More than 30 years ago, Ari Singer lost his brother, Jacob, in a tragic friendly-fire incident in the IDF.
Speaking with Arutz Sheva on Memorial Day, Singer, now a Brigadier General in the IDF reserves and the Chief Reserve Officer of the IDF, remembers the loss of his brother Jacob, its impact on his service and on his family.
Born in the US to two Holocaust refugees who had immigrated to the US via Cuba, Singer and his family moved to Israel after his Bar Mitzvah.
Tragically, after he completed his own mandatory army service, Singer’s brother, Jacob, was shot and killed in a friendly-fire accident more than three decades ago.
“Jacob was killed in an accident during a maneuver. He was shot by mistake by one of his soldiers and was killed in action.”
Your family immigrated here. How was it for your parents suffering this loss?
“My family immigrated here from America. But both of my parents are Holocaust survivors. Both of them lived in Belgium. They fled Europe to Cuba until they got to the United States. When they lived in the United States they always wanted to move to Israel. After my Bar Mitzvah they decided to make Aliyah.”
“Going into the army was something that seemed natural. I remember the first time I came home in the uniform, both my parents cried because for them, seeing someone in the uniform, they remembered World War II. Then, in America, they remembered seeing American soldiers in Vietnam, which they had no connection to the American army.”
“A Jewish army, an army which can defend themselves was something that was overwhelming for them.”
But losing a son is the biggest price of them all.
“I don’t like the word ‘price’. People who get killed in action, it’s not a ‘price’, it is something much more significant. It is part of a journey. When a person goes on a journey, he carries a backpack – that’s part of his journey. That is part of taking part of this journey in building this country. You can’t build a country when somebody else doesn’t want to defend the country. And defending the country is part of the big picture.”
Did this loss affect your service in the army?
“Of course it did. But after we got up from shiva [the mourning period], I asked my parents…’do you want me to continue in the army?’”
“My other brother and I were in the first Lebanon War. We definitely did our part in defending the country. And I asked my parents whether I should keep on going. Without thinking twice, they said: ‘Go. Keep on going.’ From there, I continued in the army until I got to where I got to.”
How do you see the connection between Memorial Day and Independence Day? Some people find it difficult.
“I think there is no other choice. It has to be connected. Growing up in America, Memorial Day was a very happy day. Parades, and sales in the department stores. In Israel, it is something else. It isn’t a day of grief, it is a day of remembrance.”
“There are people who sacrifice their lives to guard our country, and we are obligated to them to make their sacrifice worthwhile.”
What makes the IDF reserves so special?
“I think it is unique in the world. When you take a few components of the reserves in Israel, it is something unique in the world. When you take the amount of reserves, compared to the regular army, and the amount of time from when you’re called up until you’re actually in battle, the missions the reserves do, and that every reserve soldier was once in the regular army. There are many countries where you go straight to the reserves.”
“There’s even something more interesting about the reserves. The word in Hebrew is ‘miluim’. If you’d have to find the most exact translation for the word ‘reserves’, you’d use the word ‘reserva’ or ‘atuda’. But we’re not reserves. We’re an integral part of the IDF. The word ‘miluim’ comes from the word for ‘to fill in’.”