Tzvika Goldman, a bereaved father who lost his youngest son Noam during the Second Lebanon War in 2006, has decided to follow in the footsteps of his son's giving nature and aid combat lone soldiers as they embark on their military service.
Noam was born in the Ein Yahav agricultural community in the Arava region of southern Israel, later moving to Kfar Saba for elementary and high school. Like his father Tzvika, who was once second-in-command of a tank battalion, Noam drafted into the Armored Corps upon reaching the age of 18, serving as a tank commander in the 7th division.
After completing his mandatory service in the IDF, Noam traveled for 10 months in South America and later enrolled as a student of accounting and economics at Tel Aviv University. With the outbreak of the 2006 war, he was called up to report to his reserve unit.
"Noam got up and started to get ready without uttering a single word. He got dressed, put on his army boots and packed his bag. I took him to the pick-up location. We hugged and said goodbye with a kiss. That was the last time I saw him," Tzvika said.
On August 8, 2006, an anti-tank missile struck Noam's tank as they were driving in the village of Ayta Ash-Shab, killing Noam, Capt. Gilad Stockelman, Sgt.-1st Class Nir Cohen, and Sgt.-1st Class Nimrod Segev.
Tzvika's inspiration to give back, despite his sorrow, came from Noam's passion for the humanities, history and philosophy, about which he read numerous books contending with questions of morality and happiness. Many of Noam's writings, as well, focused on how to be a good person, moral values and the importance of giving back.
"And I find that it’s important to be good. I say that a good person is one who cares about the people around them. I like good people who help others, who don't just see themselves," Noam mused in one of his writings.
Soon after his son's death, Tzvika began contributing his time by volunteering to the One Family organization, which offers assistance to victims of terrorism, as well as raising money and helping soldiers manage with IDF red tape, using his military and private contacts to help.
IN 2013, Tzvika began helping IDF lone soldiers through "Benji's House," a home for lone combat soldiers.
"I liked the idea that a bereaved family was involved in launching a project of this scope and magnitude," he said. "This home offers never-ending love. The soldiers get a home and a family that's there for them."
As part of his duty to help, Tzvika comes to Benji's House almost every day and sits at the front desk, answering phone calls, welcoming soldiers and helping to solve their problems.
"My wife and I have assisted soldiers," he said. "There was one soldier who had made aliyah [immigrated] from the Ukraine and who had no family in Israel," Tzvika related. "My wife, who also volunteers through an initiative called Laundry Family, and I have decided to welcome him into our home for holidays and weekends. We even attended his Officers' Academy graduation ceremony and paid for his father's airline ticket so that he, too, could attend the ceremony. "There was also a soldier from the Egoz unit whom we helped out after his discharge, and even signed off as guarantors when he wanted to buy an apartment," he said. "I wish all lone soldiers could have a home like this one. It's an incredible enterprise."
Located near the city of Ra'anana, "HaBayit shel Benji" (Benji's house) was named after Maj. Benji Hillman, who was also killed in the 2006 war. Hillman served in the special forces unit called Egoz, and was even sent by the IDF on special assignments to the United States and Canada.
Following Benji's death, his first cousin, Saul Rurka, founded Benji's House as a welcoming environment for lone soldiers, who often do not have any family in Israel. At the house, soldiers are provided with a caring environment, counseling and full accommodations.
Rurka said that he intends to expand the initiative. "For me, Memorial Day is especially difficult. The fact that I can give of myself to other soldiers like Benji gives me a feeling of pride and hope. People like Tzvika Goldman who volunteer in the project of "HaBayit shel Benji" give our soldiers a wonderful feeling.
"This is just one more reason why hundreds of soldiers a year ask to live at the Bayit (despite the lack of room), which is why there is a need for building another home for 93 lone combat soldiers," Rurka said. "We see this home as a Zionistic project and are working tirelessly to raise the necessary financial resources. The new home will be built in Ra'anana, close to the original Benji's House."