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Ramat Hasharon and today

Ramat Hasharon and today has four grandchildren. “The grandkids and my own kids are what give me the strength to go on,” she said, noting that every Memorial Day the family comes together and talks of Shlomo’s heroic work. The grandchildren are proud of their grandfather. “It is important they have that memory,” she said. Keren participates in IDFWO retreats and recently enrolled in an English class through the organisation, which has “really lifted me up.” She is especially close with a group of widows whose husbands were also members of the Air Force. She said it still hurts every time she talks about her loss – even this many years later. “When I think about the fact that there are more wars and more murders, every time I hear about another soldier killed, it all comes back,” Keren said, her voice cracking with the pain. “The suffering does not end. It is our daily lives. “Every fallen soldier is a person. Every soldier is a whole family, and that family suffers forever.” Waiting for his return Tal Biton, 49, feels much like Dahan. “We are all affected by this – even to this day,” said Biton, whose father Sergeant-Major Yosef Biton fell during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Yosef Biton’s tank was hit by a shell during a battle against the Syrians in the Golan Heights. Biton’s father was a reservist. Every year, Yosef Biton would serve in the army for a few days. During those times, Biton, his older brother and younger sister would wait downstairs, on the pathway under their Haifa apartment, for their father to return home. “When we would see him coming up the path, we would get so happy and run to him and hug him,” Biton said. “When I think about the fact that there are more wars and more murders, every time I hear about another soldier killed, it all comes back,” Vida Keren In 1973, when his father left for the war, something was different. One day, the children went downstairs to wait for their father. They waited and waited… and waited. Biton said it was hours and most children would get bored and give up, but for some reason the siblings didn’t. They just sat there, on that familiar path, waiting for their father to return home. Toward nightfall, they saw a small group of soldiers pull up. They were sure their father would be with the group. Instead, the soldiers passed the children by. Soon, the children were called upstairs. Their mother was screaming and shouting. The next thing Biton remembers is that the extended family arrived. Finally, he understood that his father was dead. When the days of mourning passed, his mother did her best to hold the family together. She enrolled Biton in the private school that she and her late husband had planned for their son. But Biton only stayed there one year, as it was too expensive for his single mother. He became a latch-key kid, home alone with his siblings most days, while his mother worked from 7 a.m. until late at night, with only a couple of hours’ break in the middle. “I have few memories of my own,” said Biton. “Most of the memories of my father come from his army friends who visited and told us about him.” Yosef Biton laboured in Haifa Port and was remembered as a hard worker who sent part of his salary to his immigrant parents, yet never complained. Today, Biton participates in IDFWO annual retreats and other gatherings, where he connects with others like himself. “It is nice to know there is someone who cares,” he said. Now a father of three daughters and living in Kiryat Bialik, he said he is still af- Tal Biton enjoying the company of his daughters in France (left) and an image of his late father, Sergeant-Major Yosef Biton (right). 8 IDFWO MARCH 2018

The late Sergeant-Major Nimrod Segev holding his son, Omer. fected by the loss of his father. “A long time has passed, but each year, I still miss my father,” said Biton. Love from the movies “They always say of dead people that ‘They were the best in the world,’ but Nimrod really was the best,” said Iris Segev, 48. Segev lost her husband, Sergeant-Major Nimrod Segev, on August 6, 2006, during the Second Lebanon War. Nimrod was a computer engineer in a senior position at Microsoft. Two years after her painful divorce, Segev met Nimrod at a birthday party for her daughter’s friend, who was then four. He was the brother of the party’s magician, and throughout the whole event, Iris and Nimrod couldn’t keep their eyes off one another. Nimrod asked her to call, but because she had suffered in her previous marriage, Segev chose not to reach out. Nimrod, eight years Segev’s junior, was persistent, until ultimately they connected. “From that first phone call, we knew we were destined for each other,” Segev said. “Our love was like the love you see in the movies. Until the last day, every time I saw him, I would get butterflies in my stomach.” On the ninth of the Hebrew month of Av, a day that commemorates a list of catastrophes so severe it has been set aside as a Jewish fast day, Nimrod was called up for reserve duty. In her gut, Segev felt something didn’t feel right about his imminent departure. She begged him not to go and told him that she would rather he be in jail for evading service than dead. “I could see his tomb,” said Segev. But her husband insisted it was his duty, like every other civilian, to fight for Israel. The next morning he left, telling her, “Darling, it will be OK.” “Our love was like the love you see in the movies. Until the last day, every time I saw him, I would get butterflies in my stomach,” Iris Segev A few days into his service, he came back, because he was suffering from dehydration. When Nimrod walked in the door, Segev started dancing and the family ate dinner together. The next morning, after they dropped off their son, Omer, at preschool they went to breakfast together. After breakfast, Nimrod would return to the army. As such, the euphoria of the night before was gone. Normally, the couple couldn’t stop talking with one another, but this morning they ate in silence, parting with hugs and kisses. Segev felt a grey cloud around her, as if something bad was about to happen. “I texted him, ‘I love you,’ and he texted me back, ‘I love you more,’” Segev recalled. The next day, on the 15th of the Hebrew month of Av, Jewish Valentine’s Day, Segev said she felt a pain in her chest so intense that she knew she had lost her soul mate. She ran downstairs into the street below her apartment screaming, “My husband is in Lebanon and I know something bad has happened,” but there was nothing on the news. Hours later, there was a knock on the door. The casualty notification officer had come to deliver the news that Nimrod’s tank was hit by a roadside bomb and immediately hit by an anti-tank missile. Nimrod and all the other crew members of the tank were killed. “If I hadn’t had a two-and-a-half-yearold boy and a daughter I would not have wanted to live,” said Segev. “You don’t see a light at times like this. You are sure it is the end of the world.” Eleven years later, Segev still keeps pictures of her late husband all over the house. She reads his poems to her son and tries to tell him of the father who never got to raise him. IDFWO helped organise Omer’s bar mitzvah and provided him with a bar mitzvah trip abroad. Omer has attended the organisation’s summer camp, and Segev participates in IDFWO Advanced Skills Courses learning Bibliotherapy. Segev said that although it is impossible to fill the void of a lost spouse, the support she receives from IDFWO is very helpful. “He didn’t just give his life for this country, and he is not just a number,” said Segev. “Nimrod was the best person. He was attractive inside and out. If a child abroad is going to learn about one of Israel’s fallen soldiers, he should learn about Nimrod and understand how much we have sacrificed for this Jewish country.” All photos provided by article interviewees in coordination with the IDFWO. IDFWO MARCH 2018 9