Soldiers' Funerals and Zionism

Funerals of two fallen soldiers today; Peretz’s death touches upon many aspects of the modern religious-Zionist experience.

Hillel Fendel , | updated: 11:30 AM

Eliraz and brothers
Eliraz and brothers
Israel news photo

The funerals of the two soldiers killed in action on the Gaza border on Friday were to be held Sunday.

Maj. Eliraz Peretz, 32, was buried in the military section of Har Herzl in Jerusalem at 11 a.m., and St.-Sgt. Ilan Sviatkovsky, 21, will be buried in the Rishon LeTzion military cemetery at 3 p.m. Peretz, who leaves behind a wife, four children, mother and four siblings, lived in Eli, and Sviatkovsky, from Rishon LeTzion, is survived by his parents and a brother.

Peretz’s death touches upon many aspects of the modern religious-Zionist experience. His brother Uriel was killed in Lebanon in a battle with Hizbullah terrorists in 1998; his home is in a religious pioneering neighborhood in Samaria (Shomron) that has been deemed “illegal” and is slated for demolition; and his weeping mother said her sons fell so that “I and the entire Nation of Israel can live here safely.”

Brother Killed by Terrorist Bombs
In late 1998, a day before his 22nd birthday, Eliraz’s older brother Uriel was killed in Lebanon. A Golani elite unit veteran, he was commanding an infantry force which came upon several roadside bombs placed by Hizbullah terrorists just over the border and two miles from Kiryat Shemonah. Uriel and another soldier, Nitzan Balderon, were killed.

Ironically, Eliraz Peretz was killed on Friday fighting terrorists who were in the midst of placing similar bombs. His father died five years ago from cancer.

After Uriel was killed, Eliraz wrote a letter, stating: “You, Uriel, always used to say to go on, to continue, not to give up, to keep trying, to be better, to be the best… You believed that this way was difficult, but the right one – and sometimes it costs a lot; sometimes the price is life itself. You always gave 100 percent of yourself. You also made sure that your soldiers were the most prepared they could be, the most alert, the best; you inspired them with confidence… We are hurting, we are sad – and we promise that we will remember you not via memories of photographs, but with this lifestyle and great love for all of life.”

Decisive Meeting With Gen. Almog
At the time, Eliraz had already embarked upon his Golani career, and had to make a difficult decision as to whether to continue or not. He met with General Doron Almog, who later became head of the IDF Southern Command, and it was that discussion that helped Eliraz decide to continue. “I felt as if I was speaking to Joshua bin Nun himself,” Eliraz later said. “He told me that if I was sure I wanted to do this, then I should not worry. He told me, ‘Be strong and of good courage,’ and gave me strength and faith.”

On the Cutting Edge of Settlement Enterprise
Eliraz’s family – his widow and four children, including a two-month-old - lives in the Givat HaYovel neighborhood in the community of Eli, between Shilo and Shechem (Nablus). The neighborhood, where fallen Second Lebanon War hero Maj. Ro’i Klein also lived, has been deemed “illegal” and is slated for destruction – unless Defense Minister Ehud Barak retroactively approves it. MK Danny Danon (Likud) said, “8 percent of one neighborhood has given their lives for Israel… This neighborhood features a spirit of national responsibility, and this is apparently something that typifies those living there. If Barak does not approve the neighborhood even before Passover, it will be a slap in the face by the State to the path and legacy of the residents.”

Mother's Sons Lead the Way
Miriam Peretz, mother of Eliraz and Uriel, said of Eliraz on Saturday night, “My Eliraz is 'a mother’s boy, a loving boy, who established a beautiful family in the Land of Israel… Four of my sons served in the Sayeret Golani [elite unit]; I don’t know what that is, but I do know that G-d loves the Sayeret Golani of the Peretz family, He loves those fighters very much, and He loves my Eliraz very much. I say simply: He was a true hero.”

“My sons are always at the forefront, officers leading the way. He is a personal example and he ran to give help; it was obvious that he would be first. He didn’t go in order to die, but in order that I and the entire Nation of Israel could live here safely. Our sons were killed on behalf of everyone and so that we should be able to walk here proudly.”