On Sunday, hundreds of bereaved family members took part in Yom Hazikaron (Israel’s national Remembrance Day for Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terror) ceremony organized by OneFamily, an Israeli NPO founded to support terror victims and their families. The ceremony, which takes place every year, is unique. It consists entirely of brief speeches of closest relatives of terror victims and fallen soldiers.
Among the speakers of this year were Ophir Shaar – the father of Gil-Ad Shaar, who was kidnapped along with his two friends at the Gush Etzion junction and murdered by Hamas terrorists in 2014; Ido Yaori – brother of Staff Sergeant Amit Yaori, a combat soldier who was killed during Operation Protective Edge; Liel Rubel – the brother of Sergeant Benaya Rubel, a paratrooper who was killed during Operation Protective Edge; Tzachi Krigman – the father of Shlomit Krigman, who was murdered in the Beit Horon terror attack in 2016; Malka Kalangel, mother of Major Yochai Kalangel, who was killed on the northern border in 2015; Reut Yahalomi – Corporal Netanel Yahalomi, who was killed on the Egyptian border in 2012. The ceremony was hosted by Yael Weissman, widow of Staff Sergeant Yanai Weissman, who was murdered while trying to stop two terrorists in the Rami Levy branch in 2016.
Yael Weissman: “I thought that after a year I would know how to cope with each situation. And now I’m here, after a year. Standing in front of you but I am broken inside and I miss the uncertainty that accompanied me last year. I don’t want to know of the pain each year that I will face or what will happen to me every day throughout the year, or how difficult it will be during vacations and holidays, or on our anniversaries or birthdays. We do not want to think about Memorial Day – a day when all eyes are on us, those bereaved families who have lost their loved ones, when the public wants to share with us the pain that during the year is only ours, but today is everyone’s.
“And me? I just want to escape to you Yanai and be with you alone. But today everyone is there with you. So let me ask for a wish. Make the day come when I will not feel pain in my every breath. Make the day come when I can look in the mirror and say I’m all right, that you’re all right. That I am doing right, choosing the right things, living right. That my way is your way too, even though you’re not here. Send me a sign, a signal or an angel to direct and guide me. Please Yanai just send me a sign, something small. Because in this crazy lack of knowledge, without you, I do not think I’ll be able to hold out. I promise you we’ll stay together. A large and significant part of me is always with you. You continue to live in me and revive me.”
Tzachi Krigman: “That night in the hospital corridor, I was overcome with sorrow. At one end of the corridor lay my first born, my daughter, covered with a sheet from head to toe, not moving, not breathing, no longer alive. At the other end, three of my children, Netanel, Tamar and Dror, were lying in beds covered with a sheet up to their necks- living, breathing and sleeping deeply. And I, their father, full of unfathomable pain, had to be there for them. I had to wake them and tell them that it’s over, we have lost. I hesitated: how will I be able to deal with their grief and pain when I am so overwhelmed by my own? I woke them and told them the most terrible news. Then my pain over Shlomit’s death was increased by the pain of Naama and the three children. Each one reacted differently and I tried to support and help each one. When I could not go on any longer, I left to my corner and cried.
“During the shiva at our home, one of the people who came to comfort us quoted: “and I passed by and saw you wallowing in your blood, and I said, ‘by your blood live!’ Naama burst out in tears and angrily whispered: “how dare he quote that phrase when we are mourning for Shlomit whose death was full of blood. How can he say, ‘by your blood live?’” When I shared these thoughts with a friend, he told me that these words are to carry you through the year. He explained, “the phrase was not about Shlomit, but about you! You, whose hearts are bleeding, you have to live by your blood!” And I, with my broken heart, try to choose life. We each return to our place, but it is not the same place. Only Shlomit remains in the same place and will always be twenty four.”
Ido Yaori: “This year, the theme of camp was “place” and I thought about the last place where Amit and I were alone together. One weekend, Amit had returned home for Shabbat and wanted to go to the Old City to buy honey cake and baklava. I agreed immediately, as this was our Shabbat habit. How could I refuse to walk through the Old City with all the familiar smells. We reached the Old City and felt a tense atmosphere. It was not like another ordinary Saturday, but I was with Amit and felt safe. We walked the streets of the city and spoke about all of the things that were keeping us busy. Amit told me about the army. I asked him what he liked about his position, what’s cool about the army, and especially about explosions, because, after all, he was serving as a combat engineer. Amit asked me about school, but we spoke mainly about my athletic training and how I was doing in the races. In retrospect, this was a very unusual day in our relationship … and I understand now that we only started opening up to each other towards the end. We were starting to become more involved in each other’s lives. “
Chantal Belzberg, CEO of OneFamily, said to the bereaved families: “On Memorial Day for the Fallen Soldiers of Israel and the Victims of Terror we all commemorate your unbearable loss. On this day, the people of Israel are trying, even for a few moments, to stand by you and share with you the heavy burden you carry every day. This is the day when all of us: children, boys, grown-ups are united into one entity and united as one body. A body that tries to overcome an open wound that is bleeding all the time and a broken heart that will never heal.On this day, it seems that the minutes that pass as hours are disconnected from the dimension of time. On this day, it seems that the events of the past are mixed with the pain of the present and the future. We at OneFamily wish to embrace you with all of Israel, to march with you on this long, difficult and exhausting journey, and to ensure that we stand by you every day and every hour. “