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We Will Remember Them

 

By Peter Bailey 

Most memorial or remembrance services for fallen servicemen in Anglo countries end with the words “At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, we will remember them” with the audience then repeating “We will remember them”. These words are always recited with the solemnity and dignity that go with memorials to those that have fallen in battle.

Israel goes one step further at the annual memorial services to fallen soldiers, Yom Hazikaron, Memorial Day, when the name of each and every soldier that has fallen in the Defence of Israel is read out. While most military memorial services are for the collective, in Israel the importance of the sacrifice made by the individual, not only to the bereaved family, but to the entire nation, becomes very obvious. The entire nation mourns the passing of its heroic sons and daughters, who gave their lives for their country, Israel.

In keeping with this sacred tradition, Telfed has a Memorial Board bearing the names of all Southern Africans who have fallen in the Defence of Israel in its reception area, with the memory of each and every one treated with the same reverence. Another tradition uniques to Israel is the maintenance of Memorial Books at various localities bearing the names of the fallen together with some biographical details and photographs. These can be found at the different formation headquarters such as Brigade and Battalion headquarters as well as at the high schools attended  by the fallen soldiers.

Former South African Gidon Katz Z”L, who lost his brother Rami in the Yom Kippur War of 1973, found in his loss a motivation to collect and collate biographical details and photographs of all South Africans who have fallen in the Defence of Israel. After his passing, I became aware of this unique private library which Gidon had so lovingly compiled and decided to turn this into a communal library, housed at Telfed, accessible to  anybody who wished to peruse the biographies of our heroic Fallen soldiers. My son, Hayden Bailey, offered to custom make a suitable cabinet to my design, which would act as repository for a memorial library, with a file for each one of our fallen soldiers. I am also very proud that Hayden and his wife Heather saw fit to present the cabinet to Telfed in memory of Heather’s late father Sam Groen, who had been a stalwart of Sandton Shul, as well as in memory of my late parents and Haydens grandparents, Louis and Shatel Bailey, longtime residents of Brakpan.

The idea was further extended to create a Memorial Board and Memorial Files dedicated to the Southern Africans who have fallen as the Victims of Terror in Israel. This was duly done and it was decided that a special Memorial Ceremony be held to unveil both the Memorial Board to the Victims of Terror and the Memorial Cabinet, appropriately named the Gidon Katz Memorial Cabinet, in the presence of as many family members of the Fallen, both as soldiers and as Victims of Terror, who could attend the memorial event. A large part of arranging the event was the updating of the database to ensure that we are able to be in contact with all the bereaved families, which was a huge undertaking carried out by Philip Chasen, the third member of the Committee for the Fallen.

The Memorial and Unveiling evening duly took place on Thursday evening 14 March 2019, attended by some 40 family and friends of those who were being remembered. Telfed Chairman, Batya Shmukler, welcomed those present after which I invited any members of the bereaved families who wished to share some memories of their loved ones to please do so. The audience were able to share the heartbreak and emotion of the four people who came forward to speak about the loved ones that they had lost and how this was a defining point in their lives. The audience shared with them in their grief and their loss in such a way, that I believe it had a cathartic effect.

We shared with Pearl Novick the trauma of losing a son and with Rae Kopping the devastation of losing a younger brother, both of these to the ravages of war. Marlyn Butchins related the life changing effect of losing both her mother and her sister in the Dizengoff Centre Bombing, while we joined with Nachum Lemkus in sharing the horror of being told of the death of his daughter at the hands of terrorists. The raw emotion of the gathering was evident in their reaction to these heartfelt disclosures of the loss of loved ones by bereaved parents and siblings.

The gathering then all moved up to the Telfed reception area where Barry Kornel, Chairman of the Committee for the Fallen,  made a suitable and moving address, reading out  the name of each of the Victims of Terror. Paul Bernstein, son of Sylvia Bernstein Z”L and brother of Gail Belkins Z”L assisted by Larry Belkins, Gail’s husband,  then jointly unveiled the Memorial Board for the Victims of Terror. Sylvia Bernstein, Gail Belkins and Talia Gordon all fell as Victims of Terror in the Dizengoff Centre bombing on 4 March 1996. I might mention that Larry Belkins, now remarried and resident in the United States, made to sure to be in Israel for the Unveiling and Memorial evening.

We then all moved to the Gidon Katz Memorial Cabinet, where I addressed the gathering, before calling on Eitan and Gil Katz to unveil the Cabinet in memory of their father, Gidon. Telfed C.E.O. Dorron Kline recited the Memorial Prayer as well as Psalm 23, The Lord is my Shepherd. This was followed with the Kadish, led by Nachum Lemkus, whose daughter Dalia Lemkus Z”L, fell as a Victim of Terror on November 10, 2014. The gathering then sang Hatikvah to end the proceedings. I enjoyed a feeling of great personal satisfaction and achievement when I realised the importance the bereaved families placed in seeing the memorial files that I had prepared and being able to go through them, see photographs and read anecdotes about their loved ones. One of the most important aspects of the Memorial evening was the discovery that the name of one of our Fallen Soldiers does not appear on the Memorial Board, although I had prepared a Memorial File. This oversight, dating back to 1986, will be rectified in the very near future, and our heartfelt apologies to the family concerned.

Light refreshments were served and enjoyed in the Telfed Boardroom while old connections were re established and cemented with many new connections between former South Africans being made. My fervent wish is that we hold a special annual Memorial Service for our fallen Southern Africans, in addition to remembering them on Yom Hazikaron. 

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