'Falling back into the grave'

Slain soldier Keren Tendler's mother shocked by news of remains returned.

Keren Tendler 224 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Keren Tendler 224
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Rivana Tendler was so busy teaching high school English that she missed the first phone calls alerting her that some of her daughter's remains might be in the box of IDF body parts that Hizbullah returned to Israel on Sunday. Until that moment, she had believed that her daughter Keren, 26, who died along with four other soldiers when their helicopter was shot down over Lebanon on August 12, 2006, had been buried intact. "I knew she was burned," Rivana told The Jerusalem Post, but she had never worried about whether parts of her daughter's body might be missing from the grave. So she was caught completely by surprise when she answered her cellphone at about 1:30 p.m. as she left her classroom at ORT Singalovsky High School in Tel Aviv. The army told her that Hizbullah had given Israel a box of IDF remains that "might be connected to the helicopter crash, but they were not sure," said Rivana. That call has catapulted her back to those first days of mourning for her daughter, the first female soldier killed in combat since the Yom Kippur War. "It was like falling back into the grave," Rivana said. She last saw her daughter on August 12, around 3 p.m., when Keren left their home in Rehovot to head to Lebanon, said Rivana. The night of Keren's death, Rivana and her husband heard both on the Internet and television that a helicopter had been shot down. Their worst fears were confirmed at 1:45 a.m., when officers came to their home to tell them Keren was gone. "I miss my daughter. I have a huge photograph of her in my living room. As I'm talking to you, I'm looking at her. I still don't believe that she is not with us any longer," Rivana said. "But to suddenly hear such dreadful news - it's difficult to accept." Since mid-afternoon, Rivana has spoken to the IDF several times, but has learned nothing more. It could take 24 hours to run the pathology tests, she told the Post. In the interim, she has consoled herself with the idea that what was found might be some of Keren's personal items that were never recovered, such as, perhaps, her glasses or her helmet. Avraham Mashiah, whose son Ron, 33, was in the same helicopter, said that he knew only what he heard on the news. This was not the first time that the question of his son's remains had been raised, even though he, like Rivana, had believed that all parts of his son had been buried. In January, a Lebanese paper published a report that Hizbullah had his son's dog tag. Miriam Gomez, whose son Daniel, 25, was also in that helicopter, said she had received a warning call from the army in the early afternoon to alert her that news might be forthcoming about her son's remains. "We don't know anything more," she said.