Lt. Eitan, Presiden Rivlin pay respects to Goldin family.
(photo credit: GPO)
Two almost simultaneous events related to Operation Protective Edge By Greer Fay Cashman Two events related to Operation Protective Edge took place almost simultaneously on Sunday night. One was a very happy occasion: the marriage of Lt. (Res) Eitan Fund to Hadara Gross; and the other was the writing of a Torah scroll in memory of the 64 soldiers who fell in action during Operation Preventive Edge.
Fund, the grandson of a Holocaust survivor and the son of immigrants from the United States, became a national hero during the battle when he risked his own life to try and rescue that of another officer who he believed had been kidnapped by Hamas. The two young officers, Fund and Lt. Hadar Goldin initially met in the Givati Brigade in 2010 when both were undergoing a commanders’ course.
Early on Friday morning, August 1, following the announcement of a temporary ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, Fund and the soldiers in his unit took advantage of the lull to catch up on sleep. They had not slept in 24 hours. They took turns in cat-napping and inspecting and standing guard over houses that they suspected had been used by terrorists. At one stage their commander Major Binaya Sarel caught sight of a terrorist watching them from the rooftop of another building. Sarel, accompanied by Goldin and First Sgt. Lial Gidoni headed in the direction of the terrorist, who it transpired was not alone.
Violating the ceasefire, the terrorists began shooting at the soldiers and the air was filled with the sounds of an explosion. Other than the Hamas terrorists, no-one in the area understood what was happening. Responding to a shout that Goldin had disappeared and fearing that he had been kidnapped by Hamas, Fund and the soldiers under his command immediately rushed forward to help locate their missing comrade. As they arrived, they saw two soldiers being taken into a house, and at the same time were informed that a tunnel opening had been found at the site. Fearing an explosion, Fund ordered his soldiers to get out of the way Soon after there was a head count to ensure that no-one was missing. But there were some missing. Two officers were killed. One of them was Sarel, who was due to get married later in the month. Goldin’s whereabouts were unknown. Convinced that Goldin had been dragged into the tunnel by terrorists, Fund told Brigade Commander Col. Ofer Vinter that he was going into the tunnel to look for Goldin. His parting words were: “If I’m not back in five minutes, I’m dead.” Fund warned the soldiers who went with him that the tunnel might be booby trapped, but they followed him anyway. He saw Goldin’s blood and his gear, and kept moving through the tunnel. After ten minutes he realized that it was too dangerous to continue and that it would be foolhardy to risk the lives of the men who were with him, so he turned back.
However his spontaneous response to Goldin’s disappearance was regarded by the army and the general public as an act of heroism. It later transpired that Goldin had been killed, and Fund, still in uniform paid a condolence call on Goldin’s parents. What was strange was that his face and first name were widely featured in the media; his parents were interviewed on television, but on instructions from the IDF censor, he was referred to only as Lt. Eitan, and not by his last name. That censorship ruling no longer applies. In the second half of September, Fund proposed to Gross, an immigrant from the US, whom he met in the Ezra youth movement in Jerusalem’s Ramot neighborhood. Following his engagement, Fund returned to his army base and celebrated Rosh Hashana together with his soldiers.
Gidoni who survived the terrorist attack was at Fund’s wedding in Modi'in on Sunday, and just as the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem is recalled at every Jewish wedding, so too were the memories of Sarel and Goldin.
At approximately the same time as the wedding, not as far away at the Dan Panorama Hotel in Tel Aviv, President Reuven Rivlin wrote the final letter and participated in the dedication of a Torah Scroll in memory of the soldiers who fell in Operation Protective Edge. The completion of the scroll in the presence of bereaved parents, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Chief of Staff Benny Gantz Minister for Senior Citizens Uri Orbach, and Police Chief Yohanan Danino was in the framework of a conference organized by ‘Yad LeBanim’ the association of the families of fallen soldiers of the IDF, and intended as a salute to bereaved parents who had reached the age of 80 and beyond. In the hall were also parents in their 90s as well as bereaved mother Zohara Vaknin who is 100 years old and who lost two sons in Israel’s wars. Her son Abraham, aged 19, fell in the Six Days War in 1967. Her son Yitzhak, aged 24, fell in the Yom Kippur War in 1973.
Turning to the bereaved parents, Rivlin said that it was difficult for him to imagine what they had gone through in the years that passed since losing their sons and daughters. Their personal stories he said, were intertwined with the history of the State of Israel.
A century ago, he said, the State of Israel was nothing more than a distant dream. The terrain was sparse and barren, and the Jews that lived in the country suffered harsh conditions. Nobody could have imagined then, that Israel would become one of the most advanced countries in the world, Rivlin emphasized. But the price for this in human life was costly. “Dear parents we will never forget the price we exacted from you, to enable the existence and continuity of the State of Israel” said Rivlin. “We will always remember that to a large extent we are here because of them, and because of the values you instilled in them.”
Referring to Operation Protective Edge, Rivlin said that last summer, Israel again had to fight for her very existence and her right to independence. During his first weeks as president he said, he spent most of the time paying condolence calls on bereaved families, some of whom he saw in the hall. Time and again he had seen how bereavement does not differentiate between ethnic groups, between secular and religious, between right and left and between Jews and non-Jews.
It was imperative said Rivlin, to translate patriotism into sensitivity for the other in relating to all the components of Israel’s demographic mosaic.