Putting a face to the name

For the first time in 63 years, relatives will say Kaddish for a fallen soldier only recently identified.

Yosef Lahana (photo credit: Courtesy)
Yosef Lahana
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Next week, on Remembrance Day, a modest but moving ceremony will take place at the Mount Herzl military cemetery.
Two people who hadn’t known each other until recently will stand by the new grave of a fallen and almost forgotten soldier from the War of Independence, Yosef Lahana, who had been buried in a communal grave without a photo or any details about his life.
Dorit Perry, a social worker who attends the ceremony every year, noticed Lahana’s lonely grave and recalls how heartbroken she felt, and finally decided to inquire into the matter and look for his relatives.
Last year at the cemetery Perry met Uri Sagi-Sharabi, who had done extensive research on the Jenin battle of 1948, in which Lahana fell (the only detail known about him then). The two joined forces and after eight months of intensive research they finally knew almost everything about Lahana and managed to reach members of his family, who will attend this year’s ceremony.
Lahana was born in Greece in 1921. His parents, Nissim and Esther, died in 1939. Two of his siblings moved to France, married and had children, who never visited Israel. Lahana was caught by the war in Greece, fled from his city and joined the Partisans. Later he went to Palestine, was arrested by the British, but managed, together with 211 olim mostly from Greece, to swim to shore. He went to Kibbutz Messilot in the Jordan Valley and remained there for about a year. In February 1948 Lahana was mobilized to the Carmeli Battalion and was killed on June 3, 1948, during the battle of Jenin with 44 other soldiers. For two years the soldiers were considered missing until Israeli forces found their bodies and brought them to the communal grave on Mount Herzl.
This year for the first time, someone from Lahana’s family will say Kaddish for him. And, after 63 years, he will have a photo and his parents’ names on his grave.