(photo credit: Courtesy)
A year after Major Ran Yehoshua Cochba was killed in the war, KKL-KNF foresters found additional parts of the wreckage of his Apache helicopter near Ramot Naftali. At this spot, near Metzudat Koah, KKL-JNF built an observation point in Ran Cochba's memory, inaugurated this week by his family and friends.
The observation point site, marked by a sculpture constructed from the wreckage of the helicopter, close to the tree where it crashed, overlooks the Hula Valley towards the Golan Heights. The site includes "The Riddle Trail," a route that combines riddles, hikes and tranquil beauty spots with a unique view of the surrounding landscape. The riddles were composed by the pilot's family and engraved on signs attached to trees along the trail.
At the inauguration ceremony, KKL-JNF Co-Chairman Avraham Duvdevani, the family, friends, Israeli Air Force pilots and officials, extolled Ran's virtues and praised the combined efforts of family, KKL-JNF and donors, who together created an appropriate memorial to Ran and to the path he had chosen in life. Poems were read, speeches were made in Ran's memory, his parents, wife and daughter unveiled the memorial plaque and the Canadian donors received a certificate of appreciation.
When the additional remnants of the helicopter were discovered in Naftali Forest, Galit, Ran's wife, said sadly, "Unfortunately, finding the wreckage does nothing to change the fact that he is dead. We have been through a very difficult year that I wouldn't wish on anyone - that has been torture for me. We can't come to terms with losing him - he was such an amazing person."
Michael Ben Abu, Director of KKL-JNF's Israel Fundraising: "When the helicopter crashed, KKL-JNF worker Zvika Elon, who was on fire duty as Katyushas fell during Lebanon War II, was the first person on the scene to find Major Cochba and navigator Noam Gershoni, who was seriously injured."
Noam Gershoni, is undergoing prolonged rehabilitation but when he and his family arrived at the ceremony he moved all those present with his steadfast courage, expressing his desire to follow the trail to the observation point alone.
KKL-JNF Co-Chairman Avraham Duvdevani said that the bereaved families' connection with the site where their loved one fell, gives the memorial an indescribable power. "The connection between the man, the landscape, the site and the event creates the memorial, and we hope, provides a small consolation for the family. Personally, I am profoundly moved whenever KKL-JNF adds another beauty spot to the magnificent landscape of the Land of Israel. People come here to experience the landscape, the view and the events it exemplifies. They imbibe Zionism and connect with those heroes who have made our presence here possible.
As far as family is concerned, Ran comes from a long line of Zionists who helped to settle this country. This observation point is completely appropriate as a memorial to Ran, who was accustomed to having a bird's eye view of the country. From such a lofty vantage point one sees the whole, the entire picture, because, taken all in all, Israel is always a positive and optimistic place. Here among the trees, amid the landscape of our homeland, we today add another meaningful site symbolic of faith, hope, self-sacrifice and Zionism."
Ziv Cochba (6), daughter of Major Ran Cochba: "This is my father's place. KKL-JNF built it for him and that's why we've come to the ceremony today. It's lovely here and there are riddles along the way. Lots of people will come here and they will know who my father was. We'll come again, too."
A message from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was also read. "Dear Atara and Yaakov. I have learned a great deal about the pilot whose feet are firmly planted on the ground - about the ever-cheerful young man, about the loyal son, the loving husband and the devoted father. Throughout the year I have observed at close hand the special way in which you have contended with your loss and the worst pain of all. I have no doubt that you have chosen to immortalize your son's memory in the way he himself would have wanted - a way that looks ahead, combines building and planting and expresses a love of the land and its people."
Lieutenant Colonel Gil Shen, Ran's commanding officer, said. "There are people who possess a rare combination of wisdom, knowledge and quick thinking. Ran was one of them. All these qualities gave him the ability to act swiftly and correctly and he was an example to us."
Yaakov Tzur, Ran's uncle, said. "He always gave to those around him - to other people, to himself, to the homeland. For Ran, the homeland had a profound significance. He grew up on patriotic and humane Jewish values. His roots in this country go deep. One hundred and twenty years ago his forefathers settled on the land of the Hula Valley and Degania. One generation after another was guided by concern for whatever was best for Israel. They fought in the IZL, were imprisoned by the British, served in the IDF and fought for the Land of Israel. Ran strove for the skies and served in the air force. He knew how to fight for the values he believed in and he was always loyal to his family and his country - a true Zionist."
Sara Vered, representative of the Canadian donors' added. "It is from Canada - a country whose doors were closed to Holocaust survivors - that we have contributed to this memorial for Ran Cochba. Today, however, the University of Ottawa has a research Chair into Canadian Jewry and it is thanks to the existence of the State of Israel that this has come about. We, the donor families, volunteered to support families who have lost their sons. Dear KKL-JNF workers, you have done a wonderful job, and we thank you for it. Ran Cochba, we did not know you, but your memory has found a place in our hearts." Myrna and Norman Barwin, Atara and Meyer Bentov, Eddie and Erwin K. Koranyi, Sara and Zeev Vered.
Atara Cochba, Ran's mother added. "The lopped-off treetops in this spot were damaged when Ran's helicopter crashed and that place where his memorial stone stands, that's where Ran lay. The Riddle Trail and observation point, overlooking a miraculous landscape, are wonderful ways of perpetuating the memory of Ran, who so loved his country. He loved to walk and travel around it, and he loved to just look at it. The site where he fell has become an enchanted spot that hikers will visit. In the name of our family, I thank everyone who helped to establish this observation point."