President Shimon Peres held a special ceremony on Sunday for the two staff
sergeants who had missed an awards ceremony for 120 outstanding soldiers
representing all branches of the defense forces during Independence Day
celebrations at the President’s Residence because of the injuries they sustained
during a April 18 rehearsal at Mount Herzl.
One of the soldiers who had
been among the 120 selected to receive citations and scholarships from President
Shimon Peres and Chief of Staff Lt.- Gen. Benny Gantz was St.-Sgt. Hagar
Zohar, an aerial defense instructor in the air force whose family lives in New
Instead of participating in the honor guard being inspected by
Peres and Gantz on the morning the citations were distributed, Zohar was in
Hadassah University Medical Center in Ein Kerem.
Zohar and St.-Sgt. Shay
Kricheli, a soldier in the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria who had
been chosen to represent the COGAT (Coordinator of Government Activities in the
Territories) unit at the ceremony for outstanding soldiers were both severely
injured and are still not fully recovered.
Zohar is in rehabilitation and
undergoing therapy, while Kricheli is still hospitalized at Sheba Medical Center
in Tel Hashomer, following his initial treatment at the capital’s Shaare Zedek
Medical Center. Three other soldiers were lightly injured, but the worst
result the collapse of lighting rigging was the instant death of Lt. Hila
Bezaleli, a Medical Corps officer in the Jordan Valley Brigade who had dreamed
of becoming a doctor.
Zohar, who still has a bandaged arm and who walks
with the aid of a cane, told reporters that even though it was a great honor to
be selected, she was not nearly as excited as she had been at the prospect of
being at the Independence Day ceremony. The two months that she’s been in
treatment have given her a different perspective on life, she said.
I’ve been through in the past two months overrides anything I experienced in the
past two years,” she said, but declined to answer a question as to whether she
had been able to get past the trauma of Bezaleli’s death.
neck and back injuries as well as a broken arm.
Nonetheless she was able
to salute smartly when she stood in front of Gantz.
Kricheli, who is on
crutches, was unable to salute and was in obvious pain as his citation was
handed to him.
Peres kissed them both and told them that they were young
and that they would overcome their injuries. Zohar said she knew that she would
eventually be whole and healthy again, but that she would not be able to do all
the things that she had done before.
While in hospital she had been
visited by the then-outgoing IAF commander Maj.- Gen. Ido Nechushtan as well as
Peres and Gantz, while Kricheli’s visitors had included two Palestinian
Authority liaison representatives, Yusuf Lafi and his deputy Nasim Algog, who
had worked with him.
Gantz said the two soldiers had proved themselves to
be outstanding both before and after their injuries.
A ceremony of this
kind was not something to be taken for granted, he said, but he had never
entertained a doubt that Peres would hold such a ceremony to try in some small
measure to compensate the two soldiers. Zohar was accompanied by her mother and
Kricheli by his parents and his two grandmothers. A large delegation of soldiers
was also present.
When Peres was in New York last month, he met Zohar’s
Zohar has no intention of returning to New York to
live. She intends to make Israel her permanent home.
ceremony, Peres spoke to reporters about Israel’s seventh prime minister,
Yitzhak Shamir, who died on Saturday. He had never met anyone who clung so
tenaciously to his beliefs, said Peres, who said that Shamir’s ideology had been
rooted in his personal history. Whether one agreed with him or disagreed with
him, said Peres, one had to acknowledge his courage, his patriotism and his
Peres credited Shamir with being responsible for facilitating
large-scale Russian and Ethiopian immigration to Israel.