(photo credit: )
Lt.-Col. Shai Zaidenrais's work on the security fence didn't help save the life of his sister, Eliya Rozen, 38, one of five victims of Monday's suicide attack in Netanya.
"When I joined the army 18 years ago I promised myself that I would not bring my work home," Zaidenrais told the hundreds of mourners who came to his sister's funeral Tuesday in the small cemetery outside her home town of Bat Hefer.
With this attack, "my work entered my house full force," he said, looking out at those standing in tears beside his sister's flag-draped body.
Each day he worked on the fence, "it was a huge effort to finish it and to close the holes" to prevent suicide attacks, Zaidenrais later told The Jerusalem Post. On Monday he was at a meeting about the fence when he heard about the bombing. Immediately he called his parents, who live in Netanya, and his sister's home.
Her husband Gadi told him Eliya had been in the attack and asked him to go to the hospital so that he could stay home to care for their three children. "I looked for her until 3 or 4 p.m. and then I went to [the L. Greenberg Institute of Forensic Pathology in] Abu Kabir," Zaidenrais said.
He was taken to the body of an unidentified woman. "I saw you lying there as pretty as ever," he said, addressing his sister at the funeral, as if she were alive.
As her younger brother, he often teased her that she was getting older while he remained young. "In a year and a half, for the first time, I will be older than you," Zaidenrais said.
Sitting in the family's home after the funeral, Gadi told the Post that his wife of 15 years had left that morning for the mall with a friend in what appeared at the time to be a normal and unimportant decision.
"I said, 'Bye, bye.' It was so simple," he said, shaking his head at the way his life had changed forever.
From the moment the friend's husband called to say the pair had been in the attack and that it appeared as if he Eliya had been seriously wounded, Gadi said he feared the worst but hoped for the best.
He sent his brother-in-law to the hospital, he said, because he wanted to be home to tell their three children when they returned home from school.
Sitting in one of their bedrooms scattered with games and notes, he said he first told the children she had been hurt. Then he told them that she had died. "This was difficult for me," Gadi said.
At the funeral, he spoke of the questions his children asked.
His daughter, Noam 10, woke up in the morning and asked, "What will we do with her things?"
"What do you want to do," he responded.
She said, "I want to save them."
I said, "Okay, we will save them for you for when you get older." But he added, "what's more important is our memories of her."
His son Roy, five, asked, "Who will be my mother?"
"She will always be your mother," Gadi said.
The oldest son, Gadi said, "If you think about her, she will always be with you."
Addressing his wife, he said, "I so miss you." Her death, he said, "was so random and meaningless. The children and I do not understand what happened."
"You lived a full life. You had no regrets. You lived in the here and now. You were spontaneous, you did what you wanted to do, what you loved. You taught the children and me what spontaneity is and how to go with the flow."
The guests that filled the family home and their yard of flowers and fruit trees, spoke of how intuitive Eliya was. They repeated to each other the story told by the friend who had gone with her to the mall. The friend said that as they walked out of the mall, Eliya walk quickly ahead. The friend teased her, saying, "What's the rush, do you think there's going to be a terrorist attack?" Eliya responded, "Yes."
Even though she had that feeling, she didn't change her route, said Gadi. "Then what happened, happened."
Gadi said that his wife was one who often acted on her intuitions. Once she left for the airport without a ticket, having suddenly decided that she was going to take a trip to Europe. She was sure there would be a spot on the plane. At the last moment, someone canceled. "It was her last trip," he said.
Eliya had a degree in psychology and had worked with children.
She had been contemplating a career change and was thinking about accepting a job as a project manager at a hi-tech firm.
At the funeral Gadi's father told the crowd that he already sees that life moves forward. The children were sad, but asked him to play games with them. "I was there for many hours. No word was said about hate or revenge. It is this lack of negative feelings that defines the family," he said.
If there is one thing he has learned, he said, it's "life is short. Don't hold back on love."