The Human Spirit: To A Relative Abroad
April 20, 2010
Barbara Sofer , THE
You’re tired of defending Israel? What about the Peretz family
or the Ezra family?
‘I’m sick and tired of defending Israel,’ wrote an American
relative, annoyed by a wave of criticism over its plans to expand a Jewish
neighborhood in Jerusalem. He’s run out of patience with us Israelis who
think we’re smarter than everyone else about our country.
I couldn’t find a civil answer. All I could think was: You’re tired of
defending Israel? What about the Peretzes?
Said mother Miriam Peretz, a school principal, in a press interview: “In
Morocco where I was born, I went around with my head bowed and I had no
freedom. Here in Israel I see my boys in uniform and I’m proud to be Jewish.”
And then, 12 years ago, she heard a gentle knock on their door, the sound
feared by every Israeli parent.
“Such a quiet knock and in one moment, your entire world is destroyed,”
Uriel, their first born, was dead, killed by timed explosives in south
Lebanon. Five years ago, father Eliezer Peretz died of cancer. And then
last month, the angel of death came knocking again. Their son, Maj. Eliraz
Peretz, was killed in a firefight with terrorists placing explosives on
the Gaza border.
And there’s more.
WHEN URIEL was killed, his short M-16 was passed to another officer in
his unit, until it became the property of a soldier named Gadi Ezra from
Ezra was the youngest child of Roseline and Soli Ezra, immigrants from
Algeria and Egypt whose families had lived in those countries since the
Gadi was home on leave when, on the eve of Pessah 2002, a terrorist entered
the Park Hotel in Netanya, exploded and killed 30 men and women, mostly
In the early morning hours Ezra’s phone rang, summoning him back to the
army. He fought in Operation Defensive Shield, transferred to Jenin. There
he was assigned a new commander: Eliraz Peretz, Uriel’s younger brother.
The narrow alleys of Jenin where the terrorists were holed up were rigged
with explosives, but the IDF decided against air attacks and artillery
to minimize civilian casualties. Peretz and Ezra fought together in booby-trapped
houses, seeking out terrorists.
Until they were caught in an ambush. Ezra stooped to help a wounded soldier,
and took a bullet in his neck.. He couldn’t feel his limbs. “You have
to save me,” Ezra called to Peretz, then “Shema Yisrael...” He
died in Peretz’s arms.
Peretz was also wounded. When he returned to his fighting unit, he took
a new weapon. A short M-16. Only later did he learn, from the strap, that
it was Gadi’s, and before that it had belonged to his own brother, Uriel.
SO MANY, so many beloved soldiers have paid with their lives, year after
year, decade after decade for our existence as a state, but Gadi Ezra’s
name may be familiar to readers. A letter he wrote to his fiancée
Galit Meislik before going to battle has often been reprinted and read
Here’s a shortened, translated version.
“My Dear Galiti, If this letter reaches you, it means that something has
happened to me. This morning, we were informed that the mission planned
yesterday, with the Almighty’s help, will take place today. My beloved,
on one hand I feel that there is nothing more that I want in this world
than to be with you – to love you and establish a home and a family with
you. But on the other hand, there isn’t anything I want more than to be
a part of this military operation and strike those terrorists a blow so
strong that they will never again even consider carrying out a terrorist
“Don’t be angry with me, my love, but at moments like this, your feeling
for klal Yisrael (the people of Israel) is the feeling that is
supposed to guide you – and you relate to this evil as if your private
life does not exist.
“To do this, there is a price that we must pay. I am willing to be that
price. Soldiers of King David’s army would free their wives from marriage
before going into battle. My beautiful one, I love you so much and the
only grief of mine is that you will have sorrow and I won’t be the one
who will be privileged to make you happy.
“You deserve all the happiness in the world. I will always watch over
you from wherever I am and I will see to it that you will meet someone
who will make you even happier than I could have made you. Only promise
me that you will continue onward and will not allow Sodom to be the victor.
I will love you forever, Gadi.”
BY THE time Eliraz Peretz could leave the battlefield to make a condolence
call to the Ezra family, the shiva was over. He drove to Bat Yam with
his fiancée Shlomit Gilboa. Shlomit spent much of the condolence
call with Galit, who was mourning even though she and Gadi hadn’t yet
wed. Shlomit asked Galit to take part in her bridal Shabbat before her
wedding. Galit tried to beg off – she wasn’t in the mood for parties and
certainly not bridal parties, but Shlomit was relentless.
Six weeks later, on the bridal Shabbat, Galit met the Gilboa family except
for Shlomit’s brother, Eliezer, who wasn’t home. “Several times on that
Shabbat, family members and friends said that I would be ‘perfect for
Eliezer,’” Galit told me. “It was awkward, to say the least.”
Galit said Eliraz Peretz, the new groom, “called us and pressured us and
simply wouldn’t take no for an answer.”
Three months after they met, Galit married Eliezer Gilboa. They have four
sons. Galit recalled, “At the engagement party, Eliraz took me aside.
He said he’d finally understood Gadi’s dying demand for him to help him
meant that he had to introduce me to Eliezer.”
The Peretzes and the Gilboas were now family, and the Ezras close to family.
Then, last month, Eliraz Peretz joined the too long list of soldiers who
had given their lives to protect his civilians.
Yossi Ezra, Gadi’s older brother, has the M-16 now. A biology teacher,
he’s also in charge of security in his village. His mother is unhappy
about him using it, he told me.
“Our families have become very close,” says Gadi Ezra’s sister, Vivian
Elbaum. “We attend each other’s joyous occasions and the sad ones. Happiness
and mourning are mixed up together for us, the bereaved families of Israel.
We remind each other that we have to go on, because life is stronger than
May all the memories of the fallen be for a blessing. May we be privileged
to defend the State of Israel with words, and not to be put to the ultimate