An Israeli story

In the summer of 1987, Shmulik was killed.

IDF soldiers resting 390 (photo credit: REUTERS)
IDF soldiers resting 390
(photo credit: REUTERS)
In the summer of 1987, Shmulik was killed. His jeep turned over at the Nakrot Stream, a location that is full of splendor. There were six of us sitting in the back of the command car, and between us his coffin was placed, wrapped up in a flag. We drove to Ramle, Shmulik was the third in a sequence of outstanding soldiers from Ramle in our unit who all became excellent officers – Franco, then his brother Nicki, and then Shmulik. Nicki and Shmulik’s friendship goes a long way back to the boy scouts in Ramle.
Guy, a levelheaded and restrained officer, who was one of six soldiers carrying the coffin, managed to control himself the whole way, but when we arrived with the coffin, it was Nicki, waiting with red eyes with the others, that brought him to tears.
Shmulik had a face full of freckles and a great deal of confidence. He was tough and finished the officers’ course at the Ba’ad 1 training camp with honors. He was aware of his talent and the appreciation he received, and also of the fact that a sea of possibilities lay before him, he could achieve whatever he wanted.
He was only 21 when it all ended.
In the same unit, a year later, Uri was killed on a vast range of mountains in Lebanon, when he was hit by the shrapnel and shock wave of an RPG, shot by a group of terrorists that the force encountered.
Uri was also an outstanding apprentice in the officers’ course at Ba’ad 1 and may be compared, as everyone who knew him can confirm, to “fulminating mercury.”
He was always on the move, always busy and working, organizing activities, quickly tracking a group that lost its way at a crucial moment and saving a military exercise when it seems to be a lost case.
“I’ve got a lighter in my butt,” Uri once said, explaining to me, in his illustrative manner, the secret of his endurance during long runs.
I probably would not have met the Levy family from Ramle and the Maoz family from Yesud Hama’ala if their sons had not fallen in battle, and I would rather have never met them. But fate had something else in store. As things turned out, these families are very dear to me and have been a significant part of my life for many years. I love them and deeply admire the noble silence with which they carry their pain.
“I taught you to plow the land, not to be buried in it,” said Kobi Maoz, a farmer from Yesud Hama’ala, at the grave of his 22- year-old son.
Last year, Kobi passed away, leaving a second cloud of pain, which was also final.
Everyone’s eyes fill with tears when Uri’s mother, Aviva, describes the children of Uri’s sister and brother and the grandchildren he will never give her, and in the background Nurit Galron sings “It’s Sad to Die in the Middle of Tamuz.”
Etti and Haim, Shmulik’s parents, warmly embrace the regular audience that attends the memorials and the young paratroopers who make it every year without exception, serving them food and drinks as though they were looking after chicks. The years passed and we have married and had children. The young nephews and nieces of the deceased run around cheerfully, unknowingly emphasizing the difference between what is and what is not, between the joy of life and the emptiness of death.
The parents grow old, while those who have departed are absentees who appear at memorials and meetings, and remain forever young.
The writer is the son of former prime minister Ariel Sharon and the author of Sharon: The Life of a Leader.