Somewhere along the way, in the 20 years he lived, St.-Sgt. Eitan Barak went from being a rowdy, mischievous little boy to a loving brother and son, a top-notch cook, a brave and determined combat soldier and a man to admire.
That was how his sister Noa described him at his funeral in Herzliya on Sunday, saying that in such a sad time she chose to focus on “optimistic, funny things, just like you would have wanted.”
“You were a little bandit as a kid, and when you were brought into the world I was sure it was to make your older sister crazy,” Noa said, and described how Eitan “went from being the most mischievous little boy in Israel,” to a great man.
She described the night that their father picked him up at the local community center and stepped out of the car for a moment, only to turn around and see the car rolling down the street as Eitan put it into gear.
She explained how he’d make meals out of the barest of scraps from the kitchen, and how when the female cousins and his big sister were watching Desperate Housewives he came and lay on a blanket and watch the show with them even though he wasn’t a fan, just to spend time with them.
“My beautiful, magical man” Noa said of her fallen brother, and closed by asking for everyone he loved to remember him and continue to be inspired by him.
Barak was killed at around 3 a.m. on Friday morning, only a few hours after the ground operation in the Gaza Strip began. A fighter in the Nahal Brigade, he was killed in fighting with Hamas gunmen in north Gaza, and taken to Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon, where he was pronounced dead. He was the first of the 18 IDF fatalities since the ground operation began on Thursday night.
Among the hundreds of mourners at the military cemetery in Herzliya on Sunday afternoon were friends and loved ones, as well as his friends from the army. Before the ceremony started, a speaker took to the podium and gave instructions for what to do in case of a rocket siren, saying that the family members closest to the grave should lay down where they are, and those further out should get to cover if they were far enough back.
Lt.-Col. Roi Sheetrit from the Nahal Brigade said that he came back from the front to salute Barak at his funeral, saying “you performed like a hero, and fought until you couldn’t any longer.” He said that he was impressed by how Barak managed to win the hearts of his fellow troops.
Among the mourners were relatives of Barak’s from France, who eulogized him in French, Hebrew and English.
Both of his grandfathers took to the stage and lauded him together, with one closing the remarks by saying that while “Barak’s world broke just as it was opening up for him,” that he doesn’t think that it was a goodbye ceremony and that “you will always be in our hearts.”