Daily Israel Report

Bereaved Family Fights Defense Ministry on Epitaph

Family of fallen IDF soldier insists siblings' names be included on headstone, asks not to include traditional Jewish epitaph.
By Uzi Baruch, Tova Dvorin
First Publish: 8/19/2014, 10:14 AM

Military cemetery
Military cemetery
Israel news photo: Flash 90

The family of fallen soldier Sgt. Li Mat, hy"d, has taken on the Defense Ministry, Yediot Aharonot reports Tuesday, asking for the names of Mat's siblings to be included on his headstone instead of just his parents. 

Sgt. First Class Mat, 19, was killed with two fellow Paratroopers when he entered a booby-trapped house in Khan Younis on July 23, during the course of the IDF's ground offensive in Operation Protective Edge in Gaza. 

He is survived by his parents, Moti and Smadar, and three brothers: 26 year-old Tal, 24 year-old Gal; and 22 year-old Si. 

According to the daily, Li's parents sent a letter to the Memorial Unit of the Ministry of Defense in early August, asking to include Li's siblings names. Typically, headstones follow strict military regulations which include a uniform text for all fallen soldiers, and include the soldier's name, birthplace, parents' names, date of death, age, and circumstances of death.

The parents refused to sign the waiver until Li's siblings were also included on the headstone, according to the report. 

Moti, Li's father, also requested not to include the typical epitaph, which according to Jewish custom reads ת.נ.צ.ב.ה - a Hebrew acronym for a verse from the Book of Samuel meaning "May his/her soul be bound in the bundle of life." Moti claims he does not believe in the religious meaning behind the text and has asked to have it omitted from the engraving. 

The Defense Ministry has refused to include the siblings' names on the headstone, however, citing military regulations.

"Regulations at military cemeteries do not allow adding siblings' names on the headstone," the Ministry responded. It added that the Committee for Commemorating Soldiers has recommended that such an amendment be made to current regulations, following the 2006 Second Lebanon War - and that then-Defense Minister Amir Peretz approved the recommendation and transferred it for the approval of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee - but that a decision was never finalized on the issue. 

In the meantime, it said, the headstone would be changed in the event that regulations change to allow siblings' names to be included. There was no response on the religious inscription, however.