In Their Brothers’ Footsteps

Golani soldiers are among the bravest of Israel’s front-line troops. They belong to a storied IDF infantry brigade that has formed the front line of Israel’s defense since the country’s independence. But three Golani soldiers in particular, two of them women, are an incredible example of the resilience of the Jewish people and of the miracle of the State of Israel.

Each of these soldiers had lost a brother to terror as they served in the Golani brigade.

And each one has specifically chosen to serve in the same unit as their brother, in order to follow in their brother’s footsteps. This is all the more awesome in view of the fact that, as bereaved siblings, none were required to serve in the army at all.

These three soldiers shared their thoughts with us for Israel’s Remembrance and Independence Days.

Shalom.

My name is Tamar Uziel. I am 22 years old.

I was born and raised in Givat Ze’ev – a community north of Jerusalem, in Israel. My parents are Yossi and Leah, and together with my twin sister Kineret, I am the youngest sibling to my older sister Merav and my brothers Gabi and Gilad.

I remember my childhood as a happy time. We were a large and noisy family that loved to laugh and have fun. We were a family. Gabi was my oldest brother – a wonderful brother.

Eight and a half years ago, on September 4, 2003, when Kineret and I were 14 years old, my big brother St. Sgt. Gavriel Uziel was killed in a battle in Jenin. He was a combat soldier in the Golani Brigade, a friend to all, and a big brother who loved us and hugged us and never stopped pampering us all the time. In his death, he taught us what heroism is, what it means to defend the Land of Israel at any price. Gabi was awarded a citation for bravery for the battle in which he was killed. He was 20 years old when he died.

There is a deep sense of pride for who Gabi was and what he left us that beats constantly in my heart. But at the same time, the longing and the pain over the fact that he is no longer with us and over who he will never be does not heal.

And life – mine and ours – is not the way it used to be.

Everything that was normal and usual in our lives has changed.

There was life before, and there is life after, but they are not the same life.

Life has turned upside down, started all over, and is different.

Throughout all these years, the years of life afterwards, I learned more and more about who Gabi was, and I got to know again and again what he left us.

Throughout all these years, I have hoped that I would reach where Gabi was in his military service. Five years after he was killed, I got there – to Gabi’s place in Golani. I got to serve where my brother served, to wear the uniform that he so loved, to hear the same music, to smell the same scents and have the same experiences that are so much a part of the Golani soldier that Gabi was, the same places where he was, the same people that were with him, and to feel the place from which he never returned. It was an experience that is hard to describe in words. It is strange to say, but in my own sense, it’s the closest I can get to Gabi.

During these years, without Gabi, different groups of people have been with us – people who knew Gabi and those who only got to know about him after he was killed. Friends of his, and of ours, teachers, buddies from the army, acquaintances, and many other good people who loved Gabi and us.

Among all these amazing people, OneFamily stands out. OneFamily is not just the people working there or the counselors. It’s a whole group. There is something very special in a group where words are simply not necessary for one to understand the pain of another. Everyone hurts and everyone is dealing with loss. This togetherness – and the people who work there, give me tremendous strength, allowing me to get up, to continue, and to smile despite it all.

 

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Shalom:

My name is Elroi Ozeri. I am 22 years old. I spent most of my life growing up in the community of Efrat, which is in Gush Etzion. A few years ago, my family and I moved to Jerusalem. I joined the IDF two years and ten months ago, and today, I am a Company Sergeant Major for combat soldiers in the 51st Battalion in Golani. I will be getting my discharge in two months.

Seven years ago, my oldest brother St. Sgt. Barak Ozeri was killed. He served in Golani as well, as a Platoon Sergeant. He believed that in Golani he would be able to perform the most meaningful service. Not just because he would be protecting his country, but also because there are all kinds of people there from the entire social spectrum. There are new immigrants, there are secular soldiers, religious soldiers, and many other types of people. That is the only way to connect to the Jewish nation.

Barak was killed in Gush Katif, which is in the Gaza Strip, a month before he was supposed to finish his military service. My brother’s death has greatly influenced my life. I decided to follow in his footsteps and join the same brigade in which he served.

