Thousands in person and 70,000 online attend young American victim’s funeral

“You had a smile so bright, a laugh so contagious, and a soul so pure, there was no one who didn’t love you,” Donny Morris’ mother eulogized her 19-year-old son.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Thousands of teenagers from study programs all over Israel came to the funeral Sunday of Daniel (Donny) Morris, one of the 45 victims who died in a crush of people at last week’s Meron disaster. Almost 70,000 more mourners joined online, watching the eulogies that were livestreamed from the Sha’alvim Yeshiva that Morris had attended since September.

The seminary and yeshiva students stood packed together in separate areas on the grassy grounds as Morris’ mother Mirlana spoke first.

With her voice breaking repeatedly, she talked of how her “special, sweet and wholesome bachur (yeshiva student)” was “loved by so many,” and “never ceased to amaze us.”

“You had a smile so bright, a laugh so contagious, and a soul so pure, there was no one who didn’t love you,” she said. She praised his sterling religious devotion that began at a very young age, his high school voluntarism with families struck by cancer, and what he had taught her.

“I am a better person because of you,” she said, and then cried, “but Donny, I wasn’t done learning! You were taken away from me too soon. I still need you by my side.” She would “try to stay strong,” she added, because that is what her son would want her to do, and “because of you, I will continue to better myself.”

Saying” we all always knew how wonderful you were,” she described hearing things about Donny over the last 72 hours that “showed that you touched so many lives with your kindness and huge heart.”

The dean of Sha’alvim, Rabbi Michael Yammer, confirmed her words, saying that “from the minute” that the terrible news broke, teachers as well as students have not stopped talking about “how much they got from you and the influence that you had” on them, but that in his humility, Donny didn’t feel that he was doing anything special. Donny had a “tremendous, gentle soul, soft, sweet,” a 24-hour smile, and a “special beauty inside that goes outside” to others, he said.

Donny was a true servant of God, Yammer said, and in honor of that statement, the thousands of young men in attendance linked arms at the end of the service and slowly swayed as they sang a well-known song from Psalm 116 that contains those words.

Diaspora Affairs Minister Omer Yankelevich, Jewish Agency head Isaac Herzog and MK Yoaz Hendel were among the dignitaries who came to the funeral to show their respect to the mourning family.

Morris’ body was then taken to Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives for burial. The family will be sitting shiva at the yeshiva.