May 18, 2024
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May 18, 2024
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Yom HaZikaron Programs Honor Heroic Fallen Soldiers Through Song

Poster for Hibba tribute.

Ulpanat Bnei Akiva “Shirat Hayam,” located in Neve Tzuf in the Binyamin region, is a specialized high school for girls throughout Israel, combining high school academic studies with courses in song, dance and drama. In response to the devastation of October 7, the music faculty and students of Shirat Hayam took upon themselves a project to memorialize and honor fallen soldiers from the Binyamin area. With the assistance of the Head of School Avigayil Goldstein, principal and chairperson of the music department, the girls were put in touch with the families of 10 heroic soldiers from the Binyamin area who died Al Kiddush Hashem defending Israel.

The students went to the homes of the fallen and interviewed parents and other family members to gain an understanding and appreciation of these heroes. They returned with their impressions and proceeded to create musical tributes to the 10 chayalim that would highlight their special qualities and interests.

The culmination of their project took place on Tuesday evening, May 7, at the Ulpana, where an audience consisting of the mothers, grandmothers and other female family members joined the students of the Ulpana in an evening of musical tributes through original songs created for each of the 10 soldiers. Calling their program “A Trail of Light,” they performed their songs with the lyrics displayed on screens, accompanied by guitar, flute, clarinets, cello, drums, piano and a kanun, zither. Around the auditorium pictures of the 10 were displayed together with short biographies and a physical object symbolic of their lives. In the words of the representative of the Binyamin Council, “The girls used music to lift the pain of the families to a higher level of empathy and unity.”

Harel Sharvit, HY”D, 33, from Kochav Yaakov, was one of the first soldiers to enter the Gaza region. Upon entering, he was armed with an entire array of religious items, which kept him hopeful and brave. These included 200 shekel to be given as tzedaka, a small Tehillim on a disc, a microscopic Chatas (specially arranged tefillot recited by followers of Chabad), passport pictures of his grandparents, a good luck charm from a kabbalist, a membership card from a Mishnayot group, and a pendant in the shape of Eretz Yisrael engraved with the words “The Holy Land.”

Fallen chayalim honored by students of Shirat Hayam.

The officer at the Shura military base who identified Sharvit’s body shared that he was a virtual “store of religious items.” In the pocket of his uniform closest to his heart, Harel carried a small etrog, which he brought to battle after Sukkot. This small, heart-shaped etrog represented for him the heart that “yearns and burns” on behalf of Eretz Yisrael. The item placed beneath the picture of Sharvit was also an etrog, in keeping with his practice of putting great effort into the selection of his arba minim for Sukkot. The song composed in his memory, “A Man of Feelings,” expressed the burden that being a man of deep feelings can add to a person’s existence. It is a gift but can sometimes cause pain and grief.

A stethoscope was placed under the picture of Moshe Leiter, HY”D, 39, who was scheduled to begin medical school before the outbreak of the war. He was the oldest of eight children, having grown up in Ein Tzurim. He and his wife, Tzipi, resided in Eli, together with their six children. During his army service, he was in charge of a unit called “kodkod,” which trains charedi soldiers for technical jobs in the IDF. Leiter’s aspirations were always to help others, which he carried out in an exemplary way. The song composed by the students in his memory aims to reassure his mother that “Imma, all is well. Not to worry. We should even add one more year to the promised 120. We will live on forever.”

From the Yishuv of Nili, 21 year-old Adi Leon, HY”D, served in the prestigious Givati Division. On October 7, he was called directly to Kfar Aza to fight the terrorists and protect the residents. A notebook was found alongside his remains, containing letters of parting “to be read after my death.” They were addressed to his parents, sisters, extended family, friends and the medina of which he wrote, ”I do not have any other country but Eretz Yisrael. It is now my turn to protect her. This is the education that my parents gave me and in which I believe. Please remember me.” Leon loved composing electronic music, which he did in the studio that his parents built him in the backyard of their home. The song composed in his honor was played to the background music of one of his own original compositions.

