A friend, a brother, a kind-hearted student who threw a birthday party for his pet goldfish, and a symbol of courage to the people of Israel as a whole. Gil-Ad Shaer, 16, was described as all of these at a memorial service in his hometown of Talmon in the West Bank on Tuesday, as friends and family tried to describe in their eulogies a life that had hardly begun when it was cut short in a hail of bullets on June 12.
“I’ve lost my only son,” said Shaer’s father, Ofir, his head bowed, before asking, “How can I sum up your life and your acts in just a few sentences?” Faced with unthinkable loss, he appeared to draw comfort from speaking of the heroism of his only son, mentioning a moment of courage that had not been made public until this eulogy in Talmon.
“From the moment we heard your courageous whisper, I stood tall,” he said.
“How did you show such courage, someone who was not yet 17 years old?” He was referring to the call his son had placed to the 100 emergency dispatch on the night of the kidnapping.
Police did not give the 10:25 p.m. call the necessary attention for at least five hours, doing so only when Ofir reported his son missing to police. Since the occurrence of the call was revealed to the public, police have been subject to immense pressure. But until Tuesday, it was not publicly known that it was Gil- Ad’s voice in the recording, whispering, “They kidnapped me,” as a voice in the background said, “Put your head down,” followed by what sounded like gunshots.
His father said he had never expected “that you’d become a hero of Israel while still a youth.”
Gil-Ad’s sister Shir-el also gave a short eulogy, saying, “I no longer have a brother,” and expressing her hope that maybe the tragedy had brought the people of Israel closer to redemption.
His mother, Bat-Galim, described sitting in her son’s room, looking at his things, completely unable to grasp what had happened.
Though there were hundreds of mourners present, the funeral was a relatively quiet affair. There were no shouts of revenge or demands for blood or warfare, but a deep feeling of quiet sadness and shock at the loss of such a young life.
Finance Minister Yair Lapid described the tragedy, saying that “today we are burying a young boy. Parents aren’t supposed to bury their children.
When a grown person dies, we mourn about the life they led; when a young person dies, we mourn for the life that didn’t begin.”
He also urged that the tragedy not be seen as belonging to the nationalist camp or any other single sector of society, but that it be seen as a national calamity.
The memorial took place a couple of blocks from the Shaer family home, which for over two weeks had been a pilgrimage site of sorts, and home to dozens of reporters whom the settlement hosted.