“During Tzuk Eitan (Operation Protective Edge), the war of summer 2014, I was a commander in the officer’s course.
We were supporting the Iron Dome system.
During the war with Gaza, there were many rocket attacks. My family lives in the South and they were under rocket fire. The Iron Dome stopped many rockets from killing Israelis- it was an integral war effort. It was so meaningful and a tremendous challenge to be placed in that unit. We really felt like we were making a difference.
When you are in the middle of an attack and you look up to the sky and see the rockets raining down on innocent civilians-your family included- something happens inside of you. You realize that it is your mission to stand between innocents and danger.
We guard and we protect.
You truly feel like you are making a difference in many lives. Your life will be forever touched by this.
I was young during Tzuk Eitan. At twenty-four years old, I had already seen the effects of war on individuals and on a nation. After the war, every person that partook in an operation received a medal for their bravery. I had many complex feelings about mine. On the one hand, you want to feel the appreciation for your work, your bravery, and the sacrifice. You want to commemorate the fact that what you did, mattered. But it is very painful to be awarded for an event where many civilians and soldiers were killed. How can you feel good about your contribution when so many lost their lives?
There are people I know that fell. I remember my father’s beloved cousin who was killed in the war of HaTasha. I have friends of friends who have been killed. Peers I knew peripherally. It is a sobering reality. Their families, like my own, need to live with that reality every day.
I, too, have known a great loss.
I had another relative, T., who was an incredible navigator in the Israeli Air Force. Before she finished the IAF course, she survived a terrible plane crash. Still, she went on to continue to fly for our country.
After her crash, she dedicated three and a half years to the army. About a year and a half after she graduated from her course, she joined Operation Protective Edge. She flew the most combat missions in her squadron. She did an incredible job. She was proud to be able to protect our yishuvim. Our homes are right on the border of Gaza where the war was happening, and it was an incredibly important job. It was hero-work.
When the war was over, she needed a break. She asked for some leave-time, and she took a month and a half off to go on vacation. After the intensity of the war, it made sense. She left on her birthday.
She never made it home.
T. died on a hike while trying to rescue other hikers. She was a commander to the very end, putting the safety of others before her own.
They were able to bring her body back to Israel, and the week of her funeral I was finishing my Officer’s course. I needed special permission to leave to attend. I traveled up from Eilat, where the course was being held, as fast as I could. I remember saying, “I don’t care, it doesn’t matter. No matter what, I am going to be at her funeral.”
It was the saddest thing in the world. I couldn’t believe I was burying her. The person who guided me, who advised me, who inspired me.
She was recognized as an official military casualty. Even abroad, she was an Israeli commander, upholding the values of our moral army. Brave, strong, and fighting to save innocent lives, till her last breath.
Today on Yom Hazikaron, we remember all our family, friends, and all of the fallen soldiers of the State of Israel.”
Interview and photograph by Shira Lankin Sheps for The Layers Project Magazine. Translated from Hebrew.