Golani 224 88.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
A year after Lebanon War II, a moving ceremony was held in Biriya Forest where "The Brothers Recreation Area" was dedicated in memory of ten soldiers of the 51st Infantry Battalion of the Golani Brigade who were killed during two heavy battles in Bint Jibel and Kfar Hadta in southern Lebanon. Family and friends participated, together with Golani soldiers, head of IDF Northern Command Major General Gadi Eisenkot, Golani brigade, commander and KKL-JNF representatives.
KKL-JNF Co-Chairman Avraham Duvdevani, read from Natan Alterman's famous poem "The Silver Platter" and explained that the original intention and intensity of this poem is still highly relevant, since the heroes of past and present are the "silver platter" on which the State of Israel depends.
Golani commander, Colonel Tamir Yadai, and one of the fighters, Staff Sergeant Avihai Yaakov, shared the story of the battle in which the fighters fell, adding how appropriate it was to commemorate them in a forest whose trees were burnt by katyusha rockets fired at the same time. Moshe Merhavia, father of Lieutenant Amihai Merhavia, z"l, thanked KKL-JNF, for creating the recreation corner. Michael Ben-Abu, Director of KKL Israel Fundraising, blessed the families and spoke of the heroism and the courage, the brotherhood and comradeship, "which will be as a living memory planted in each of our hearts." The memorial plaque was unveiled, and the families were presented with memorial certificates.
Staff Seargent Avihai Yaakov, one of the battalion's commanders, recipient of the Medal of Courage, was amongst the founders of Ne'emanim LeGolani (Loyal to Golani) whose goal is to commemorate Golani's fallen heroes. "It was on the first day of Av, eleven o'clock in the morning, the bodies of our eight friends have been laid in a room - a room without life. The screams of the wounded can be heard from every direction and the soldiers at their posts don't stop shooting. We were exhausted after a terrible and bloody morning of relentless fighting with the Hizbullah terrorists. All the time, the question running through our heads was, will we be able to defeat them? This is what we asked ourselves, and we knew there could be only one answer - yes, because there is simply no other choice. The wounded are still recuperating and trying to heal from the scars the war left them. The rest of us are still fighting the memories, the trauma, the terrible scenes we saw that day and afterwards during the war. We, the soldiers of Third Riflemen's Company of the 51st Infantry Battalion of the Golani Brigade, promise the families of our fallen comrades that we will always be available to lend support and assistance in every possible way. We take a solemn oath to cherish the memory of your dear ones until the end of time. Remember the words of the prophet Zecharia, "Not by strength, nor by might, but by My spirit, says the Lord of Hosts."
Head of IDF Northern Command, Major General Gadi Eisenkot: "In spite of the pain we all feel - the families, the officers, the soldiers and the friends, it is important not to forget the positive: - everything we hold precious grows from this base: the love of our country, the knowledge of its history, familiarity with its nooks and crannies, protecting our country and the camaraderie which has always been the symbol of the Golani Brigade."
Colonel Tamir Yadai, Commander of Golani Brigade: "A year has passed since the war during which your images never left us. It was a year full of questions, without answers, a year of many stories. It was a year of memorial services, events and discussions on how to commemorate; a year of pain and longing; a year of frustration that we have not really been able to tell the story of how you fought and killed close to thirty terrorists. It was a year that made us into one family born out of a battle waged from house to house and in olive tree plantations. It was there that we discovered the true meaning of the word ahi, 'my brother' which is how Golani soldiers call each other, and how incredibly resilient the tight human fabric woven together in the Golani Brigade truly is. How strong our brothers are, individually and when they all stand together! "
"Major Ro'i Klein blocked a hand grenade about to blow his soldiers up with his own wounded body.
Alex, deputy company commander, would not leave until the last of his soldiers was evacuated from the tree plantation where he eventually was killed.
Amihai Merhavia, unit commander who led the attack and paid with his life to lead.
Shimon Dahan, the outstanding sergeant, when Amihai was wounded, did not lose his cool and took command of the troops, leading them in an assault against the enemy and the evacuation of the wounded until he fell.
Asaf Namer, returned from Australia to serve in the IDF and chose Golani, who by his death wrote a new chapter in the book of Zionism and the Jewish people's mutual commitment to each other;
Shimon Adega, a new immigrant from Ethiopia, like his brother joined the IDF fighters and met his death when he was trying to evacuate Amihai.
Ohad Klausner, with no extra words, charged in and evacuated the wounded time after time, until a sharpshooter's bullet cut him down.
Eidan Cohen, signalman platoon commander was on furlough when the war broke out; returned to help evacuate the wounded, and in his last seconds, as he fought for his life, continued to encourage the other soldiers around him.
Tamer Amer, of the Druze community, although he was on leave for injury, insisted on returning to the company and joining his friends;
Yosef Avitbol, a yeshiva student, chose to serve in Golani although he could have received an exemption, returned to his company after he had already been injured once."
"Families, comrades-in-arms and friends, what is left for us is to be worthy of their sacrifice, to remember and to recall, to learn the lessons to become even better and most important, to know that the price of redeeming our land has not yet been entirely paid."
Alon Hakima, Company Commander: "I was the last of those who came to evacuate the casualties at the battle of Bint Jibel, where I was wounded. The soldiers were courageous, brave and worthy of every superlative. I am talking about the type of courage that Yigal Allon described: the fighter who is courageous of heart - courage, which is an incomparable quality at times of decision-making. Rare are those whose heart knows no fear. Courageous of heart are those who have the ability to overcome fear and natural concerns. The story of the "ten brothers" of the 51st Infantry Battalion proves that the next generation is worthy of all who preceded them."
Captain Asael Lubotzky of the evacuating force: "I was among those who evacuated the dead and the wounded at Bint Jibel. They were heroes. They fought, with bravery and self-effacement, under terrible conditions against a cruel enemy. They gave us the strength to go on. When I was injured two weeks later, in southern Lebanon, I envisioned the heroism of the 51st Infantry Battalion of the Golani Brigade. I feel it is my duty to be here today, in memory of those who fell, at the side of my brave brothers who fought and gave me the strength to fight and later the strength to heal from being seriously injured."
Lior Agada, brother of Sergeant Shimon Agada: "Our whole family made aliya from Ethiopia to Kiryat Gat. We are seven brothers and Shimon was the sweetest. He loved the army and he loved Israel - in fact his boundless love was the trait that characterized him best - everyone loved him and he loved everybody."
Kamal and Ilmaza Amer, parents of Sergeant Tamer Amer: "Our son Tamer was called Tomer, like the Hebrew name. He was nineteen years old, totally crazy about Golani, like our whole family. He was on leave because he had sprained his foot, but he went back to his platoon after the Battle of Bint Jibel and all the soldiers who were killed there, he wanted to fight together with his friends. He wasn't even able to walk properly, but he wanted to fight. He fought for two weeks, and then he met his end in battle."
Moshe Merhavia, father of Lieutenant Amihai Merhavia, in the name of all the bereaved families: "Our sons have now joined the family of martyrs who were ready to sacrifice, and did sacrifice, everything, for their people. The bravery, the courage, and the comradeship of the fighters during the battle, wrote a new page in the history of our people's heroism. The desire to volunteer and serve in combat units must be instilled in the younger generations. Shabbat Nahamu, the Shabbat of comfort, begins a series of seven weeks devoted to the theme of comfort. We, the families, must go on with our lives, taking strength from the courage of our sons."