Labor MK Omer Bar-Lev 370.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
MK Omer Bar-Lev (Labor) has called on the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee to approve recommendations made in 2006 to allow the names of the bereaved siblings of deceased soldiers to be engraved on headstones in military cemeteries.
The approved guidelines for what may be inscribed on headstones currently allows for the name of the soldier, the date of his death and the names of his parents to be mentioned.
Some families, however, also wish to have the names of the bereaved siblings engraved.
According to Bar-Lev, the Defense Ministry submitted a request to the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee in 2006 to amend the guidelines and allow the names of siblings to be engraved on headstones, but the request was never deliberated or approved by the committee.
The committee looked into the matter on Tuesday and found that the Defense Ministry did not ask the Knesset about the issue during the course of the current Knesset, but said that if the ministry makes a new request, the panel will “discuss the matter seriously,” the committee said.
Bar-Lev, a committee member and chairman of the Subcommittee for Manpower and Training, on Wednesday called on Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) to convene an urgent meeting on the regulations for military burial and writing on gravestones.
Bar-Lev met with the family of the Paratroop Brigade’s St.-Sgt. Li Mat, from Eilat, who was killed in action in Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on July 22, aged 19.
His mother, Smadar, asked Bar-Lev, to advocate for his four siblings’ names to be added to the gravestone.
“In this situation, we committee members have to do what is necessary for the family, to discuss it and if possible authorize the new regulations today, if possible, to allow the family to go to the grave tomorrow,” the lawmaker said. “This is our basic responsibility as representatives of the public to the Mat family, who lost what is dearest to them for the country.”
Smadar Mat said the family had made a request to have the names of their other children added to the headstone but that there had been no progress on the matter and Li’s grave was still unmarked.
She noted that numerous other families had made similar requests in the past but that they had been persuaded to erect a headstone with just the names of the parents with the promise that they would be able to change it in the future.
“Some of these people have been waiting for 20 years and nothing’s happened. We won’t put up a headstone until we are able to include the names of Li’s brother and sisters,” she told The Jerusalem Post.
“Our son died. The state sent him to war and he didn’t come back. All we are asking is for him to be allowed to die in peace.
“This policy makes it seem as if his siblings and the rest of his family didn’t exist. Don’t his siblings feel the same pain though. They were part of his identity, they can’t just be ignored,” she said.