Israel's Memorial Day for Fallen IDF Soldiers

Scenic lookout commemorating Liran Saadia is dedicated on the ridge of the Mountains of Naftali overlooking Kiryat Shmonah.

May 6, 2008 16:19
Israel's Memorial Day for Fallen IDF Soldiers

liran saadia memorial. (photo credit: Courtesy)

The eve of the 60th Independence Day of the State of Israel marks Memorial Day for the Fallen in Israel's wars. Throughout the country, sirens sound and memorial ceremonies take place for those who have died since the establishment of the Jewish state. They number 22,437 from the year 1860 to May 1st. 2008. In 1860, the year set as the starting point for counting those who died in Israel's wars, the first Jewish settlers moved out of the ancient walls of Jerusalem and began establishing Jewish neighborhoods. Liran Saadia fell in battle during the Lebanon War II in the village of Maron-a-Raas in Lebanon, on 20th July 2006, aged of 21. Liran, son of one of the oldest families in Kiryat Shmonah, served in the Egoz Reconnaissance Unit as a communications officer. He fell in a battle against terrorists together with his commander Benjie Hillman, Refael Muskal, and Yonatan Reitz. As a commander, Liran bestowed his values and his legacy of humility to his recruits and those who were drafted before the outbreak of the war. This was also the manner in which he fell: always on the front line, with initiative and determination, heroism and humility. Liran was a leader to his comrades in arms as well as to the soldiers under his command. Zion and Michal Saadia, Liran's parents, chose to commemorate Liran's memory through community action, which was very characteristic of Liran. Together with KKL-JNF they initiated the construction of a new lookout point on the ridge of the Mountains of Naftali overlooking the city of Kiryat Shmonah where Liran was born, volunteered his help, and fought and died, to defend. We spoke with Zion Saadia, Liran's father: "Liran was first and foremost a human being - ahumble person, who loved others, helped others and who was full of desire to give. People who came to walk with us today know and feel that. He was sensitive to his surroundings, volunteered, and contributed all he could. He was an excellent student and studied university courses while he was still in high school. When he received a grant and a computer, he took the grant and used it to study but he donated the computer to a needy family. That was the way Liran was. hat was how everyone knew him. The whole family is proud of him. His sister Hadar is an officer in the IDF and his younger brothers are students. All of us walk in his path and in his shadow." Liran's mother, Michal Saadia, added. "Liran's dream was to hike along the length of the Israel Route, so we decided to commemorate him with a walk on part of the road. This has a lot of significance for us. All the soldiers from the Egoz Reconnaissance Unit pass by here. This is where people tell the story of Liran and his comrades who were killed with him in combat. Soldiers will visit the lookout point and will learn Liran's way and his legacy. I am happy that KKL-JNF has helped us accomplish that." KKL-JNF established the lookout point as a memorial site within the framework of a projectfor commemorating the soldiers of Lebanon War II who fell heroically in defense of the country. The lookout point was built with the help of friends from America who wished to remain anonymous and who chose to contribute specifically to environmental projects in commemoration of IDF soldiers who fell in the war. Many other projects are in progress, awaiting the support of friends worldwide. This lookout point in memory of Liran was designed together with his family and visiting this site gives visitors an impression of Liran's unique personality, his heroism, and his contributions to the community and everyone around him. Rocks at the lookout point are engraved with comics that Liran drew. The site has a path in the shape of the letter "Lamed - the first letter of Liran's name. Three pillars facing the view tell different stories about Liran: the story of the battle in which he fought and fell, an excerpt from a composition he wrote on the essence of volunteering and contributing to the community, and the significance of Liran's name to his family: lamed for lechidut (unity), yod for yosher (honesty), resh for re'ut (friendship), and nun for netinah (giving). Mimi Cohn, Liran's aunt, a teacher of literature in Kiryat Shmonah, explained. "When Liran fell we decided - as a family - to commemorate him by action and by personal example. We established a project in which we teach children about the values that make up Liran's name: unity, honesty, friendship and giving. At the end of each year we hold a sports event at which we emphasize those values. Liran was a person who was both noble and humble at the same time." Ziv Aloni, editor of the local paper Meidah Shemonah in Kiryat Shmonah added. "I remember Liran since he began drawing comics as a small child. They were so good that I suggested he publish them in the paper. He agreed and began to work with us and learned journalism through practical work. It's important for me to be here today with my four children and to tell them about Liran, about his contribution during his life and his contribution as a soldier in the last war that we all remember so well, including the children." The lookout point was dedicated with a march in memory of Liran in which members of his family, residents of Kirayat Shmonah, Mayor Haim Barbivai and other public figures who wished to commemorate his memory, participated. The route of the walk is part of the Israel Route that Liran planned to hike on after he was released from the IDF. There are two lookout points along the route of the walk that that are very significant to Liran and the State of Israel: One is the city of Kiryat Shmonah, where Liran was born and which symbolizes the determination of the State of Israel and the home front against terrorist attacks over the past 40 years. The other is the village of Maron a-Raas where Liran fell in battle with