We had just experienced another tense and emotional period here in Israel.
Once again we commemorated Holocaust Memorial Day and remembered the fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism. And then the sorrow slowly turned into joy as we celebrated 70 years of independence.
Holocaust Memorial Day reminded us why the Jews need to return to their own homeland.
Remembrance Day reminds us of the price the Jews have paid and still pay for their homeland and during
Independence Day we celebrate the long journey and accomplishments of some truly amazing Israelis.
The names of 71 soldiers were added this year to the list of the 23,646 soldiers who died defending Israel. Twelve new names were added to the group of people who died in terror attacks, making their total number 3,134.
We read their names and watch their stories on television but there are too many, really just too many fallen soldiers to remember them as we should.
So in this blog post, I am going to tell you about only one soldier.
A soldier named Yaron Amitai
Yaron died on the 13th of August, 2016 during the second Lebanon war just a few hours before the ceasefire was called that ended the war. He was 45 year old when he died, the oldest soldier to fall in the second Lebanon war.
In Israel, after their three years of mandatory service, soldiers still have to report for reserve duty every year. These reserve duties usually stop when soldiers reach the age of 40, except when there is a war and your country needs you. Yaron was already exempt from reserve duties because of his age but he volunteered to be the combat medic with a group of paratroopers.
He and another soldier was inside a house that was used as a triage center for wounded troops. The house was accidentally shelled by an IDF tank in a friendly-fire incident. Both soldiers were killed.
Yaron left his wife Meirav and three children behind.
Why write about a person I have never met?
The reason why I chose to write about Yaron is because there is a wonderful memorial garden named after him just a few hundred metres away from where I live. Here in Israel there are many public parks, picnic spots, trails and memorial gardens created to commemorate fallen soldiers.
I live near the edge of Zichron Yaakov and in the evenings we often hear the jackals screech to each other in the wild area next to our neighbourhood. During the day, especially on weekends, people hike, jog, cycle and take their dogs for walks here. I often hike there or photograph the wildflowers in the area.
Sometimes a person just needs some nature time
Yaron’s garden, though a bit hidden, has become a focal point for this small strip of nature. I often see people celebrating birthdays there, or having a picnic, playing with the games or just stopping for a second to wash their faces and fill their water bottles.
I have never met Yarom Amatai or any of his family members but only ‘know’ him through the memorial garden built for thim. When I did the research for this post these words of his son struck a chord...
“...He was the funniest person ever, full of humor. We did a lot of trips – especially in the South – and if we went to a park he was always the first one to jump around on the playground equipment. He was like a child clowning around” - Gal Amitai
A secret garden full of games
Yaron’s garden is not just a hidden picnic area but it is filled with amazing playground equipment made from rocks and other natural materials. These ‘games’ are scattered throughout the garden and it is fun to discover them and try and figure about how to play with them. Though some instructions are carved out on a nearby rock.
|The garden is 'hidden' under trees that create a secret place to play in peace.|
|I have not yet figured out this game.|
|Instructions for the spiral game|
|The spiral game|
|The kicking game|
|The sliding rocks and stuff through the holes game|
|The garden is covered with wildflowers in the spring.|
|A game, instructions and even a seat.|
|Mankala, all the way from Africa, is very popular in Israel.|
A notice, also carved out in a rock, says that rocks, stones and sticks are found in abundance in nature and can easily be turned into games. People have always loved to play and have used natural materials to entertain themselves. Quite a large number of these games are known even though some of them have came from far away, for example mankala.
The games spread out in Gan Yaron are there to entertain and intrigue the visitors. Some of the games require strategic planning while with others the players need some luck and others again need two players. These games allow us to take some ‘time out’ from our stressful lives and to play and hang out with each other.
|Chess or checkers...or maybe something else...|
|Just use what nature gives freely|
I think that Yaron would have loved this garden.
I have found this YouTube video made about Yaron Amitai's life and death. It is quite sad to watch and could be a trigger for some. We see too many of these types of stories throughout Remembrance day here in Israel.