We Remember Our Soldiers

The Kfir Brigade recently held a day to commemorate the 166 soldiers who’ve fallen since its inception including a hike, a visit to a base and heartfelt words

Date: 31/01/2011, 5:42 PM    

From its inception in the seventies, the IDF (Zahal)’s Kfir infantry Brigade has lost 166 soldiers. The meaning of this tragic figure is that, to this day, there have been 332 parents, hundreds of siblings and countless friends who have lost someone they love. Close to a hundred of those family members arrived on Monday (Jan. 24) to a corner of Afula (northern Israel) to be mourn together. Morning to night events included a ceremony held at the Kfir Brigade’s monument for fallen soldiers, a visit to the brigade’s main base and a hike was taken together in Mount Gilboa (northern Israel).

A tradition is being built. The battalions that form Kfir’s infrastructure have been around for tens of years. The elite unit sharing their legacy has been around for thirty years. The brigade itself, however, is only five years old and the families coming together to mourn have been doing so for only two. Yet despite this, the feeling here is one of home, from breakfast in the morning to the tears to the inside jokes. Commander of the Kfir Brigade, Col. Oren Abman, is known here, because of a sense of family infused with appreciation, simply as Oren. Hands are shaken and warm hugs abound.

“We are a new brigade,” said officer in the department of fallen soldiers from the Kfir brigade, Maj. Dorit Elisha. This office is the umbilical cord connecting the brigade and the families, says the Commander. “It is especially because of this, we emphasize the connection with the grieving families. Everyone is a member in this. Everything is two-sided and the decision making is made together. Until the brigade got organized there was no monument, there was no being part of something. Together, we made a place in the last few years. We built a home. Both for the newly mourning and for the families of the elite units whose soldiers fell long ago.”

Something else that brought upon this event is the need to create mutual trust. Till now, according to Maj. Elisha, the response has been touching. “We’ve been working hard on this day many months. The majority asked to and were happy to come. They also supported the idea to do something fun, a hike, experiencing things together- not just grief and sadness.”

The First Soldier to Fall

The head of the Kfir Brigade’s soldiers’ nonprofit organization is Avi Binamo. From December 2005, most of his life has been dedicated to the position. His son, Ori, a Lt. from the brigade’s Nachshon Battalion, was the brigade’s first fallen soldier since its inception as a brigade. His daughter, Hila, was enlisted to the Kfir Brigade exactly a year ago. She serves as a physical training instructor. Her boyfriend, Shlomi, serves as a Sgt. in the battalion where her brother was killed.

Hila wanted to be a combat soldier. Her parents asked her to reconsider. “I tried to get to the closest thing possible,” she says. “To do the most I can. The thing about the position I’m in today is I get to go through these experiences with the soldiers. To talk to them, instruct them, to go through the hardships and excitements.”

But, yes, being “on the field” is missing. “Sometimes I want to feel the hardships myself. I’m happy, but there is no real challenge. There is a challenge in life. In dealing with it. The army makes the feeling of loss more poignant, it’s with me every day.”

“I live with Ori, but also beside him. Also apart from him,” she says. “Despite how sad it is to say, I try to remember him less and forge ahead. In that way, things turned out well. I’m in his unit, but within the world that was his I’m in a completely different role.”

The memorial service took place at the foot of the brigade’s memorial, put in place this past September. These past four months it’s been welcoming those entering Afula, carved with the names of the 166 fallen soldiers and the words “Ours is a true alliance. A connection that will never break.”

“We are in the month of January, at the height of concluding talks about 2010,” said Commander of the Kfir Brigade, Col. Abman. “The first fact mentioned in them, with modestly and no criticism is the fact that this year there were no suicide bombers in the home front. You can be proud,” he says, turning to the parents.

“Those responsible for this are the thousands of combat soldiers standing firm at their mission of keeping the citizens of Israel safe. This isn’t just a mantra or secret code. It’s tangible. And I’m proud of the soldiers and officers. I’m proud of the brigade.”