Orit Mark Ettinger was convinced, like many others, that it simply couldn’t be that yet another member of her family had died. After the traditional seven days of mourning her brother, the late Lieutenant Pedaya Mark who died fighting in Gaza, she spoke with Arutz Sheva - Israel National News and shared her feelings.

Orit's father Rabbi Michael Mark, was murdered near Hebron in 2016. Three years later, her brother Shlomi was killed in a traffic accident while on his way to his job in the Defense Ministry, and her cousin, Elhanan Kalmanson, fell in battle on October 7th.

“Even when they told me that Pedaya had been killed, I said it was impossible. I cried hysterically that it was not possible, that it was a mistake,” she recounts and says that the feeling stayed with her for several days afterward. “It was unbelievable, after his father, Rabbi Miki, was killed in a terrorist attack, and his brother Shlomi died in a traffic accident and his cousin Elhanan Kalmanson was killed in the first days of the fighting in the south.“

“Mourning is a process through which we all pass, not a reality. We are used to mourning.” She says that in the previous period of mourning, Pedaya had been with them, and the one before that, his brother Shlomi had been with them as well. “We got on the bus and checked if everyone was there. Pedaya and Shlomi were not. It’s an insane existence. It simply cuts into you.”

During the period of mourning, the family heard more and more stories about Pedaya’s special personality. Orit recalls how he and Shlomi persevered over the stigma of being religious soldiers in a secular unit that viewed them as Hilltop Youths. “They were completely successful. They arrived at their unit with simplicity, a smile, and good hearts.”

Orit talks about Pedaya’s decision to join a combat unit and become an officer, despite being a son to a bereaved family. “It testifies to his strength. He did not view it as optional. He had a goal and when he had a goal he went all the way for it.”

“His commander took him aside once and asked him how he is always smiling, and instead of giving a lecture on happiness, he simply asked ‘How could I not?’ He’d gone through things in his life, he was not naive, but he was honest.”

Orit cannot describe the feelings she had when she heard about the ground invasion of Gaza. Her sister wrote to Pedaya, "Don’t be the kind of hero who jumps on a grenade." Pedaya would try to calm and encourage them, Orit says. “He went in there extremely determined.”

Orit recently published a book, "A Shattered Ray of Light", that deals with the handling of crises. “A tragedy like this shatters the heart. I feel something happening, unlike anything that happened with my previous losses - my heart physically hurts. It was a pain that required a doctor’s appointment during the period of mourning. I was genuinely stressed, I couldn’t breathe, I felt heart pains that I didn’t recognize, but on the other hand, I never lost faith.”

“I don’t know why God did this. I said to Him, ‘God, you’ve gone too far.’ I don’t think He had to do this, but I trust Him. We don’t understand and don’t question why, but I understand that He is doing things I can’t understand and can’t change. Even if I cry or get angry at God, it won’t change the situation, so I don’t deal with that and instead focus on things that are in my control. I say that there are other bereaved families for whom this is the first death, and they don’t know how to keep getting up in the morning. I remember, I’ve done it twice. Perhaps I can give them strength and encourage them. For me, that is a ray of light. Even if I don’t know what I’m doing, I do know that I have a certain mission, and that is to give people something in this difficult, crazy time.”

The moral support meetings she went to began after mourning for her cousin Elhanan, about whom she wrote a considerable amount in her book. She wondered how she could explain about someone who was no longer there, but then received a request from a team leader in Israel’s north who said his team was in crisis and needed her to encourage them. She traveled to meet them. “Suddenly, I realized that it strengthened me, and gave me purpose. I began circulating through army bases, youth groups, women whose husbands are on reserve duty, wherever I was needed, I went,” she said - until the day Pedaya fell in battle.

Elhanan fell in battle on the eighth of October, fighting to save the residents of the town of Be'eri in southern Israel. According to his brother, Rabbi Menachem Kalmanson, his tomb is the only one in Israel's history to be marked with both the symbols of the IDF and the Mossad. Rabbi Menachem commented that his death saved approximately one hundred others.

That Tuesday began with a visit to a house of mourning, and a member of the "One Family" organization that supports victims of terror asked her innocently: "Don't you don’t miss being in mourning?" After that, a Dutch television channel interviewed her, she spent some time with her children and went to the town of Tze’elim. There, as she left her lecture, Jeeps were waiting for her, with soldiers who told her that her brother had been killed in action.

She is now trying to return to her inspirational speaking trips. “During the mourning, I was focused only on my own pain. I just cried for Pedaya. I told my sisters that we don’t have the privilege of sitting and crying in our house, because there is a war going on and people are worn out and emotionally broken. We understand this saga and know what helps and what doesn’t, what comforts and what doesn’t, and we can help people get back up. I went to comfort mourners and families of hostages, and I saw how, through my pain, I have the chance to comfort others.”

“We’re all in a war. Some whole families were killed. We don’t have the privilege of sitting at home and if I have the job of encouraging soldiers then I will do it and worry about the consequences afterwards.”

Orit tells what she finds truly encourages people: “I have told families of hostages, as well as the families of those whose loved ones were killed in action, and soldiers as well - there is something in realizing that not everything is under your control. Wives worry for their husbands, but does that help? No - so stop worrying. You can worry, but you can’t let it take you over, because there is nothing we can do about it.”

In conversations with youth groups, she recommends foregoing social media which instills more fear and worry and doing something useful such as accompanying an elderly person left home alone. “Just go and sit with them, that’s all you need. You have a reason to get up in the morning, and for the elderly person, you are a ray of light in a lot of darkness.”

She says that everyone should share what they can of their experiences and personality, and so become a point of light for others. “In all the horrific darkness, if everyone brings themselves, that will be our strength. We are fighting for our lives and everyone gives what he can, and that is our hope."

Orit also praised the great light as shown in the donations and organization by everyone to help everyone else during the war.

Regarding her book, she says that many people are sending her messages, some about the support they’ve received from the book and some about the difficulties they have with accepting the reality that grief has once again struck her family. Between the pages of the book, she found a ray of light and a way to cope. “An officer in the south told me how the book is being passed from soldier to soldier. I was afraid since the book is tragic, but in this chaotic reality, people draw strength from it, and there is some comfort in that.”