Roi Klein and I

Friday, July 26, marks the 13th year since the death of Maj. Roi Klein.

July 25, 2019 22:13
3 minute read.
Roi Klein and I

roi klein 298 idf. (photo credit: IDF)

Friday, July 26, marks the 13th year since the death of Maj. Roi Klein. I have the privilege of being able to say that I personally knew Roi. He was my commanding officer, but he was also a family member – the family of the Golani Brigade’s Battalion 51.

For me he was Klein the “samgad,” the deputy brigade commander. As a soldier and officer under him I had the opportunity to be with him for a significant amount of time. We had many conversations and had a special relationship, despite the fact – or maybe because of the fact – that I am an Arab-Israeli from Nazareth and he a settler from Eli.

I remember when our battalion was deployed in Ghajar, a village on the Lebanese border. There, lying in wait for hours before an ambush, we past the time in conversation. During this time I got to know the man behind the shoulder mark.

Klein took a sincere interest in me and in the community from which I came. He wanted me to tell him about the Arab sector of society. He had a very difficult time understanding that I was cursed at when I went home to Nazareth in uniform.

He told me about himself, and about Judaism. In one of our conversations we spoke about the value of friendship, which he held as the highest value in the army. It is because of Roi that we in Battalion 51, young men hailing from completely different worlds, often complete opposites, found ourselves to be one big family.

In the staging areas before we entered Lebanon for war, I saw Klein praying and I said to him jokingly, “Klein pray to your God on my behalf too.” He responded with a smile and said, “You’re my brother, of course I will pray for you.” I will never forget this sentence.

Shortly after this conversation, a few days later, he fell in the Battle of Bint Jbeil in a manner so reflective of who he was. In bravery and courage he jumped on a grenade, saving his soldiers by muffling the explosion with his own body. You cannot imagine how shaken we were by the news of his death.

Two weeks later, I was badly wounded by a Kornet missile. I attribute Klein’s prayers on my behalf back in the staging area to be the reason of my survival. The doctors had said my survival was a medical miracle.

Thirteen years have passed but Klein is etched in my memory and there are entire conversations that we had that I can still remember word for word. He was in his life an example of inspiration, an exemplary role model to emulate. Klein was my commander and my friend, and I learned from his leadership and from him as a person. I absorbed his values, especially the values of camaraderie, friendship and mutual responsibility.

Today, I run a nonprofit organization of young Arabs – Muslims, Christians and Druze – working to build bridges between the Arab sector and Israeli society at large in the State of Israel. Klein is one of my inspirations. His memory and what he taught me propels me forward in the work that we do to bring people together in the country.

Thirteen years have gone by, but Roi Klein will be remembered forever, a symbol of friendship, mutual responsibility, caring for others and, above all, friendship. If each of us could only learn a small lesson from him we would only build the true civic strength of our nation.

Roi Klein, Allah yerachamu. May his memory be blessed.

The writer is CEO of the nonprofit organization Together – Vouch For Each Other.

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