It’s a little difficult for me to explain, but the strength that Barak gives me in my military service and in my life is enormous. I think that before almost every decision I may, I always think about how Barak would have done it or what he would have advised me to do.

When I joined the army and was at the beginning of my training, it was very hard for me physically, and I remember that I would always look up and think about Barak, and simply draw tremendous strength, and suddenly, the difficulty would seem small.

I want to say a tremendous thank you to OneFamily for the fact that they help so many people cope – each one with their own difficulties. Coping with bereavement is so much easier when you know that you are with people who understand you and who have gone through similar things to what you are going through. That’s what OneFamily does.

So again – thank you.

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My name is Yardena Robinson and I am a soldier in the Golani Unit of the Israel Defense Forces.

Thirty two years ago my parents made aliya. They chose to live in Israel and to settle on Kibbutz Tirat Tzvi in the Beit Shean valley. My 4 brothers and I were born and raised on the kibbutz.

I would like to tell you a little about my oldest brother, St. Sgt. Matanya Robinson z”l.

Matanya was born on kibbutz and spent his childhood with the same group of children from the day he was born. He learned first through twelfth grades in the religious high school on Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu, a few minutes drive from our house. In high school he chose the communications track because he enjoyed photographing filming and interviewing people. He loved sports and played volleyball on the youth team of Hapoel Bika’at Beit Shean.

After high school Matanya chose to join the pre-army military academy program at Beit Yisrael which is located in Gilo in Yerushalayim. Matanya chose to join this program because he strongly believed in its policy of strengthening the relationship between religious and non-religious through dialog and cooperation.

At the end of the year Matanya joined “Project Golani” in the IDF.

The object of this project is to induct good, quality soldiers into the battalions to serve together with all classes of the population and to become commanders “from the field”. The idea is also that these “quality” soldiers would help and encourage the weaker soldiers. Matanya debated a long time if this program was what he wanted because amongst his friends, especially the kibbutzniks, everyone wanted to serve in the elite units and not in the battalions. After much thought Matanya decided to join the project with the goal of becoming an officer in Golani. Matanya completed a course for NCO’s, served as a commander, and later as a sergeant in Batallion 51.

In March 2002 there were frequent terrorist attacks in Israel. After the suicide bombing in the Park Hotel on Seder night in which 22 people were killed and one hundred and forty injured the IDF decided to launch Operation Defensive Shield with the intent of stopping the terror from Gaza, Ramallah, and the West Bank. Matanya was home with the family for the seder. Early in the morning after the seder the phone in our house rang and Matanya was called back to the army. At first we did not know why they called Matanya back so urgently but with time we understood.

I remember that all the days during Operation Defensive Shield my mother was very worried and didn’t sleep nights. Matanya asked us to save all the newspaper articles about the operation because his friends were the injured and killed soldiers that were in these articles. At that point we understood that many of Matanya’s friends from his platoon were being killed and we worried even more.

On April 8th, 2002 Matanya’s platoon entered an ambush that the terrorists planned in Jenin. When the commander realized it was an ambush he ordered the soldiers to retreat. One of the soldiers had a jam in his rifle and Matanya ran to switch him to give cover to the retreating soldiers. Matanya was hit by terrorist sniper fire from behind and killed. The medic that ran to help, Shmuel Weiss z”l, was also hit by sniper fire and killed. The following day there was a similar ambush in Jenin and thirteen soldiers were killed. Operation Defensive Shield was effective in cutting down the terrorist attacks in Israel.

Two years ago I chose to serve in Golani, the same unit as my brother and was assigned to Battalion 51, the same as Matanya. Today I am serving under the same commander as Matanya.

OneFamily was founded as an answer to the terrorist attacks in Israel. They recognized a need to help the families who were suffering. For me OneFamily gives an opportunity to meet kids who are going through similar things as me and it is a tremendous help and source of support for me.

Matanya fell as a hero, fighting for a peaceful life for the Jewish people in Eretz Yisrael and I am very proud of him.

Shalom.

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