President Rivlin with IDF casualties unit members - 5 May 2019
President Rivlin with IDF casualties unit members - 5 May 2019Haim Zach (GPO)

President Reuven Rivlin met members of the IDF’s casualties unit this morning at the President's Residence. Head of the Manpower Directorate Maj-Gen Moti Almoz, head of the casualties unit Col. Jocelyn Bash and others involved in telling families that their relatives have been injured or killed in the line of duty, including those who personally give the information, heads of units and event managers, also took part in the event.

The president firstly sent his condolences to the Agadi family, who lost their father Moshe ז"ל in a rocket attack early this morning, saying “as a tense and worrying week begins, I send my condolences to the Agadi family, who lost their father Moshe in the heavy rocket fire on Ashkelon this morning. We send you a big hug in your profound grief. I am praying for those injured and thinking of those sheltering from rockets in their safe spaces. We will continue to stand against this dreadful terror and will respond forcefully and unwaveringly to any attack on the security of our people. I ask you all, please, to listen carefully to the instructions of the IDF Homefront Command which save lives time after time, and take good care of yourselves.”

One of the officers who conveys the news to the families, Capt (Res) Ziv Kamini, told the president of their work: “Outsiders cannot understand how we give bad news, and certainly not with understanding, how I, who was until recently a mother to two soldiers, one of whom spent most of his service on the Syrian border, chose this task. And it’s true that the years of being a soldier’s mother were not easy, indescribable worry always hanging over you like a heavy cloud all day and all night. I had a kind of a deal with him up there - I will do my job as well as possible, and you won’t mess with me.”

“Every phone call, and they mostly come at night, shakes me up. Without thinking,Lt I put on my uniform and go to work. I’m the one that goes to tell another mother the worst news possible, and in those houses I meet parents my age and children the age of my children, however complicated the situation and even more so when we are from the same place.”

Lt-Col (res) Sagir, of the Druze community, who lost his father who was on reserve duty when he was a child, added, “the job of telling the families was not easy for me, because I am constantly reminded of the painful memories of when I received the news my father had died. There are plenty of good people who are prepared to pull on fatigues and go from deployment to exercises, but there are only few who have the courage to knock on the door and to be there at that unbelievable moment as a strong support for people who have lost the thing dearest to them, in the face of such pain and grief.”

“As part of my role, I naturally am involved in events within my community, the Druze, which can sometimes increase the emotional involvement of those of us who bring the news. We constantly try to learn the specific needs of the community and adapt the system to those needs from a consideration of the social sensitivities.”

“That terrible moment, the knock on the door, has become a symbol of the horror of bereavement,” said the president. “You, my dear ones, who stand on the other side of the door know that moment only too well, when your knock shatters the world into fragments. You also know how to do that difficult job. I marvel at your strength, your nobility, your sensitivity, your sense of responsibility, of love of humanity and respect for humanity. You have taken on a responsibility which seems to be the hardest of all.”

“At the moment of truth, when the door opens, you are the mouth and the look and the hug and the heart that each one of us wants to give the mother and father, the brother and sister, the partner, the children. You are the envoy of us all,” said the president. “I do not know of any other army that has created an entire school to teach how to deal with loss and grief.”

The president continued, saying “although you have come here from different places, from different backgrounds, from different tribes, from near and far, your hearts are the common denominator amongst everyone in this room. In the week that we remember our loved ones and the heroes that are no longer with us, I want to thank you on behalf of all Israel and tell you that we see. We see and know the enormous sacrifice and the depth of your devotion. Your courage is not invisible to us. We salute you and wish that you only deliver good news from now on.”

Head of the casualties department, Col. Jocelyn Bash, said: “This is a deeply moving event for the department and for the IDF as a whole. It is an opportunity to thank our people who are on standby every day of the year, who drop everything when needed to carry out their duty and who deal with the most sensitive events. May the memory of the fallen be a source of life for us, setting us an example from which we appreciate the greatness of the responsibility we bear, from which we draw the physical and mental strength to carry out with even greater resolve the IDF’s mission of protecting life, security and peace for Israel’s citizens.”