A View From the Citizen Trenches

by Harvey Tannenbaum

Shavua Tov to the world.

I looked back at my clock which flashed back to 2002. We drove to Kiryat Arba for the PTA meeting at the Ulpana where our oldest daughter was a high school student. The drive from Efrat was always an extra careful one due to the risks of a terrorist in his car waiting for the Jews on highway 60 during those years.
We made our rounds with the teachers to hear the reports of how our daughter was doing in the school year.

We sat with Michal Sar El, one of her teachers, who smiled and had such warmth and excitement to share the ‘status’ of our daughter’s learning in the Ulpana of Kiryat Arba. Michal was Orit’s ‘Israeli literature’ teacher.

On Friday afternoon, we received the news that Benaya Sar El, 26, an officer of Givati brigade was killed during the Kerry/Obama/Dim Son Moon UN/ Bibi cease fire on Friday morning in Gaza.
The name rang a bell in our heads, and it was not until our oldest daughter called to confirm that Benaya was her teacher’s son from Kiryat Arba. Benaya was killed by the suicide bomber terrorist who came with other rats from the tunnel in Rafiach, Gaza of Hamas during the ‘cease’ fire yesterday. The terrorist’s suicide also killed another IDF Givati soldier, LIal Gidoni while another set of Hamas terrorists captured Hadar Goldin, an officer in the Givati. (As of this writing, we don’t know if he is alive or dead, g-d forbid).

We got an email before shabbat that Benaya z’l has a grandfather, D Kornfeld, 82, a Holocaust survivor(Michal’s father), a member of our shul in Efrat! I was not sure who is Mr. Kornfeld, until I got to shul for Mincha/Kabbalat Shabbat/Maariv, last night. In 1 minute, we realized which one of our elderly congregants in Efrat was Mr. Kornfeld. I was shaking and very emotional as I realized who he was to us.

I looked back at my clock to 2012-2013 while I was saying kaddish for my mother Pepi, Z”L. Each morning at minyan, when I was the ‘baal tefila’ to have the zchut of saying kaddish, I would get to the repetition of the ‘amidah’-shmoneh esreh. As a Kohen, I would wash my hands, prior to the commencement of my repetition of the shmoneh esreh, remove my shoes and begin the tefilot as the ‘baal tefila.’

Each day as I approached ‘Modin anachnu’ we kohanim would begin the daily blessings on the congregants, but I could not shout out each word of “Yevarecha, etc. ” Mr. Kornfeld, the survivor from Auschwitz was the gabbai who would come close to the Kohanim, and say each word for us to repeat. His voice was strong and would lead us to repeat after him. At the conclusion, I would lower my talis from my head, turn around, and resume the recitation of the final paragraphs of “Sim Shalom,” etc. Mr. Kornfeld would come up to me and shake my hands as he would do the same for the other Kohanim.

Mr. Kornfeld was so proud as he was chosen by the Knesset to accompany them a few months ago to Poland to have the Knesset meet near Auschwitz as a sign that the State of Israel would and could have a session via its Knesset in Aushwitz in 2014. He spoke and PM Netanyahu mentioned Mr. Kornfeld from his speech.

My heart raced and my clock returned to the shabbat morning today. Mr. Kornfeld was not in shul, as he was spending shabbat in Kiryat Arba with his daughter, son-in-law, and other grandchildren to be united in preparation for tonight’s funeral in Hebron of his grandson, Benaya z’l h’yd at midnight! The holocaust survivor, gabbai, and a leader for 65+years in Israel was burying his grandson, Benaya, in Hebron’s cemetery.

Benaya was supposed to get married on Rosh Chodesh Elul, less than 3 weeks away! Mr. Kornfeld was so proud of his children and grandchildren, that he could hardly wait to dance at his grandson’s wedding. The Holocaust survivor smiled as he spoke about the beautiful kallah engaged to Benaya to all.

We made havdala and as all of us are addicted to the news, turned on the TV. The Goldin family from Kfar Saba, whose son, Hadar, was captured yesterday by the Hamas after Hamas killed Benaya and Lial, his fellow soldiers, had a press conference outside their home in Kfar Saba.

Drs. Goldin(Parents), Hadar’s twin, elder sister, older brother, and kallah! stood there and started their words of “Shavua tov and thank you for letting us and our community observe shabbat.”
They each spoke and unbeknownst to us, Dr. Simcha Goldin(Hadar’s father), was is ‘samgad’ high ranking officer in the IDF, in addition to being a professor of Jewish medieval history,at Tel Aviv University.
Dr. Leah Hedva Goldin, Hadar’s mother, spoke, and said each of her kids are officers in special units of the IDF. They pleaded and cried for the government and IDF not to withdraw before their son was returned to Israel. Dr. Simcha Goldin told us that his superior in the IDF was Chief of Staff Benny Gantz!

