(Re-posted with permission from IPT: Investigative Project on Terrorism)
Standing at Daniel’s open grave July 24, I realized how strong the fabric of Israeli society is. Born in this country, the children and grandchildren of 19th century pioneers, Holocaust survivors and refugees expelled from the Arab countries generations ago, we are motivated by the justice of our path and will fight to build our country despite economic difficulties and bloodthirsty enemies whose only goal is to destroy us. I realize how proud I have always been to be an Israeli, especially because of the infinite variety of members of Israeli society, which has taught all of us tolerance and given us the strength to suffer together when necessary, allowing us to develop a democratic society regardless of the perpetual threat we live under. My pride and sense of belonging are strengthened when Daniel’s mother reads the last letter he sent from the Gaza Strip before he was killed.
Even as Hamas rockets rain down on Israeli cities, I pray that Daniel, will be among the last soldiers killed defending Israel, as the IDF, the most moral army on earth, fights to protect us. I think about the millions of civilians throughout the country whose lives have turned into a nightmare of wailing sirens and shrieking sirens, of running to shelter, of the Iron Dome aerial defense system, and of the soldiers on the front line of the Gaza Strip, which we left nine years ago to protect our civilians, hoping never to return.
I cannot help thinking about Hamas and its eagerness to send suicide bombers to our hotels, restaurants, coffee shops, markets and discotheques to kill Israelis regardless of age or gender, and how now its leaders are hiding in underground bunkers, directing the rockets and mortar shells attacking Israeli cities and villages and the efforts to abduct Israeli soldiers – even snatching their dead bodies, or even body parts – to use as bargaining chips. I remember that 22 years ago by chance I met Col. Varda Pomerantz, Daniel’s future mother, in the office of the unit providing services for IDF veterans.
Varda was just finishing her posting as head of the IDF casualty department. She had had an exhausting, draining role demanding enormous emotional fortitude, a job considered one the most difficult in the IDF. She needed sensitivity and strength to support mourning families who had lost their sons and daughters during military service, in many instances defending the State of Israel. She was also responsible for wounded, captive and MIA IDF soldiers, an overwhelming task. It required sensitivity, personal involvement and the ability to identify with the outpourings of emotion that accompany such situations.
As we talked, she told me proudly that she had two sons, and that because of the demands of a military career she had needed a lot of help in raising them. Now, she said happily, she was taking off her uniform and retiring, and planned to have another child whom she would raise herself and devote all her time to. She had two more children, and one of them was Daniel, who was 20 when he died fighting in the Gaza Strip, defending the Israeli home front.
And then I stood at his grave along with thousands of others who had come to pay their last respects. There were IDF officers and soldiers who served with Varda, and a great many families whom Varda helped deal with their own loss over the years. It is unbearably tragic to see how she and her family had joined them.