A Song of Pain

Captain Tom Farkash A song is a musical creation that is constructed out of intertwining lyrics and melodies, but for many families in Israel one song is more than the sum of its sounds; written for someone who ceases to exist. While many Israelis listen to those songs on memorial days, there are families for whom a song is the daily story of a loved one who left and did not return

Shir Golan

On the way to the Farkash family home, we pass by the main street in Caesarea. Along the boulevard, signs present songs related to the city, amongst them “A Million Stars”, a song return in memory of Captain Tom Farkash, a combat helicopter pilot who died in the Second Lebanon War. Amit, his sister, sang the song for the first time at his funeral.

“Tom and I had a connection through music”, tells Amit. “It was the relationship between us, between an older brother and his younger sister”.

“The songs were a part of our family’s existence”, adds mother Anat, “There are thousands of pictures in which you can see family and friends sitting, singing and Tom playing the guitar. He went about everywhere with that guitar, and now we don’t have anyone to play at home. ‘You lifted a guitar’, that lyric is the essence of the song”.

The song was written immediately after Tom’s death. Yiftach Krezner, a good friend of his, helped Amit write a song to say goodbye. “I wanted to say goodbye to Tom through the song”, says Amit. “When I sang it for the first time it was familial and intimate and very quickly it made it out of that cocoon, at first to the radio and later to memorial services, where people dedicated it to their loved ones. We didn’t expect that to happen, but I’m so happy that it did, the song gave bereaved families a chance to identify with their loss and Tom’s story made it to many homes”.

In the IDF, Amit served as a singer in the Air Force Band. “This year I’ll be singing the song in the memorial ceremony on Mount Hertzl in Jerusalem. I love the song very much even though it’s difficult for me to perform it”.

The father, Doron, a former combat pilot in the IAF and today an “El-Al” pilot: “Every time we hear Amit singing the song, we break down. It’s an emotional song on its own even for people who are not familiar with Tom’s story, the lyrics that speak of skies and stars come together with the melody”.

The photo albums that accumulate from year to year join albums that the family releases with songs that Tom loved. Every year, his birthday is marked in place of the anniversary of his death, and singing events are conducted instead of official ceremonies.

“I feel like Tom led the way in which we chose to do things differently”, tells Anat, “We want to continue his journey and that’s why we created an orchard in his name in the Carmel area. Tom loved nature and believed in preserving the State of Israel, the land from which we drink and eat. The orchard serves as an Ecology education center. School groups go there, families, and even Tom’s squadron visited there this month. Death is a fraction of a second, and on the other hand the life that he had was a lot more meaningful. As time goes on, it gets harder to hold on to what was, but we believe that he and his music could never disappear”.