On Monday, Erev Yom HaZikaron, 69 Jewish, Christian and Muslim volunteers from the Givat Shmuel and Tel Aviv – Yaffo chapters of United Hatzalah held a special ceremony to honor the memories of the 69 fallen soldiers who lost their lives on the INS Dakar. The ceremony took place in the garden that is named for the Dakar fallen in Givat Shmuel. As per the regulations of the Health Ministry, the ceremony was held without the families of the fallen and ahead of Yom Hazikaron itself.
INS Dakar (Hebrew: אח”י דקר) was a diesel–electric submarine in the Israeli Navy. The vessel, a modified World War II British T-class submarine, had previously been HMS Totem of the Royal Navy. She was purchased by Israel from the Government of the United Kingdom in 1965 as part of a three T-class submarine deal.
Dakar and her entire 69-man crew were lost en route to Israel on January 25, 1968. Its wreckage was found in 1999, between the islands of Cyprus and Crete, at a depth of approximately 3,000 m (9,800 ft). The submarine’s conning tower was salvaged and is on display outside Clandestine Immigration and Naval Museum in Haifa.
The exact cause of Dakar’s sinking remains unknown. It was one of four submarine disappearances in 1968, the others being French submarine Minerve, Soviet submarine K-129, and US submarine USS Scorpion.
Head of the Tel Aviv-Yaffo Chapter of United Hatzalah Dani Shmuel said: “We, the volunteers of United Hatzalah, lit a candle for each and every member of the Dakar. One candle per soldier who lost their life.”
Following the ceremony for the Dakar fallen, at the request of numerous families of other fallen soldiers, ten volunteers continued to the cemetery to say Kaddish over the graves of other fallen soldiers in the presence of their families and friends.
“I want to thank all of the volunteers who gave of their own time to come and participate in this important mitzvah on the eve of Yom HaZikaron (Memorial Day) for Israel’s fallen,” Shmuel added.
The ceremony touched the hearts of family members of the Dakar soldiers as well as military personnel affiliated with the Navy, one of them, who wished to remain anonymous, wrote a message to President and Founder of United Hatzalah Eli Beer, saying:
“Thank God I merit to send you this WhatsApp after the events of this previous month, wherein God returned you to Am Yisrael. I want to tell you about a small, yet enormous operation that your organization did for the bereaved families of INS Dakar, a submarine where 69 fighters were lost.
“Though they have no actual grave to visit, each year on Israel Memorial Day, the families gather in Dakar Park in Givat Shmuel where together they remember and honor the loved ones they lost.
“One of the family members turned to me to ask, considering how different this year is for all of us, ‘What can we do? How can we honor our fallen?’ I immediately approached the head of the Carmel regional chapter Naftali Rotenberg, an angel of kindness, and told him about this yearly gathering of the families. Naftali immediately connected me with David Hershberg who told me, ‘Yes, there will be 69 volunteers, one for each of the fallen.’
“As always in our organization, immediately a WhatsApp group was started and the head of the Givat Shmuel chapter Asher Tzvi Schwed immediately said yes, as did the heads of other chapters of central Israel.
“Yesterday, the ceremony took place, the bereaved families received photos of the volunteers who’d come in their place, and they were very moved. One of them sent me a message that said: ‘Our children have been remembered. Am Yisrael is giving us back love.'”