who stand with us will be blessed. Those who do not stand with us will fail.”
Noting that Israel has never before been so united, the grieving father told Biden: “We’re going to win this one, with you or without. We’re going to win it hands down.”
Debbie Weiss is a freelance journalist based in Israel.