Texas native Taylor Force, a student at the Vanderbilt University Owen Graduate School of Management in Nashville, was killed in a Palestinian terror attack in Jaffa today. He was 28.
The attack was one of three high-profile attacks perpetrated on the day when U.S. Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Israel. During this attack, Biden was meeting at the Peres Peace Center, 15 minutes away by foot, and his wife and grandchildren were having lunch on the Tel Aviv beach not far from the attack.
Force was on an Owen school trip to Israel. According to a university statement, all other students, faculty and staff on the trip were safe, and the university is arranging for their return.
The 29 Vanderbilt students and four faculty members were in Israel “to learn about global entrepreneurship through meetings with start-up companies in one of the most active international cities for start-ups.”
A 2009 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, Force was a field artillery officer at Fort Hood from 2009 to 2014, serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Originally from Lubbock, Texas, he was a first-year MBA student at Vanderbilt.
Force’s wife was severely injured in the attack. At least 10 were injured by Qalqiliya resident Bashar Massalha in three locations over 20 minutes, according to media reports. After stabbing his victims, Massalha was shot by police after a chase from the Jaffa port to the Tel Aviv beach promenade.
Among the injured were a Russian tourist, a pregnant woman, an Arab Israeli and a Palestinian man who was in Israel illegally. Four of the injured were stabbed near the Dolphinarium, the site of a 2001 Hamas suicide bombing that killed 25.
During the attack, Massalha approached Yishay Montgomery, who was playing guitar on the beach. Montgomery bashed the terrorist with his guitar, causing him to flee. By coincidence, the Jerusalem Post reported that Montgomery’s father and grandparents are also from Lubbock.
Vanderbilt Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos said Force “embarked on this trip to expand his understanding of global entrepreneurship and also to share his insights and knowledge with start-ups in Israel. He exemplified the spirit of discovery, learning and service that is the hallmark of our wonderful Owen community. This horrific act of violence has robbed our Vanderbilt family of a young hopeful life and all of the bright promise that he held for bettering our greater world.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu noted that a Palestinian terrorist had murdered an American citizen. “On behalf of the people of Israel, I send my condolences to Taylor’s family and friends. May his memory be a blessing.”
Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said “I am horrified and saddened by the senseless attack that took the life of American student Taylor Force and wounded others. This is a tragic loss for his family, friends and the Vanderbilt community, and we send our sincere condolences to all of them in their time of grief. I join other officials from the U.S. in condemning this terrorist act that can never be justified or tolerated.”
The Jewish Federation of Nashville and Middle Tennessee also expressed condolences. “We are saddened beyond all measure at this wanton act of violence that has taken the life of such a fine young man. Vanderbilt University and the State of Israel are an integral part of our Jewish Federation and the Nashville Jewish community.”
Students Supporting Israel expressed “our deepest condolences to the Vanderbilt community and Taylor’s family,” adding, “Please do not let terror win, keep on visiting the Start-up Nation, to witness with your own eyes the magic that is called Israel.”
Conversely, Hamas celebrated the attacks and “the martyrs that have ascended through these operations, and confirms that their pure blood will, God willing, be the fuel for escalating the intifada.”
(Photo courtesy Vanderbilt University)