The twin spoke who was taken out of Gaza yesterday and is part of the special search and rescue unit of the IDF 669 spoke to the nation and said he had a ‘twin’ feeling that Hadar was alive.

The nation broke down as we watched this kiddush hashem of a family, standing after havdala, together, each speaking their hearts out asking to return their child, son, chatan, to his home.

PM Netanyahu and DM Yaalon spoke at their press conference from the Kiriya, the ‘Pentagon’ of the IDF in Tel Aviv. As they spoke on the split screen we watched tank divisions going out of Gaza to Israel.

We could not understand as the Prime Minister told the nation that he is continuing, how on the national news, the government had ordered on shabbat, tank brigades and soldiers to return to Israel.?

The twin of Hadar spoke about how he and his twin spent weeks in their army units looking for Gilad, Naftali, and Eyal z’l the kidnapped boys from the Gush Etzion area.

Tonight, as we enter the ”shavua sh chal bo” as mourning grows onto the onset of Tisha Baa’v on Monday night, the nation is in mourning, bewilderment, and confusion.

Benaya told his kallah, Gali, that he had no time to get his clothing for the wedding and would buy it after Tisha Ba’av when he would get a day off from Gaza. Benaya is one of 8 children as the Sar Els are one of Kiryat Arba-Hebron’s oldest families.

The Goldins are indeed the stars of this “Goldena Medina.” Michal Sar El, the teacher, and her family from Kiryat Arba, have sacrificed their son, Benaya, the groom of Rosh Chodesh Elul, the hero of our IDF. Mr. Kornfeld, the Holocaust survivor, who would call our each word for the Kohanim in our shul when a Kohen was the baal tefila, now has to look at the earth at midnight in Hebron and cry that he is burying his grandchild near our patriarchs and matriarchs of Hebron.

Hashem Yikam Damam
Hamakom Yenachem

Harvey Tannenbaum is a long-time oleh residing in Efrat. He is frequently the first recourse for information for many on his extensive email list, including one of the editors of Cross-Currents

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10 Responses

  1. Joe Hill says:

    The IDF spokesperson has tweeted that Officer Hadar Goldin’s death was determined by an “IDF Committee”. This falls far short of any halachic requirements in determining death, despite the IDF’s internal rabbi certifying this result, and seems more likely to have been declared to cover the Israeli leaderships determination not to have to deal with another Shalit quagmire by rather pretending their soldier is deceased and they thus have no further responsibility in rescuing and retrieving him.

  2. Nachum says:

    Joe Hill: This is actually done according to clear halachic guidelines that have been laid down over the years, and is completely determinative factually as well. (Note that this is the same IDF that has not yet declared five other MIAs as deceased.) You may have your criticisms of the government (I certainly do), but this sort of conspiracy-mongering and sniping from “frumness” is uncalled.

  3. David says:


    And your source for this is?

    Next time you check with him, please ask him who’s going to win the Super Bowl in January 2015. I’d like to place a big bet.

  4. Robert Lebovits says:

    Some have reported that the death of 65 soldiers in Israel would parallel the loss of over 2500 soldiers in the US military. I disagree.
    If 2500 US soldiers had perished in a military action only a fraction of the populace in America would have had some personal connection to the dead. When R”L 65 korbonot are taken from our people, there is no one who is disconnected and distant from the pain and heartache. We all grieve for our lost ones.

  5. dr. bill says:

    Joe Hill – You do not know the details, the halakhic requirements that were followed, the role the IDF’s chief Rabbi, etc. etc. Even if you did, perhaps keeping your suspicions private, would be wiser.

  6. SA says:

    There were actually some carefully worded reports in the press here about remains found at the site of the suicide blast, DNA testing that determined who they belonged to and what body parts they were from, and the incongruence of those findings with remaining alive. So Dear Joe, let your imagination fill in the blanks and take your silly conspiracy theories elsewhere.

  7. Toby Katz says:

    Joe Hill,
    I don’t know how you can possibly have imagined that the IDF would declare a soldier dead if they did not have definitive proof. All the conspiracists come out of the woodwork on the internet.

  8. groinem says:

    None of these soldiers were married. It is not a sugya of agunos. The guidelines are much simpler.

  9. cvmay says:

    Joe….if there were any doubts of his death, our slimy, evil cousins HAMAS would be bending over backwards for some CASH/PRISONER/Good WILL prize.

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