Embracing the bereaved

Cpt. Moshe Kama

As an IDF (Zahal) casualty officer, Cpt. Moshe Kama tends to the needs of families of soldiers who have fallen in the course of duty

Date: 15/04/2013, 3:01 PM     Author: Yair Barzilai

The steep hill strains the engine. At the stop sign, the Jeep stalls, but just for a moment. As he continues down the road, the Jeep kicks up a dusty trail that settles once he is over the hill. Finally, he reaches the home on the outskirts of the town.

He’s done it countless times before. Still, it never gets easier. The pain is fresh, and the tears are real. No matter how well Cpt. Moshe Kama attends to their needs he cannot change reality. Even though it‘s his job to help, he knows that he is still utterly helpless, cannot turn back the clock, cannot bring back their child.

Cpt. Kama is an IDF (Zahal) casualty officer – a job regarded as one of the most delicate and challenging military duties. As part of his task, Cpt. Kama is assigned a family of a fallen or injured soldier, and personally attends to their needs: from organizing the commemoration ceremony for the fallen to simply providing an open ear and listening to stories of the young men and women taken in their prime.

“Arriving at the soldier’s family home, you never know what to expect,” said Cpt. Kama, “but at the same time there is nothing more moving and fulfilling than seeing them take comfort in telling the stories and opening up. Trying to begin the process of healing a wound that will be very difficult to heal.”

That devastating wound of loss is a familiar one in the Kama household.  Cpt. Kama’s uncle, Cpl. Moshe Dankner, fell on the second day of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, in a battle in the Golan Heights. He was only 19 years old, and his loss took a heavy toll on the family. Cpt. Kama, who is named after his uncle, grew up with Cpl. Dankner’s legacy. “At every family event, every gathering, his name came up and stories of him were told,” Cpt. Kama recalled.

Embracing the bereaved

Cpl. Moshe Dankner, Cpt. Kama’s late uncle

Cpl. Dankner was the only son of Romanian Holocaust survivors. Cpt. Kama recalls IDF (Zahal) casualty officers visiting with his grandparents to help ease their ongoing grief. “I grew up with casualty officers visiting us, every year until this very day, especially on Yom HaZikaron,” he said.

After completing his regular military service as a combat soldier in the Armored Corps, Cpt. Kama decided to return to the IDF (Zahal) as a career officer himself and undertake the sensitive and momentous task whose importance he was well acquainted with. “I appreciated what these officers did for us, and as someone who understands the grief of the soldier’s relatives, I thought I would be able to contribute myself and give back for what the IDF (Zahal) has done for my family,” he said.

Cpt. Kama’s past as a combat soldier often assists him in performing his duties. “People usually are surprised to see someone who knows what it feels like to be out there on the field, in battle, and they can really relate to me and open up,” he said.

According to Cpt. Kama, his duty is representative of the IDF (Zahal)’s efforts to recognize the sacrifice of bereaved families. “I still get anxious before every visit to a casualty’s family – it is like a relationship. You grow closer and closer over time, and there is no better feeling than to know you are there for them, and them knowing that the IDF (Zahal) will never forget their loss and contribution to this country,” he said.