Yom HaZikaron: Israeli Families Discuss What It Means to Lose A Soldier

Tags: Yom HaZikaron, Soldiers and Defense, Memory

By Maayan Jaffe

IDF Sgt. Nadav Rotenberg, 20, who was killed January 7, 2011 by a stray IDF mortar shell in an incident near the Gaza border.

Some 22,000 Israeli soldiers have died since the establishment of the Jewish state, including 40 soldiers between March 2013 and March 2014, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

“We in Israel are fighting—and dying—on behalf of every Jew in the world. … We are maintaining a safe haven for every Jew to escape to. Jews in the Diaspora live safer lives and hold their heads higher because Israel and its army exists,” said Chantal Belzberg, executive vice chairman of OneFamily, an organization dedicated to the rehabilitation of Israeli victims of terror attacks and their families.

On Yom HaZikaron, the fourth day of the Hebrew month of Iyar (sundown on May 4, 2014), Israelis will pay tribute to the country’s fallen soldiers in a solemn day of mourning. On its official Memorial Day, Israel also mourns the loss of civilians who were killed as a result of terrorism.

Among the soldiers killed during these past 12 months was 20-year-old Gavriel Kobi, a combat soldier in the Givati Brigade, who was shot and killed on Sept. 22, 2013 by a Palestinian sniper while on guard duty outside Hebron’s Cave of the Patriarchs. Also killed were 18-year-old Eden Atias, stabbed in the neck on Nov. 11, 2013 while on a bus in the northern Israeli city of Afula, and 31-year-old Shlomo Cohen, a Petty Officer 1st Class in the Israeli Navy, who was fatally shot by a Lebanese sniper while driving near the Israel-Lebanon border fence in an unarmored military vehicle. Cohen was on operational duty on Dec. 15, 2013 at the time of his death.

OneFamily’s Belzberg said that when a young soldier is killed, it has a “radically shocking, traumatic and debilitating” effect on the soldier’s parents and family.

“When you say goodbye to your son as he gets on the bus with all of the new soldiers, you’ve offered up your son as a potential sacrifice to the country,” explained Belzberg. “Your heart sinks. The worst may happen. But most parents say to themselves, ‘It won’t happen to me.’”

She added, “Then, in the middle of the night, there’s a knock at the door…Three soldiers stare sadly into your eyes. Your worst nightmare has happened. Your son is dead. You scream and your whole body shakes. You collapse.”

“Yom HaZikaron is about remembering a larger family, about saying to each bereaved family that their child, the apple of their eye, is remembered,” said Rebecca Fuhrman, manager of marketing and communications for OneFamily. “Their loss is our loss.”

Yom HaZikaron is about remembering a larger family, about saying to each bereaved family that their child, the apple of their eye, is remembered. Their loss is our loss.

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Tags: Yom HaZikaron, Soldiers and Defense, Memory