Liel Our Son

It was a Friday afternoon; we were still living in Katamonim, a small neighborhood in Jerusalem. I was about to leave my apartment to pick up some groceries for Shabbat when suddenly I heard screaming. This was not any kind of screaming. This was piercing, terrifying, horrible screaming like something terrible was happening. I opened the door, as all the neighbors had, to find out what was happening. I saw that the door to my next door neighbor, the Gidonis, was open and that  the screaming was coming from there. The Gidonis were a nice traditional family of 4 boys ranging from ages 19 to about 30 that for the most part kept to themselves. I was quite friendly with the father and couldn't imagine what had gone wrong. 

All I could see was Eli, the father, in the kitchen with tears in his eyes while the mother out of sight was screaming " You liar, you liar" and was throwing stuff. What the hell was going on? Was this a marital fight? Seconds later, another neighbor who had gone in to see what happened emerged also crying hysterically and then she uttered the words " Her son was killed in Gaza!" 
Their youngest son, Liel, 19 years old, serving in an elite unit was killed on the last days of the last Gaza operation. The mom, in disbelief of the news, was screaming at the army commander who had knocked on her door minutes before to let her know the terrible news. 
My stomach dropped - all I could remember of Liel was his smile, always happy and positive, and how he used to help us all the time to lift up our stroller to our 2nd floor apartment. 
I would later enter the apartment to see that an army commander together with a doctor (in case of fainting) and a psychologist had all come to break the news. And how necessary were all those people! I saw a mother rocked to her core with the life literally taken out of her at the news that her son had been taken away from her. The brothers and father were trying to give each other strength to get through this horrific ordeal. 
2 things I learned that day and throughout the the shiva period 
1) We must never forget that the soldiers that sacrifice and die are real people with real families, they are not just names, pictures or numbers. They all were real and special individuals with families and friends just like us.
2) The unity of our nation. Over the period of the shiva I would see not only his unit take off an entire day to visit the family, but the mayor of Jerusalem, the president of Israel and the Chief Sephardi Rabbi visit the shiva house. All treated it like a loss of their own family. 
As we go from Yom Hazikaron to Israel Independence Day,  I think we need to keep in mind the unity of our people- both so that we appreciate and feel for those that we lost, but also for what we have- the State of Israel and that we are in this together. 

Tags: Israel, Army, IDF, Yom Hazikaron