Jacky and Tzipi Baldran built Kibbutz Lotem with their own hands and with the help of their children, Yigal, Nitzan and Aviv. Nitsan served as a fighter in the Golani Brigade. His last mission was in Lebanon in November 1998. Jacky says: “at 3:15 am, we heard a neighbor and soldiers knocking at the door. I went downstairs and I immediately understood what was going on”.
Jacky and Tzipi Baldran – Nitzan’s parents
Nitzan grew up in Lotem, a new kibbutz in the Galil. His playground was nature and the surrounding villages. He helped his parents build the kibbutz from scratch. Lotem had only two families at the time, and a number of young people. “Physically it was not easy but we had a lot of joie de vivre,” says Tzipi.
There were not enough students in the school, so Nitzan was in a class with children both older and younger than himself. At twelve years old, he taught himself how to ride a horse without a saddle or boots. “He spent a lot of time with the Bedouin and Arab kids. They all lived in the area,” his mother says. Nitzan also spent his time taking care of the little zoo kibbutz and the goat. “We passed on to our children a love of the land,” she says.
In November 1996, he enlisted in the Golani Brigade. Tzipi recalls: “In school, Nitzan didn’t cope well with authority, so we asked him: ‘how are you going to deal with military commanders?’ He said it would be different. After seeing his bus pull away, I said to Jacky: ‘the next time we visit him will be in military prison’. But Nitzan was right.”
Nitzan during his military service
In their youth, Nitzan’s parents did not have to do military service, but through their children they learned the culture of the IDF (Zahal), and in particular that of the Golani Brigade. “There was a day to get to know the officers. We arrived with a small box of cookies for Nitzan and we saw that all the other families had arrived with picnics and ice creams, and some even started barbecues. That was our first Golani lesson. From then, we always brought plenty of food when we went to see him.”
Thanks to his military experience, Nitzan grew up. His looks and behavior changed. His parents got used to him arriving home for the weekend tired and hungry. “When Nitzan came home, he was covered in sweat and grease. Whenever I sense that soldier smell, I think of him,” his father says.
In November 1998, Nitzan and his company were stationed in Lebanon, where they undertook several missions. They were looking for the terrorist cell responsible for killing four IDF (Zahal) soldiers. On November 25, Uriel, Nitzan’s commander, convinced his superiors that they had to head out for another mission. Nitzan was the ‘negevist’ of his squad – his weapon used larger caliber bullets than the others. He therefore had to be at the head of the column of soldiers, next to the captain.
Uriel and Nitzan saw something suspicious. Uriel ordered his soldiers to lie on the ground. They had performed all the checks they were required to perform. Uriel decided to continue on. They walked a few yards and five explosive charges were detonated around Nitzan and Uriel. They died on the spot.
On the same night, at 3:15 am, a neighbor and soldiers knocked on the door of Tzipi’s and Jacky’s home. “I went down and I immediately understood what had happened. Tsipi did too. Even today, the memories are muddled,” says Jacky. “They explained what happened and asked where we wanted Nitzan to be buried. Tzipi was in total shock.”
Nitzan with Tzipi, his mother
“At the time we had no cemetery. There was a place where we liked to go with the kids because you can see the Kinneret from there. Meanwhile, the army and the municipality took us to Haifa to identify the body. When we returned, the army had already prepared the burial place.”
Tzipi and Jacky began shiva, the weeklong traditional Jewish mourning period, at their home. Their neighbors, friends, and Nitzan’s fellow soldiers all arrived en masse, not just to visit during the first week, as is customary, but for many weeks more after that.
“During shiva, I felt that all of those people were carrying us,” says Tzipi. Jacky continues: “Nitzan is always here with us. Tzipi has never said that he is dead. I can say it, but it is not easy to say or to hear myself say.”
“We have a great relationship with the soldiers who were with Nitzan. All his friends are in frequent contact with us,” he says. Their link with the IDF (Zahal) remains strong. Nitzan’s fellow soldiers continue to gather at Kibbutz Lotem every year. He wanted to travel and see the world, so every time one of his friends returns from an international trip, he places a stone from that place on Nitzan’s grave. Nitzan is gone, but his memory is very much still alive.