JERUSALEM (Jul. 13)
With its conflict in the North escalating dramatically, Israel began to grieve for eight soldiers killed in surprise attacks by Hezbollah along the Lebanese border.
Sgt. Nimrod Cohen, 19, of Kibbutz Mitzpe Shalem near the Dead Sea, was one of three young soldiers laid to rest Thursday. The emotional ceremony at Mount Herzl National Cemetery drew more than 1,000 people from around the country, including colleagues from Cohen’s Nahal infantry unit, his Zionist youth movement and the tight-knit kibbutz, which has some 200 residents. The eldest of two sons born to Mitzpe Shalem founders, Cohen volunteered to help underprivileged children in his free time. In high school, he participated in the March of the Living in Poland.
Cohen, who had served in the army for less than a year, was remembered Thursday as a thoughtful, patient young man of few but wise words.
Neighbor Omer Cokhavi said she considered Cohen almost a brother.
“A couple of days ago, we sat all together on the grass, recounting experiences and laughing… You would sit quietly, saying the right sentence when needed. It was the kind of quiet that you always had, a nice quiet that penetrates the heart,” Cokhavi, 21, said in a tearful but steady voice during the military ceremony.
After the ceremony, Cokhavi and several friends from the kibbutz sat together and comforted each other.
“This is not real,” Cokhavi said, her eyes hidden by dark sunglasses. “I’ll wake up.”
Roi Dror, also of Mitzpe Shalem, said Cohen “often would talk with his eyes” rather than with words. Cohen weighed his words carefully before speaking and had a full, expressive smile that said a lot, Dror said.
Cpl. Ido Avrahamov, who served with Cohen in Nahal Battalion No. 50, was with Cohen when he was severely injured in the Hezbollah attack Wednesday. He described his friend as a quiet, smart man who won over the hearts of all he met.
“There wasn’t one person who didn’t love him,” said Avrahamov, 20.
Cohen is survived by his father, Arie, his mother, Este, and his brother Doron, 8.
Scores of uniformed soldiers, some with weapons, stood still during the funeral, tears streaming down their faces. Some embraced tightly while listening to the eulogies.
For several minutes after the ceremony, a penetrating silence hung in the air.
The other soldiers killed were:
Reserve Sgt. Eyal Benin, 22, from Rehovot.
An only son, Benin fought to win his parents’ approval to serve in a combat unit. He was killed on the last day of a two-week reserve tour. He was planning to study law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem this year.
Reserve Sgt. Shani Turgeman, 24, from Beit Shean.
Turgeman recently had returned from a trek across South America and was planning to study design in Tel Aviv. He is survived by his parents, a brother and a sister.
Reserve Maj. Wassim Nazal, 26, from Yanuch-Jatt.
Nazal came from a Druse family that saw distinguished service in the Israeli military. His father lost a leg to a land mine on a tour of duty, and an uncle was a career officer in the Border Police. Nazal is survived by a wife and child.
Sgt. Yaniv Bar-On, 20, from Maccabim.
Born to a South African father and Canadian mother, Bar-On was remembered by friends as a devoted Zionist. When he first joined the military he wanted to be a fighter pilot, but settled for the role of tank crewman.
Sgt. Alex Kushnirsky, 21, from Ness Ziona.
Kushnirsky moved to Israel from the former Soviet Union with his family in 1990. He recently got engaged, and sent his fiancÃ© an SMS message — “I love you” — minutes before he was killed. He is survived by his parents and younger sister.
Sgt. Shlomi Yirmiyahu, 20, from Rishon le-Zion.
Yirmiyahu enjoyed his military service, refusing to seek a medical waiver despite persistent back problems. He is survived by his parents and two younger brothers.
Sgt. Gadi Musayeb, 20, from Acre.
A champion basketball player in high school, Musayeb saw his service in the armored corps as part of a family tradition. His elder sister recently finished a tour of active duty in Gaza. His father works in the arms industry and his mother is a caregiver for the elderly.
There was no word on the fates of Eldad Regev, 26, of Kiryat Motzkin, or Ehud Goldwasser, 31, of Nahariya, who were injured and abducted by Hezbollah during the attack. On Thursday, Israeli officials said they feared that the two could be taken to Iran.
Both Regev and Goldwasser were on reserve duty. Goldwasser is a student at the Haifa Technion. His parents and brother were abroad when news came of his abduction.
In Kiryat Motzkin, dozens of friends and relatives have flocked to the Regev family home to hold prayers for his safe return. He lost his mother to cancer several years ago and lives with one of his siblings.