courage and heroism. MMore than 1,200 people marched the 8 kilometers along the ridge of the Mountains of Naftali and enjoyed the view, the well-kept forests, and the activities along the way. Stops were set up along the route where children could draw, and participants could try challenging sports, listen to music, and hear explanations about KKL-JNF projects for the benefit of the residents and the environment. Liran's father greeted each visitor cordially at the point where the march began and spoke to the participants. An impressive ceremony was held at the completion of the march in which members of the family, soldiers of the IDF, residents of Kiryat Shmonah, and KKL-JNF all participated. Ariel Kateh from Dimona, one of Liran's soldiers in the Egoz Reconnaissance Unit, explained. "Liran was a tough commander at first. Only at the end of the course did we understand that this was how he prepared us for the challenges that awaited us. We developed a deep and strong personal connection with him and we could seek his advice about personal matters - despite the fact that he was our commanding officer." Shimon Swissa, Liran's uncle who lives in Holland spoke. "Liran was a child with very strong ideals. The first thing in his list of priorities was to give to others and to the country. At home we knew this very well when he was young, but when I spoke with hundreds of people who came to commemorate his memory, I heard the same thing from everyone." Salim Abdallah added. "I've been a driver for the Egoz Reconnaissance Unit since it was established, and I know all the soldiers in the unit. I do not remember a soldier as dedicated as Liran; he was always prepared for any task. He excelled as a soldier and commander. Everyone talked about him. He was always special, always gave more. He stood out above everyone else." The dedication ceremony for the new lookout point took place at the end of the march and most of the 1,000 marchers were present. All the speakers knew Liran well and were part of his short life. The choir from the youth movement "Idan" that Liran helped to establish sang songs that were written in Liran's memory by his friends. One of Liran's soldiers played and sang a song by Ehud Banai that Liran had loved: "This path begins here?Walk on it, go up on it now." Three "generations" of soldiers from the Egoz Reconnaissance Unit spoke about Liran's actions in combat. Mordecai Kahana stated "Liran's reports as a communications officer during the battles were precise and helped conduct the battle. There are those who pay with blood in order that we can live. It warms the heart to know that the family, KKL-JNF and the Egoz Unit have joined together to commemorate Liran?s memory." Ofer Haran, Liran's unit commander said. "The thing that was special about Liran was the connection he displayed between generosity, heroism and good-heartedness. He knew how to connect to small things, such as returning a child's smile, or smiling at a flower. When I walked along the route today, I felt that I was walking with Liran. He loved to walk along the paths throughout the country, and to be connected with nature." Idan spoke on behalf of Liran's soldiers. "Liran required that we be good soldiers to the same degree that he required us to be men with values. Every one of us learned friendship, giving, and love of our Homeland from Liran." Aviram Tzuk, KKL-JNF Director of the Galilee region also spoke. "We, at KKL-JNF, are proud to commemorate our soldiers who fell in the Lebanon War II. We hope this march will become a tradition and that many good people will come here to see Liran's legacy for themselves." KKL-JNF's Yaakov Danino, who supervised the building of the site added. "Many sacrifices were made during Lebanon War II. KKL-JNF proves to the terrorists that we will answer them with deeds and actions." Many of the participants in the ceremony and in the march to the lookout point asked particularly to speak about Liran. Erez Turgeman, Yonatan Saadia, and Eyal Albuchar, Liran's cousins: "Liran was a very sensitive person, but also strong and dedicated. He even cared about small animals. When we went out hiking he always looked for an injured animal to help. He was a child who found it hard to be alone." Fanny Saruya and Pessi Lasari said: "We have been Liran's parents' friends since the days of our military service and we came to show our support for the family. The cooperation between the family and KKL-JNF is wonderful. It's amazing how such a painful event can unite an entire community and to transmit such strong Zionist messages!" Yardena Biton, Liran's 3rd and 4th grade teacher stated. "Even when he was a young boy we already knew that Liran was "a pure soul." We had a handicapped child at school and he decided on his own to adopt him. Such loyalty is unusual for a child. But it was not exceptional for Liran. He was brilliant." Tomer Sheiman, Liran's company commander in the Egoz Reconnaissance Unit spoke. "Liran left a legacy that we - his friends, his soldiers, and his commanders" will perpetuate. He was always concerned about everyone and only worried about himself afterwards. As a commander I knew that he could always be trusted and I therefore chose him to be the company's communications officer. Today we can see this legacy in his soldiers, and there's no doubt that he helped to make them what they are! During the battles after Liran fell we constantly asked ourselves what Liran would have done, what he would have suggested, how he would have analyzed the situation. Liran went to war with a feeling that he was defending his home, and he had a lot of influence on the soldiers. That was everyone?s feeling." Itzik Grobas from Kiryat Netafim, Liran?s company commander also spoke with feeling. "Liran was a man of goodness and innocence. He was not a religious man but he put on tefilin each day and prayed. When I asked him why, he said that that was how he was taught about Jewish values at home. Liran's father, Zion, was always with us in the company. Now we are all one family."

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