RIO DE JANEIRO (JTA) — An Israeli soldier who migrated from Brazil was awarded a prize for foiling a terror attack.
Marcelo Perez was honored for thwarting the stabbing attack at the Gush Etzion junction in the West Bank in mid-October, The Jerusalem Post reported.
Perez made aliyah from Sao Paulo at the age of 25 and enlisted in the military.
“But it was important for me to join the army,” he told the paper. “I always thought about moving to Israel, and when my mother passed away four years ago, I said to myself now is the time.”
Perez received the award from Maj.-Gen. Eyal Zamir, the head of the Southern Command, at Kibbutz Magen, near the Gaza Strip. Serving in the Nahal Brigade’s Battalion 50, Perez never thought he would have to use his weapon.
He fired one only bullet to neutralize a suspicious 22-year-old Palestinian who came upon him wearing a heavy black coat with his hands in his pockets during a very hot day at noon. He informed his commanders and repeatedly called on the man – who was about 50 yards away – to stop, shouting at him in Arabic in vain.
“He didn’t want to stop, and the moment I cocked my weapon he looked at me and started running toward me with a knife in his hand. I did exactly what I had to. It’s not something I wanted to do, but I was ready to do it,” he said.
The suspect was detained and evacuated to a nearby hospital for treatment.
Sao Paulo is home to some 60,000 Jews, or half of Brazil’s Jewish community. In 2016, some 700 Brazilians moved to Israel, an all-time high.
By the end of 2017, more than 900 Brazilians are expected to make aliyah, according to the Jewish Agency, a number that ranks Brazil for the first time ahead of the United Kingdom as the fifth country to send the most Jews to Israel after Russia, Ukraine, France and the United States.