David Biri was a mischievous yet talented boy. With pride, he enlisted in the IDF (Zahal) and became a combat soldier. On September 27, 2000, he fell victim to a terrorist attack, becoming the first person killed in the Second Intifada.
Biri was born on April 6, 1981 and grew up in the sleepy Jerusalem neighborhood of Arnona with his parents, Hannah and Shmuel, and three siblings. David and his best friend Elad Hirshenzon were inseparable. They used to write songs together, Biri writing the words and Hirshenzon composing the music.
Biri’s talents ranged from athletics to music to dance – and to the Israeli equivalent of the Boy Scouts, the Tzofim. As part of the scouts, he rose up the ranks to become branch leader and even founded a branch in Jerusalem’s Shilo neighborhood, named after his brother, Oz. He loved to dance and taught himself to breakdance merely by watching it on television.
David Biri, a talented young man and soldier
Roni Shechter, a close friend of Biri’s, remembered his smile the most. “The smile particularly struck me – that winning smile that still remains in my memories. It symbolized his ability to take everything in stride, not to worry over useless things,” she recalled.
Roni recounted that a particular scuba diving expedition perfectly exemplified this attitude. When checking their oxygen tanks after getting out of the water, she noticed that everyone’s tanks were almost empty but Biri’s was almost full; he knew how to keep himself calm.
At age 18, Biri enlisted in the IDF (Zahal). Although he was accepted to take pilot exams, he wanted to be a combat soldier in the Ground Forces. He was accepted into the Givati Brigade.
Early in basic training, he chose to take time out of the normal basic training to follow a medic track for three months. He flourished after returning to Givati. His greatest talent was the ability to mix professionalism with lightness and a smile.
However, the cruel reality of combat came on September 27, 2000. Biri and his squad departed for their first real mission. Late one night near the city of Nitzanim, not far from Ashkelon, a roadside bomb went off. Biri immediately jumped out of the Jeep to ensure his fellow soldiers were unharmed. As he turned to return to his Jeep, a second explosion went off, seriously wounding Biri in the head. He later died from his injuries.
Everyone was stunned. In his family, the pain was unimaginable. His brother, Oz, remembered his brother as a powerhouse, the force of the family.
“I did not immediately understand the phrase ‘Your brother David has been killed,” Oz recalled. “I miss you so much, David. I miss the echo of your laughter in the home. I miss your eyes, your smile, your craziness and your zest for life. I even miss you saying ‘sababa [cool]’ in the toughest times.”
Biri was buried in the Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl military cemetery. Three weeks after his death, Hirshenzon committed suicide.
As these two young men left the world, they took with them an energy that infused their every venture. Those who knew the two have continued to remember and memorialize them. The Tzofim chapter Biri founded, Oz, now bears the two friends’ names, and a gym was founded in Biri’s memory at the Hebrew High School of Jerusalem.
Biri’s friends at his funeral
While Biri was the first Israeli killed in the Second Intifada, such violent attacks would continue to terrorize Israeli society over the following months and years, as they killed and maimed both soldiers and civilians.