It was a shiva call that could break your heart. Of course, all shiva visits are sad as someone has lost the person he or she loves, but it is different if the loved one being mourned led a long, fulfilling life.

This time was different. Eitan Newman, z”l, was one of 13 soldiers killed in three days in Israel. He was 21, the youngest of three sons of Sara and Michael Newman of Jerusalem’s Ramot neighborhood. Sara had made aliyah from Australia and Michael from England. Their home was always filled with friends and laughter – just a week earlier they had celebrated the engagement of Eitan’s brother. “We had so much fun together” his mother reminisced sadly.

It was a particularly traumatic time. Sara’s son and his colleagues served in the elite Givati Brigade engineering unit. They were killed instantly when terrorists detonated a large mine underneath their armored personnel carrier, setting off 100 kgs. of explosives inside the carrier. The explosives had been used to demolish metal workshops in the Zeitun area of Gaza City in which terrorists were manufacturing Kassam rockets and mortar shells.

Both Hamas and Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the soldiers’ deaths, but the most horrific part of all was that they announced they were holding body parts of the soldiers, and went on camera happily displaying them. They wanted to exchange them for Palestinian security prisoners held in Israel.

Their glee was sub-human. Because the IDF always makes every effort to find and identify such body parts, even risking lives to recover them, it meant the funerals could not be held immediately as per Jewish custom. Sara Newman announced that she didn’t want one soldier to injure even a fingernail in recovering her son’s ear, but nevertheless the army sent soldiers to search.

Although Eitan was killed on Tuesday, it was only on Wednesday night that the family received word that the funeral could be held on Thursday. The waiting period was horrible – all day Wednesday friends streamed into the Newmans’ home bringing food and drink, and looking at the photos of Eitan which were on the table. Everyone cried along with the family.

I attended the funeral, along with hundreds of others at the Military Cemetery in Har Herzl, but could not speak to my friend Sara. There are no words at such a time. Even when I made my shiva call later in the week, we just hugged each other and cried together. I went at 11 a.m. when I thought it would be quiet, but two rooms were filled to overflowing. Such wonderful parents. Such fine people. No use to ask “why,” because there are no answers we can understand.

Before I left, Sara did make a request. “I know you have lots of family and friends abroad. Please ask them, in honor of the memory of my son, to go out today and buy a product made in Israel. That is how I can get comfort.”

So, to all who read this, please honor the request of a grieving mother. Buy something “blue and white.” And as you do so, please say in your heart: “I’m doing this for a brave, wonderful Jewish soldier who made the supreme sacrifice in the war against terror.”


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Dvora Waysman is the author of 14 books including “The Pomegranate Pendant,” now a movie titled "The Golden Pomegranate," and a newly-released novella, "Searching for Susan." She can be contacted at [email protected]