Israel’s prime minister, defense minister, president and the IDF chief of staff were among the hundreds of mourners who gathered on Sunday to pay their last respects to the father of one of the IDF soldiers whose remains are still in the hands of Hamas, the Hebrew news site NRG reported.
Herzl Shaul died on Friday after a long battle with cancer, but eulogies at his funeral at the Poriya Cemetery focused on an equally painful fight in which he had been engaged since his son, Oron, was abducted and killed by the terrorists who run the Gaza Strip during Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014.
Another one of Shaul’s sons, Aviram, spoke about the tough – “mainly sad” — period the family has had to contend with since receiving the news about Oron’s death.
“I remember the moment that we were told that Oron was on the armored personnel carrier when his comrades were ambushed and killed by terrorists,” Aviram said. “I entered the house, which was already filled with people. I went downstairs quickly, so nobody would notice me, and you hugged me and, choking up with tears, you said, ‘How did they take our Oron? What will we do now?’ And I answered, ‘Don’t worry; it’ll be all right.’ What I didn’t realize at the time was how much more complicated the situation would grow with each passing day.’”
Aviram continued: “A few days later, we were told that Oron had not been among the soldiers killed in the ambush, and that the army was still searching for him. Then, after additional days of hope and uncertainty, they came to us and said they’d found his helmet and flak jacket in a tunnel, and ‘on the basis of our findings, he was killed and you should sit shiva for him.’”
Aviram — who was referring to the Jewish seven-day ritual mourning period for the dead that normally follows a funeral — then reprimanded the dignitaries present. “Mr. President, Mr. Prime Minister; Mr Defense Minister,” he began, going on:
My father died in pain, sorrow and remorse. He regretted that he was forced to sit shiva for his son, who was captured during Operation Protective Edge. Every day that passed, my father’s regret over sitting shiva for Oron became greater and greater. If it had been possible to turn back the wheels of time, he would not have sat shiva for his son, and we wouldn’t be burying him this evening.
Would any of you agree to sit shiva for your son based on the single piece of evidence of a bullet hole and blood stain in his helmet, and being told that, in the absence of proper medical treatment, it is doubtful he is alive? Those were the findings; nothing beyond that. You persuaded my father to sit shiva on that basis.
Addressing the man he was burying, Aviram said, “Dad, I promise you that we will leave no stone unturned; we will use all means at our disposal to understand why it was so urgent for different sources to push you to sit shiva for your son and my beloved brother, who was sent to war in Gaza and was abducted. There is no doubt that this broke you, and today you are no longer with us because of it. Everybody else can say that it was the disease that beat you, but I know that it was the issue of Oron that did it.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s eulogy included an embrace and a vow.
“You are not alone,” he said. “The whole nation is crying and hugging you with love. I came here to be at your side at this painful moment of immeasurable sorrow.”
However, he said, he also came to “look you in the eye and tell you that my commitment — and that of the government, the IDF and the state of Israel — is to return Oron and Hadar Goldin, and all our boys, home…This mission is my top priority, and I will not falter. We have met many times over the past two years, and I know what you have been going through…added to this deep and awful hole in your lives was the heart-wrenching yearning to bring Oron back to Israeli soil” for burial.
On July 20, 2014, Hamas fired an anti-tank missile at an IDF APC carrying seven soldiers, including Oron Shaul. Hamas immediately announced the capture of Shaul, claiming to have his dog tags. The IDF subsequently confirmed that Shaul’s body was not identified among the dead found inside the APC. Hamas TV broadcast news of the ostensible abduction, mocking the Shaul family’s grief. on July 25, the IDF informed the family that their son was determined to be dead.
From that time on, the Shaul family, along with the parents of Hadar Goldin, another IDF soldier killed by Hamas and whose remains have not yet been retrieved, waged a campaign to persuade the Israeli government and the international community to pressure the terrorists in Gaza into returning the boys’ bodies home for proper burial. Their most recent attempt, as The Algemeiner reported, involved the rapprochement deal between Jerusalem and Ankara. Because Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a supporter of Hamas, the Goldins hoped that Netanyahu would insist on the return of the boys as a precondition for signing the agreement. However, the agreement was drafted and signed, with no mention of Shaul and Goldin.
Watch Herzl Shaul’s levayah below:
(c) 2016, The Algemeiner Journal