There is scarcely any one in Israel who does not have someone to honor on Remembrance Day. For soldiers, it is a day to reflect on friends and family who placed themselves in danger to protect the country.
“For years I tried to understand how my father was. I didn’t understand him well until I was a part of his world,” said Saggie Dahan, a 20-year-old who is in a unit that specializes in “neutralizing” bombs.
Remembrance Day and their own time in the army allow people like Saggie and his sister Shani to feel closer to their father, who died in Lebanon in 1996.
“He was supposed to get out of Lebanon, but on the way out he heard on the radio [that] another vehicle with a soldier drove on a bomb. He did a U-turn and tried to help them. When he arrived, he tried to get closer to the vehicle that got bombed and then a second bomb went off. He and his four soldiers got hit.”
Today, Saggie serves in the same unit his father did.
His sister, who was an air traffic controller in the air force, said that they were raised by their mother who taught them to uphold the heritage of their father by holding the same strong values and serving proudly in the army.
“It was obvious he was going to do something meaningful with his service, because this is who we are and this is what we learned. To save our country and to be there for it,” said Shani. “Although he didn’t know [our father], my brother is very similar to him, the way he talks and walks and everything else. Even sometimes the way he laughs or when gets angry he looks just like him.”
Eden Maman is another soldier who has found her service to be a thread that connects her to a fallen loved one.
At the age of 18 she is head of human resources at Tel Nof Air Base, near Rehovot.
“Very interesting!” she said with enthusiasm. “At the beginning it was hard on me, but I got along pretty fast and now it’s just a lot of fun and I’m very pleased with it.”
Maman’s father was killed in an accident when his helicopter crashed in Lebanon where he was serving as a mechanic in the air force.
Today, Maman is cheerful and effervescent as she talks about her work in the same squadron as her father, Eitan.
“My mother actually met my father here in this squadron.
Serving here, where my father served when he died, is closure for me and it’s amazing here,” said Maman. “They have his photo hanging here and everyone knows me as his daughter. It’s very important to me.”
Maman plans to stay on after her mandatory service is over, in hopes of becoming an officer and further solidifying her bond with the army and her fallen father.
Another young soldier, Nir Alfasi, has kept his family’s military spirit alive as a combat soldier in an urban rescue brigade.
When Alfasi was nine years old, his father was killed by a bomb just outside his base – placed in a gas station by a terrorist.
Like every year since, he plans to go with his mother to the cemetery on Remembrance Day to visit his father’s grave.
She always encouraged Alfasi to make his time in the army meaningful.
“[My mother] told me right before I got to the army, before I chose to be in the army, ‘If you won’t to do something that’s important like combat or intelligence or something very good, I would be very mad at you. Because the army is something that you should do and you should do it in the best place you can get and the best you can do,’” Alfasi said.
After the army, Alfasi said he’d perhaps like to pursue a job in the medical field, but no matter what he ends up doing, he’ll be happy knowing that he served his country just as his father did years ago.
“When you finish boot camp they have a ceremony [where] you say an oath. That day, my grandmother came here and told me that she thinks my father would have been really proud of me for doing my service with the combat unit,” Alfasi said. “I feel that it’s important for me to protect the country.”