Fallen but not forgotten

Beit Avi Chai's Project gives us a new way to remember.

Rita, Danny's mother (photo credit: NECHAMA JACOBSON)
Rita, Danny's mother
(photo credit: NECHAMA JACOBSON)
Jerusalem's Beit Avi Chai recently unveiled its third installment of a project dedicated to the memories of fallen IDF soldiers. The project, comprised of animated short films, focuses on stories taken from the lives of the soldiers. The opening of the exhibition was held at The First Station in Baka on April 29th, ahead of Remembrance Day.
All of the films can be viewed online at http://musaf.bac.org.il/project/pnym-yvm-zykrvn. One of the soldiers focused on is Danny Teichler, who was killed in the Yom Kippur War.
Danny's mother, Rita, recently sat down with the Post to talk about her son and the Beit Avi Chai project.
Can you describe Danny; who was he?
He was very kind-hearted. He was a lovely boy; everybody loved him. He was very popular. Our house was always full of his friends, who still come to his memorials after 40 years. I see them still at the cemetery. He was just that kind of person; very loyal to everybody. He was good and helpful.
How did you feel when he was first drafted?
I was very naive at that time. I never really thought of the possibility that something might happen to him. Now, mothers are afraid from the very first minute. For me, it was something that had to be done. He had to be in the army, so he was in the army. I never ever thought that anything could happen to him. I have learned not to be so naive, but a little too late. On the one hand, I was proud to see him in his uniform, but he wasn't even in the unit he wanted to be in. He always hoped to be a medic. He had been volunteering for Magen David for years. When he came home from the army, the first thing he did was put down his bag and go off to Magen David. When he was drafted, he asked to be a medic, but they told him no. They told him he had more potential, and put him in the armored corps, the tanks [Patton]. He did his best, but it wasn't really what he wanted. Once, he asked me to talk to his commander to try and get him transferred. Sometimes I think that if he had been in a unit that he really loved, it would have been easier. But to know that he wanted something else, made it that much harder to take.
Can you describe what it was like when the Yom Kippur war broke out?
We were all very surprised and we didn't realize it would have such terrible consequences. They didn't draft the miluim, but that's politics. Mrs. Golda Meir decided she was going to wait to get consent from America, and she waited a little too long. Danny was killed during the first few days of the war. Right after it started, the war was really on the shoulders of these youngsters; the young draftees. He was 20 years old when he was killed, and that was the age of most of these boys. A few days later, the miluim came in, and it became easier. But by that time, it was too late, a lot of young men were wiped out. It was all politics, and it still goes on today. It could have been different and should have been different.
What were the circumstances of Danny's death?
He was killed on the third day of the war in the Sinai, which was October 7th, 1973. We had two fronts at the same time: one against the Syrians, and one against the Egyptians. The Syrians were in the Golan and the Egyptians in the Sinai. We talked to people who were there with him, who did survive the war and they told us about talks they had with him and being with him during that time. That was how I knew what happened.
You had a grandson who was also named Danny, who also died serving in the IDF?
Yes, my daughter Nava's son. He was an officer in the Nahal unit. He was also killed, but not in a war. He was killed by terrorists in Hebron. He wasn't stationed there, but they got the call that terrorists were attacking people who were coming out of the Beit Knesset on a friday night. These people were attacked on their way home from prayers on Shabbat. Danny's unit was stationed not so far away, and even though they didn't get orders to go there, they decided to go on their own. A few of them were killed, and Danny was among them. This was 11 years ago.
How did you react when Beit Avi Chai approached you about including Danny's story in this project?
First of all, I told my daughters that I got a call and that I gave their numbers, so that they could talk to Beit Avi Chai. I really had no idea what it was. Now I know a little more, and tonight when I see the films, I'll know even more. But I looked upon it very favorably. There was a time when I didn't want to be interviewed anymore. I turned down a lot of things. Even last year, they asked me to light the torch during the ceremony at Har Herzl, and I refused. I said, it's too much, it's not for me. I'm going to be 88 soon, I'm not so young anymore. Everything was pressuring me.  Everything that was out of the ordinary day-to-day life was too much. So I left it to my daughters to take care of, but now I'm back.
The movie about Danny focuses on his friendship with an elderly shoemaker. Why was this story in particular chosen?
My older daughter wrote about it in his memorial book. Everyone who knew him wrote all kinds of things, and she wrote about that. When I got this call from Beit Avi Chai, they said they were especially impressed by this story. A little boy in kindergarten, stops to talk to an old man on his way home from school because he feels sorry for him. The old man was always alone when Danny would pass by, sitting by himself working on his shoes. Danny decided to stop and talk, and make a new friend. They asked me if there was any follow-up, but I said not really. The only thing is that the man did visit us after Danny was killed. He felt very close to Danny. How much can an old man and a little boy have in common? Beit Avi Chai said they were so touched by this story. It's not usual for a little boy to be so sensitive.
Projects like this serve as a beautiful tribute to soldiers who have fallen. In what ways do you and your family try to keep Danny's memory alive after all these years?
There is a plaque in Jerusalem forest. There is a memorial stone in Kikar HaBanim. Magen David also did a memorial for him.