Boaz Yogev, HY”D, 19, was a resident of Neria. He lived life to the fullest and successfully combined the sacred and the secular worlds together.

Shiloh Rochberger, HY”D, grew up in Eli. He served valiantly as an officer in the Golani Brigade. As a youth, he was a madrich in Bnei Akiva and volunteered for One Family and “Lev Binyamin.”

Liron Shnir, HY”D, 25, from Ofra, served as an officer in Golani. His memento was a copy of Mesilat Yesharim, a sefer outlining proper middot, which he held in his pocket during battle.

Yishai Pitusi, HY”D, from Talmon was 21 when he fell. He studied at the Yeshivat Hesder in Sderot before serving in Golani.

Amichai Vitzan, HY”D, 33, grew up in Psagot and settled in Kerem Shalom with his wife and five children. He was killed while protecting the residents of his yishuv on the first day of the war.

Oriyah Mash, HY”D, 42, from Neria, served as a tank commander. He leaves a wife and six children—and a legacy of a rich, spiritual outlook and a desire to influence others for the good.

Maoz Morell, HY”D, 22, from Talmon, was the fourth son of five boys and one girl in the family. His parents are Varda and Eitan Morell, American olim, and his death has reverberated greatly throughout the Anglo community in Israel and the U.S. His artifact is a small volume of Mesillat Yesharim. His song illustrates his determination to achieve in life, despite all obstacles.

A second program that brought honor to the memories of three chayalim through song was held at the Hibba Center of the Israel Heritage Movement on Rechov Hertzog in Jerusalem on Thursday evening, May 9. In their introductory remarks, Eliyahu Gabbai, former member of Knesset and now director of Hibba, as well as Rav Eliezer Shenveld, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivat Hesder in Modi’in, offered that poetry and song are the most fitting tributes to those who fought bravely in defense of our nation, as shared music brings people closer and spreads love.

The Hibba instrumental quartet of flute, cello, casio and guitar was accompanied by the mellifluous vocal renditions of piyutim and song by Rav Shlomo Nachmias, rav of the adjacent Beit Knesset Mishkan Yosef.

In addition to songs and poetry about the heroic soldiers, family members were invited to speak about their loved ones.The mother of Noam Chibbah, HY”D, 21, shared that her fourth son was slated to be dismissed from the IDF five days before October 7. She said that he would visit his grandparents on Motzei Shabbat and sing them piyutim following Havdala. He chose to learn Tekiat Shofar so that he could blow Shofar for his unit. Chibbah lived his life according to his name, as he “walked gently with his fellow man.”

The father of Harel Sharvit, HY”D, who was honored at the previous program, spoke about how his son would go into homes in Gaza that displayed pictures of mosques and replace them with maps of Eretz Yisrael. He described his son as “a harmony of strength and finesse, willing to give his life for a piece of geula, redemption.”

One of the songs which has come to characterize this current war is the haunting melody to the verse from Tehillim 23, “Gam ki elech b’gei tzalmavet, lo ira ra ki ata imadi,” translated as “Even when I go through the valley of death, I shall not fear because You are with me.” It was composed by Rabbi Yossi Hershkovitz, HY”D, 44, principal of Pelech High School for Boys in Jerusalem, whose life was cut down on November 10. The song, which he composed in Gaza, was widely circulated by his friend Golan, who fortunately recalled the melody. Hershkovitz’s brother told of his love of music and exceptional talent on the violin, which he pursued seriously after his release from the IDF. He was a man of total chesed, as shown when he disappeared on the eve of his wedding, going into hospital wards to play for the patients. He saw the good in everyone and was a devoted educator who reached out to all students, especially those with special needs.

Upon being called into Gaza, Hershkovitz sent a special video message to his students at Pelech in which he urged them to be strong, united and optimistic. He told them that just a little bit of light can ward off a lot of darkness. He is sorely missed by his wife, Hadas, five children, his parents and siblings and all of Am Yisrael who were privileged to know him. His song, now recognized worldwide as it is performed by Avraham Fried, has brought comfort to millions.

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