Ahikam Amichai (L), David Rubin

Ahikam Amichai, 20, and David Rubin, 21, off-duty Israeli Army commandos on a recreational hike near their homes in the Hebron hills, were murdered by Palestinians, Dec. 28, 2007.

The two lifelong friends and neighbors were each members of elite and storied Israeli commando units. Amihai was a member of the Air Force’s Shaldag unit, and Rubin was a member of Shayetet 13, the Israeli Navy Seals (video). Read the rest of their dramatic stories after the jump.

In My Heart invites friends and families of the fallen soldiers, as well as anyone touched by their lives, to send us your reminiscences, tributes, and thoughts. 

The two were on their way to explore a cave near Nahal Telem, northwest of Hebron when they were approached by a jeep driven by Palestinians, who shot them at point-blank range. The two managed to fight off their attackers, killing one of them, long enough for a female companion to get to a hiding place and call emergency services. Amichai and Rubin died of their wounds shortly after rescuers arrived.

Several days after the incident, Israel’s Security service revealed one of the gunmen was a member of the official PA security forces and the other was a Palestinian Authority worker. Ali Dandis, 24, and Amar Taha, 26, both residents of Hebron surrendered on the day of the attack to Palestinian security forces in Hebron and handed over the soldiers’ weapons, the Jerusalem Post reported. Israeli Ido Zoldan was shot and killed near his home in Shavei Shomron last month by Palestinians who were PA security force members.

Sons of rabbis

Ahikam was the son of Rabbi Yehuda Amichai, the head of the Torah and Land Institute (Hebrew) once of Kfar Darom in Gaza’s former Gush Katif area and the grandson of Rabbi Moshe Tzvi Neria. He was one of 10 children. He attended the Mekor Chaim Yeshiva High School of Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, now in Kfar Etzion, with Rubin, and they were neighbors in the community of Kiryat Arba, which is located on a hill outside Hebron.

“Ahikam knew every rock and corner in Israel and was outside more than he was in the house,” his friend Sar-El Baniya said at his funeral. “He slept under the stars and he was a great scout. Ahikam covered the breadth and width of Israel, and he loved the land of Israel.”

Rabbi Aryeh Weiss, a family friend in Kiryat Arba, told In My Heart that Ahikam was “lively and funny. It’s hard to think about him without a smile.”

He told this story about Ahikam:

“When he was in high school Ahikam was walking by the Knesset when he happened upon a car with two flat tires. He asked the driver if he could help, and saw, as the driver opened the trunk, a military uniform. It turned out the car belonged to the Israeli Army chief of Staff, Moshe “Boogy” Yaalon. Ahikam asked the driver if he could borrow uniform, dressed himself up as the chief of staff and posed for pictures.”

Amichai was a active cave explorer, and participated in the find an isolated ecosystem and new species of crustaceans when he explored a cave near Lod opened up by construction in 2006. Weiss said Amichai also helped discover the source of the Gihon spring that runs into the Old City of Jerusalem on a caving expedition.

‘Lions, not just people’

Amichai, who was sick when he was first supposed to go into the army, eventually fought his way into the Shaldag Air Force commando unit in which he had an older brother. He even spent a month in an Army jail for refusing to go into an Army unit involved in negotiations with Palestinians before he made his way into Shaldag, Weiss said.

“He was persistent,” Weiss said. “When there was something he wanted, he was willing to put in the effort to get it.”

Ahikam loved the Land of Israel so much, his father told the Jerusalem Post, “there was nothing we could do to stop him from hiking, even in the most dangerous places. The last thing he said to me before he left was, ‘Don’t worry, dad, this time we’re taking rifles with us.'”

David Rubin was “quiet and intense, very self sufficient, and physically, spiritually and emotionally strong,” Weiss said. “He had good leadership qualities. In high school he was a counselor in youth groups, and was admired and respected by the students.”

The two are now linked in death as in life, and they were described as both being persistent and brave.

“We had stopped believing in legends and heroes, but these two were,” Baniyah said. “They were always stubborn and noble. Everyone envied them. Ahikam and David were lions, not just people.”