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Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Israeli soldiers hug each other after returning from the Gaza Strip
at the Netzarim junction, Israel May 12, 2004. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

from Arutz Sheva:

Sgt. Yaakov Marvitza, 25, from Kibbutz HaMapil
Yaakov immigrated from Yugoslavia 2½ years ago after studying physical education in university. He dreamed of serving in the IDF and becoming an officer. He was undeterred by the fact he arrived alone, without his parents, and realized he would be a “lone soldier” in the IDF with all the difficulties that accompanied that reality.

He studied in an ulpan to learn Hebrew. Lt.-Col. Tzvika Levy, who deals with the day-to-day problems of “lone soldiers” explained that Yaakov wanted to serve in an elite fighting unit and he was highly motivated.

“Monday night after hearing of injuries in Gaza fighting we spoke and he assured me he was uninjured and urged me to stop worrying,” explained Ma’ayan Hod, his girlfriend.
Sgt. Kobi Mizrahi, 20, from Moshav Mata
A close friend, Assaf explained that after being accepted into Givati, Kobi was flying high, extremely please and proud. “He was not afraid and wanted to serve in a combat unit” added Assaf. “When Kobi attended the memorial service for his father, who died when he was seven, he was concerned about his fellow soldiers who were still in Gaza while he was out on a leave,” Assaf added.

He is survived by his mother and step-father and five brothers.

When he would come home for Shabbat (Sabbath) I would ask, “Why do you have to serve in Gaza? It’s dangerous there”, stated Moshe, a relative.

Family members explained their anger, wondering why a no high-ranking officer has contacted them, to keep them in the loop regarding the body parts and funeral arrangements.
Sgt. Eitan Newman, 21, from Jerusalem
Eitan was born and raised in Jerusalem and attended the Himmelfarb High School. From there he joined his life-long friend Aviad in the Hemdat IDF Preparatory Yeshiva.

His teachers stated he was very satisfied and found his place in the military, and was planning to sign on to continue following the completion of his mandatory service.

Three days before the attack, he saw his family for a last time, taking part in the engagement party for his older brother Gidon.

Eitan is survived by his parents and two brothers, Tzvi and Gidon. Michael came to Israel from England and works in Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital, a research scientist. His mother works as a secretary in a private firm in the capital.

“We are in a state of uncertainty and that is the worst of all. We are waiting to hear what will be,” state Michael Newman, Eitan’s father.

Referring to the talk of a disengagement plan from Gaza, Michael added “The Palestinians will continue attacking us wherever we are. Disengagement makes no difference”.

When the news broke and the family was informed of the death, friends did not speak of the news that terrorists stole body parts. They wanted to spare the parents and family members the additional pain. Towards evening, an official IDF representative arrived and furnished additional details.
Sgt. Aviad Deri, 21, from Maale Adumim
Aviad was born and raised in the Maalot Daphne neighborhood of the capital and only relatively recently, the family moved to their new home in Maale Adumim. He was a student in the Noam Yeshiva High School in Jerusalem. From there, he went to the Hemdat IDF Preparatory Yeshiva in the Jordan Valley, where he spent two years before enlisting into the Givati Brigade.

Friends described Aviad as a solid personality, both physically and spiritually… a person who knew what he wanted out of life. He believed in what he was doing and proud to be serving in Gaza.

Aviad is survived by parents Haim and Tamar and three siblings, Liat (17 - sister), Chen (14 - sister) and Ashhal (7 – brother).

“Aviad was never afraid. We were concerned parents, always worrying, like all parents do,” exclaimed Haim Deri yesterday in a choked voice, describing his son in the past tense.

Only a few days ago, Aviad miraculously escaped death when a vehicle he was in was involved in an accident. The vehicle was totaled but Aviad walked out, uninjured. “Everything is okay abba (dad), don’t worry,” he explained. Family members explain three days ago, he celebrated his 21st birthday.

Haim added, “We always believed we belong there (Gaza) as well as in all areas of the Land of Israel. I once asked Aviad and he replied, ‘if we don’t go there, there will be no one else. There are a lot of conscientious objectors and there are others who are disloyal, and we are responsible to protect the Jews living there. We cannot uproot any yishuv or any outpost’”.

In a broken voice Haim concluded, “How can we continue without him? I love him so much. I want to see my angel!”
Sgt. Edron Amar, 20, from Eilat
Edron was the oldest child in the family. He graduated the Elon High School with honors and applied for the elite Sayeret Matkal unit and then entered the reconnaissance/engineering unit of the Givati Brigade. He stood out as a leader his friends attest, always having friends around who looked up to him for guidance.

Edron is survived by his parents, a sister (17) and twin brothers (13). In compliance with a family request, he will be interred in the Mount Herzl Military Cemetery in Jerusalem.

“Let’s get out of that cursed place already. What do we have to do in Gaza?” exclaimed Emily, Edron’s mother

“At home, we are politically divided with his dad being right-wing and Edron and I being left-wing,” explained Emily. On Monday night, Emily spoke to Edron for the last time. “He was always reassuring me that he would be okay. He did not understand why we are remaining in Gaza” added Emily, but she explained that did not interfere with his performance as a soldier, always carrying out assignments and missions to the utmost of his capabilities.

During the early morning hours on Tuesday, the IDF officer who came to the family home to deliver the bitter news did not get a response. Danny, Edron’s father was asleep. A second officer and bereavement team was also on the way to the Begin School where Emily works as a teacher. When she entered the teacher’s room and saw the military team, having heard of the fighting in Gaza on the radio, she immediately understood, Edron was gone.

Hundreds of friends gathered around the family home, expressing their profound sorry for the loss, silently mourning with the bereaved family.
Sgt. Ofir Gerbi, 21, from Moshav Ben-Zachai
Ofir was the fourth of five boys, the son of Tzipi and Itzik. He followed in the footsteps of his older brother Shlomi, who also served in the Givati Brigade reconnaissance/engineering unit. He served as a team commander, and was the leader in the armored personnel carrier that was hit with the powerful roadside bomb.

Yesterday, he phoned home to inform his parents that he was taking part in a training exercise on the beach of Ashkelon. Later in the day, his parents received the bitter news.

Tzipi explained that during the morning hours, she felt something was wrong. “As I escorted Ofir’s younger brother to school, I felt something wrong in my heart” she explained. “I changed the sheets in his room, and when I opened a cupboard, I saw his picture staring at me. I tried to wipe the bad thoughts out of my head but I couldn’t. I went next door to a neighbor for a cup of coffee at 07:30. I returned home quickly to tell my husband of my bad premonition. He told me to get rid of such thoughts. When I heard the news of the fighting and the roadside bomb on the radio, I knew Ofir was gone.”

After hearing of the news on the radio, not knowing if anyone was injured or killed, she lit a memorial candle. Later in the day, IDF officers arrived with the official notification.

It was decided at a Security Cabinet meeting last night that there will be absolutely no negotiations with the terrorists regarding the return of the body parts. There is much discussion in the Israeli press of the ethical question of risking further lives to retrieve the body fragments of the already dead. According to Arutz Sheva,
Rabbi Yuval Cherlow of the Tzohar Rabbis Organization said that in general, "Those who are living take precedence over those who have died. But in this very complex case, we have a third component, and that is that part of our concern for the living is that the soldiers must know that they will be taken care of even in death... I would use the following formula: Efforts should continue to collect the body parts, even if it means a certain risk to soldiers - but not if the risk becomes a concrete and certain danger."
AJerusalem Post poll doesn't allow for such complexity, It asks, "Should soldiers be risked to retrieve comrades' body parts?" Yes or No?