Tank commander killed in accident was 'modest genius'

Grandmother: I was afraid I'd die before his wedding; now I'm going to his funeral.

Uriel Lebran 248.88 courtesy (photo credit: IDF Spokesman)
Uriel Lebran 248.88 courtesy
(photo credit: IDF Spokesman)
Visiting the Liwerant family - mourning for their son, St.-Sgt. Uriel Peretz Liwerant, 21, who was killed early Wednesday morning when the tank he commanded flipped over on the Golan Heights - one could not escape the feeling that the not-so-Jewish adage "the good die young" was really true. One also got the impression that the opposite - that the bad lived on - was not. Uriel Liwerant's father, Aharon, who immigrated to Israel from the US before Uriel was born, was notified of his son's death at 7:45 Wednesday morning as he was leaving his Efrat home for work. He said his son had never talked about his many intellectual accomplishments. "But once I heard indirectly from one of the boys who learned with him that Uriel was a 'genius,'" he said. Liwerant's math teacher, Ya'acov Greenwald, was among the small group of friends and family who had come to comfort Liwerant's father and three sisters while they waited for his mother, Joni, to cut short a trip to New York and return home for the funeral - scheduled for Thursday morning - on an IDF-arranged flight. "There is a question I've been meaning to ask Uriel's parents for some time now," said Greenwald. "How do you raise such a wonderful son?" He still remembers Liwerant's grade - 96 - in the five-point math track, the most advanced available to high school students. "He was a quiet student. But what a brain," Rabbi Ya'acov Fischer, head of Efrat's Neveh Shmuel Yeshiva High School, told The Jerusalem Post by telephone, describing Liwerant as a brilliant student. "He would have become a real Torah scholar," he said. Apparently, part of the reason why the good, or at least some of the good, die young in the army is that they are the ones who accept the most dangerous assignments that carry the most risk and responsibility. This was true in Liwerant's case. He had been chosen by his IDF superiors to command his tank. Only a month ago, he had completed a four-month training course. As a result, in accordance with army directives, he was standing with his head outside the tank when it flipped while trying to cross a bridge in the Golan Heights. In fact, it was on the Golan Heights, more than any place else in Israel, that Liwerant loved to hike and explore, said his father. Liwerant, a hesder yeshiva student who combined army service with Torah study, had turned down an IDF request to enter an officers' training course. He wanted to return to yeshiva in Alon Shvut, which is visible among olive groves and rolling hills from the Liwerants' living room in Efrat. Aharon Liwerant remembers a Shabbat afternoon not long ago when his son, who was home on furlough, decided that instead of catching up on much-needed sleep - like most soldiers do while on leave - he would walk up to the yeshiva located on a neighboring hill and "hear some lectures and learn a little." The elder Liwerant recalled sitting at the living room window with binoculars following his son's progress on foot to the yeshiva: "I watched him move farther and farther away from me until he disappeared behind some bungalows near the yeshiva." Minnie S. Feldman, 89, Liwerant's maternal grandmother, who was widowed when her daughter was just 10 years old, recalled how she would always get "a kiss with that beard of his." In 1975, Feldman followed her two children to Israel from Kew Garden Hills in Queens, New York. Confined to a wheelchair, Feldman, who lives "around the corner" from the Liwerants, recounted how Uriel would "always wheel me around on Shabbat. He was able to take me down the stairs. "He was so lovable and always ready to help his bubby," she added, her voice cracking. "I just bought two bags of potato chips and cookies for him. "At my age I was afraid I would not live to see his wedding. Now I am going to his funeral," she said. That "the good die young" may or may not be true. In Liwerant's case, it was. Perhaps that's why Aharon Liwerant opened his home to the many reporters who came to Efrat to gather information and "color" for his son's obituaries. He said as much as he talked to the Post. "I hope that if people know more about who Uriel was, what kind of person he was, this will be a big kiddush Hashem [sanctification of God's name]," he said. "That is what I hope will come out of the stories you write about him."