Major Eyal Shuminov
Major Eyal ShuminovIDF Spokesperson

The parents of each soldier in a Givati Brigade Shaked Battalion’s platoon knew that Major Eyal Shuminov, their son’s commander, cared about their welfare as well as their son’s. The whatsapp messages he sent to the platoon’s parents’ chat daily reassured them that although the IDF fighters in Gaza had no access to mobile phones, their commander would make sure to keep parents posted on the welfare of the young soldiers under his command. With everything going on around him, Commander Shuminov always found the time to write a few words, sometimes several times a day.

And here is just one of his longer letters to parents:

“Good evening to everyone, just an update to tell you that our platoon has left the Gaza Strip to reorganize and enhance our fitness before the next stage of fighting. We are all healthy and well and in good spirits. By nighttime, the soldiers will be given their mobile phones so they can call you directly. Tomorrow we will invest in reorganization and restoring fitness – fighting equipment, the Namer carriers, talks with the platoon and the battalion, psychological readiness, summing up, a brigade party and a good night’s sleep - on a mattress.

“Early Friday morning, the soldiers will begin several days’ home leave. Please do not try to visit before then so that we, the commanders, can carry out the logistic and psychological organizational work properly with the fighters. …

“It is important that you take pride in these fighters. Lions, each and every one of them. The company has taken part in battles for over two months straight, always in the thick of the fighting and in a most inspiring way. They deserve a break, but the process has to be done the right way. I am available for your messages if needed.

“A continued good night.” (Israeli flag emoji).

The Israeli flag at the Western Wall
The Israeli flag at the Western Wallצילום: Shutterstock

Entire worlds lie behind the terse words Israelis pray not to hear when they turn on the news in the morning since the start of the Swords of Iron War: “The IDF has cleared for publication …” - followed by the news of a soldier who fell defending the Jewish State.

This Saturday night, observant Israelis turned on the news after Shabbat was over and heard:“The IDF has cleared for publication that Major Eyal Shuminov, 24, of Carmiel, a platoon commander in the Shaked Battalion of the Givati Brigade, was killed by an anti-tank rocket fired during a raid in the Zeitoun neighborhood of Gaza City.”

Parents of his soldiers burst into tears - my daughter in law, a veteran Shaarei Tzedek internist who certainly deals with death, among them -, some were shocked and speechless, others tried to comfort one another in non-stop, emotional text messages, while his hometown of Carmiel mourned yet another of its young citizens killed in the Swords of Iron war. Shuminov, who had spoken to some of the parents of his plans to study astrophysics one day, was the eldest in his family and left bereaved parents Flora and Asher, a brother and a sister.

Chaim Soibelman, Shuminov’s official teacher in ORT Psagot High School from 10th to 12th grade, said: “Israel has lost one of its dearest soldiers. I wish every teacher could have a student so imbued with values and respect. He always was the first to volunteer. Salt of the earth.” Eyal was the 6th soldier to fall from the school. Soibelman was not surprised when after being wounded in direct combat with terrorists on October 7th, Eyal insisted on going back to fight. “We were sent a video of him lighting a Hanukkah menorah in a Gaza envelope community. Eyal was not a quitter. He was that way as a student, so it was clear he would give his all for our country as well.”

Commander Shuminov talked to his soldiers at that candle lighting. Part of that filmed talk, now a memorial to what he was, is transcribed here: Standing facing his soldiers, he asked:

“Do you know how long it took the Maccabees to complete their revolt? We have been fighting for 60 days. They fought for 30 years. Of course it is not exactly the same, they were few against many, but think of the black period before their revolt and all that we have gone through since, remember how we have returned after 2000 years and the saying that ‘the Nation of Israel does not fear a long path.’

“This is a difficult period. Our country has suffered a terrible trauma, and it will take a long time to get over it, it also won’t take long for all the political fighting to restart, but we the younger generation, you the 20-22 year olds, will end your army service and exercise your great responsibility towards this country. Now, when things are tough, when one of you can’t take being cooped up in the Namer anymore, another can’t look at another can of tuna, another can’t sit in the troop carrier another minute, just try to look at things from this wider perspective. For me it is a privilege to fight with you all, I rely on you and love you all a great deal… “

(Soldiers break into the traditional song for Hanukkah candle lighting, Hanerot Halalu: “These candles we are lighting are for the miracles and the salvation..then and today…”)

Story after story was posted on the web on Saturday night, telling of “the most admired, most heroic, professional commander, a father to his soldiers, “ as one of the fighter’s mothers wrote. “Leadership and personal example were the hallmarks of his service. The commander who left the hospital after he was wounded to go back to his soldiers, who could have gone back to civilian life, but returned to lead and fight, always watched over each soldier, always led from in front of his men. And when he was killed, even then, he was the only one hurt.” Another mother wrote: “there are no words in Hebrew that can describe the pain I feel in body and soul tonight. The uplifting commander, the expert soldier, the father and mother of our son’s IDF company, has been killed. I can’t absorb it. Baruch Dayan Haemet. Father, have mercy upon us.”

At the end of July of last year, more than two months before the war broke out, Shuminov was interviewed by Ynet and talked about the Shaked battalion's activity, then in Nablus. "We must remember all the attacks that did not happen, and it is thanks to the IDF's activity in the area," he said then. "Every night we carry out offensive operations and thwart many terrorists' ploys, and that is intended to bring security."

Major Eyal Shuminov’s funeral took place in Carmiel on Sunday. Parents came from all over the country, including my son who left his law office and drove from Jerusalem, as did wounded soldiers, to join residents of Carmiel, family and friends. “Eyal was a revered commander, professional and idealistic,” Carmiel’s mayor eulogized.

Rest in peace, Major Eyal Shuminov, Hy"d, the soldiers you loved will never forget you, nor will their grieving parents, nor the country for which you gave your life. May your memory be blessed.

Salt of the earth. One story.