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Lest we forget

There was again an impressive turnout for the annual Yom Hazikaron ceremony in Johannesburg on Sunday, with an estimated 1 700 people crowding into the Yeshiva College Shul to join in remembering Israel’s fallen soldiers.
by DAVID SAKS | May 08, 2014

Caption: Shlomo Dinur and guest speaker Dr Daniel Weiler, light a candle in memory of the soldiers lost in Israel's war.

PHOTOGRAPH ILAN OSSENDRYVER
 
 All available seats were occupied and dozens sat on the floor or stood outside for the duration of the 90-minute ceremony. Special tribute was paid to the memory of 86 soldiers of South African origin who fell in Israel’s wars in the years 1938 - 2012.

Keynote speaker Dr Daniel Weiler, spoke about two of these, his brothers Adam and Gideon, and how his family had gone about dealing with their bereavement in the years following their deaths in action.

Major Adam Weiler was killed in 1970, during the War of Attrition with Egypt, and Major Gideon Weiler died in the bitter fighting on the Golan Heights during the early stages of the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

Both were born and grew up in South Africa before making aliyah with their parents, Rabbi Moses Cyrus and Una Weiler. A lifelong and ardent Zionist, Rabbi Weiler, who founded the Reform movement in South Africa in 1933, gained recognition throughout Israel for his work in comforting bereaved families following the death of his sons.

Una Weiler’s way of coping was to throw herself into activism on behalf of Israeli soldiers. Dr Weiler said he never saw her cry, even when viewing Adam’s body. 

Dr Weiler, the eldest of the Weiler’s six children, served in the Israeli navy, where he was second in command of a submarine and took part in the Six Day War. He said he would never forget answering a late night knock on his door in 1970 and seeing people in uniform standing there.

With both of his brothers stationed on the Egyptian front, he knew there could be only one reason for the call, and so simply asked: “Is it Adam or Gideon?”

When Gideon died three years later, his wife was in the last stages of pregnancy. Weiler concluded his address with the screening of their daughter, Gal, speaking at the military academy where both brothers had graduated and telling of how she had learned to make peace with the loss of a father she was never able to see.     

Messages were delivered by Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein, Israel’s Ambassador to South Africa Arthur Lenk, SAZF Chairman Avrom Krengel and Rabbi Laurence Perez. All focused in various ways on how the sacrifice made not just by the more than 230 000 soldiers who gave their lives, but by the loved ones they left behind had made possible the survival and stirring successes of the reborn Jewish State.

It was incumbent on Jews everywhere to remember and honour them, while at the same time always pursuing opportunities to achieve peace so that no further such tragic sacrifices would again be required.

In the course of the evening, representatives of the youth movements and SAUJS led poetry and prayer readings and participated in the lighting of memorial candles. Cantor Ezra Sher led the Pine Street Shul choir in renditions of the hazkara and other memorial songs.

Rabbi Avraham Tanzer recited yizkor and led the assembly in the recitation of Kaddish. The ceremony was presided over by Bnei Akiva National Chairman Neal Daskal. 

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