(photo credit: Steve Leibowitz)
A dark grey cloud hovered over Mount Herzl Military Cemetery in Jerusalem at midday Friday as many hundreds of soldiers and civilians gathered to pay their last respects to Yosef Goodman, 20. Goodman died the day before in a freak parachuting accident during a routine IDF training mission at his military base south of Ashdod.
One of Goodman's friends from his hometown of Efrat told The Jerusalem Post that Goodman had been "an incredible guy, who was well-liked, extremely athletic and hard-working. I can't believe he's gone."
The American-born Goodman was well known among the Jerusalem area's English-speaking community as a star touch football player. The second of nine children, Goodman played in the American Football League in Israel (AFI) together with his father Mordechai.
As the army vehicle carrying the body approached, the heavens opened and a barrage of hail struck the mourners who had been waiting silently and pensively, some still in deep shock.
Surrounded on all sides by a sea of umbrellas, the body draped in the Israeli flag was carried by members of the Paratrooper Brigade's elite Maglan unit to which Goodman had belonged to its final resting place, followed closely by his distraught parents and eight surviving siblings.
At the grave, the IDF chaplain recited a chapter of Psalms as family, friends and fellow soldiers attempted to console each other over the sudden and unexpected loss of their young son, brother, friend and comrade.
His father Mordechai recited the kaddish prayer before emotionally recounting the following story:
"During his time in the army, Yosef and I would have a parting of the ways when I would either be taking him to the army base or we wouldn't be seeing each other for a few weeks. He would kiss me and say 'I love you Dad.' I just want to say, Yosef, I love you more."
In a eulogy mixing official duty with obvious personal grief, General Elazar Stern, who had led the disengagement forces, reminisced about a soldier who was "always smiling" and whom he also described as "the kind of person who people spoke about at length and with tremendous love."
Stern recalled Goodman's leadership capabilities, infectious enthusiasm and strong desire to serve his country, even during the difficult disengagement period. "Goodman, you certainly lived up to your name," he said, "and I stand here as a friend of yours."
Four wreaths were then solemnly placed on the grave before the customary gun salute carried out by members of the red beret-wearing Maglan unit.
As the sun slowly appeared from behind the clouds, friends stood transfixed, quietly singing songs of lament and grief.
The IDF and Military Police have begun inquiries into the causes of the incident, an extremely rare occurrence, believed to have resulted from an entanglement of parachutes between Goodman and another paratrooper, once they had jumped from their Hercules plane. Goodman apparently cut himself free, but his reserve parachute failed to open and he died when he hit the ground. The other paratrooper survived.