Heroism, though associated with military feats, is also often evident on the home front.
The Ministerial Committee for Ceremonies and Symbols, headed by Minister of Culture Miri Regev, selected 14 individuals – both civilians and service personnel – whose courage will be reflected in the beacons they light on Mount Herzl to usher in Israel’s 68th Independence Day.
Best known among them is Rona Ramon, whose late husband – astronaut Ilan Ramon – was killed with the rest of the crew when their space shuttle Columbia disintegrated on reentering Earth in 2003. She suffered another tragedy six years later when her eldest son, Asaf, who wanted to be a combat pilot like his father, was killed in a plane crash during a training exercise. In their memories, Ramon created the Ramon Foundation, which encourages space, science and technology education, excellence in scholarship, leadership development and community responsibility.
Other beacon lighters include: Hallel Bareli, a junior high student at the AMIT school in Sderot, volunteered to help local kindergarteners during the rocket bombardment from Gaza during Operation Protective Edge in 2014, and assisted elderly people to find shelters.
Since then, Bareli has continued to engage in volunteer work, and is currently involved with Sderot’s center for youth at risk.
Gabi Barsheshet is active in Friends of United Hatzalah, one of the country’s rescue organizations that sent human and medical resources to Nepal last year in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake disaster. The aid worker coordinated Israeli humanitarian efforts to rescue Nepalese trapped in the rubble. The Joint Israelife Disaster Response team included members of various Israeli rescue organizations who worked together in Kathmandu. They participated in search efforts to find, among others, missing Israeli tourists, and to save Israeli babies born to surrogate mothers in Nepal.
Tel Aviv bus driver Herzl Biton wrestled with a knife-wielding terrorist in January, and in the struggle succeeded in opening the bus doors, allowing passengers to escape. Though seriously wounded in his life-and-death fight with the much younger Palestinian, Biton chased him on foot after the terrorist gave up on his attack and fled from the bus.
Border Police Staff Sgt. Alison Berson, an immigrant from France now living in Afula, saved the life of a fellow officer in the northern area of the West Bank in October 2015 when she noticed two Palestinian youths with knives drawn approaching a Border Police checkpoint.
Berson instinctively opened fire, killing one of the would-be attackers and wounding the other.
Her speedy preventive action won high praise from her commanders.
Deaf mute Holocaust survivor Yaakov Ehrenfeld has worked on projects with the Association for the Deaf, and was also one of the initiators of a Yad Vashem project to make all the Holocaust museum’s exhibits and facilities accessible to the deaf.
Women’s rights activist Rotem Elisha, 18, from Ramle, is spearheading the national dialogue on rape and sexual harassment. Elisha, herself a rape victim, went public with her story, paving the way for others to do the same without feeling guilty.
Dr. Anan Falah, the first female dentist in the Druse community, is also a lawyer, a pilot and a staunch women’s rights advocate.
She was appointed by the Ministry of Health to act as supervisor for Arab communities, and in addition to all that is the director of Acre’s radio and TV station.
Pluralism in high schools is something that should be taken for granted, yet in reality, if it weren’t pushed, there are many schools where it would not exist. Among the pushers are Nili and Moshe Levy. The Modi’in couple have devoted their energy to promoting a school pluralism educational project called Gvanim.
Greek Orthodox priest Gabriel Naddaf has earned the displeasure of many Arab Israelis by his campaign calling on Christian Arabs to join the IDF. In Naddaf’s case, it goes beyond lip service; his own son is serving in the army.
Colombian immigrant Osa Roberto, a soldier in the IDF, foiled the efforts of a Palestinian determined to kill an Israeli soldier and in so doing commit suicide. When attacked by a terrorist at the Etzion junction a few weeks back, Roberto calmly neutralized him without injury to either of them.
Divorce is often a nasty business, sometimes even more so observant Jewish women, as a stubbornly recalcitrant husband can keep a woman chained in marriage forever.
In ultra-Orthodox circles, it is worse. A divorce puts a stain on a woman’s character, and regardless of what the husband does, the wife is frequently held to blame for any breakdown in the marriage. Fainy Soknick wants this to change, and has established an NGO to help ultra-Orthodox women in the process of divorce. Soknick, a mother of three, advocates for their rights and brings their cases to the attention of community leaders.
In 2009, Israeli canoe champion Yasmin Feingold was in a boat on the Yarkon River when it capsized and sent her plunging into the depths. Seeing that the boater was trapped, Avi Toibin dove into the polluted waters and rescued her.
Feingold was sick for some time afterwards, but made a full recovery and returned to her favorite sport. Toibin’s heroism has been recognized, and he, too, will be among the beacon lighters.