President Rivlin’s eulogy at the funeral of Zachary Baumel ז”ל

April 5, 2019 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin delivered a eulogy at the funeral of IDF Sergeant First Class Zachary Baumel ז”ל.

President Rivlin at Zachary Baumel’s grave    Photo: Haim Zac

“Miriam, Shimon, Osna – dear Baumel family. Veterans of the battle of Sultan Yakoub, commanders and soldiers from Battalion 399 and Battalion 362, those who were injured and those who were captured, comrades. Zachary. 37 years ago, a few days before the battle in which you were captured, you wrote to your parents, Yona of blessed memory and Miriam, long may she live. You wrote: ‘Don’t worry, everything is fine, but it doesn’t look like I’ll be home soon.’ 37 years have passed since then. 37 years, but today you came home. You came back to our land, our country, to Jerusalem.

Last year, Osna your sister and I walked together in the March of the Living. There, on Polish soil, as we marched from Holocaust to redemption, from Auschwitz to Jerusalem, Osna told me about you. A good boy, good student, a basketball fan and a sensitive soul. You dreamed of becoming a psychologist, she said. You even applied and were accepted for studies at the Hebrew University. But then the war broke out. Look around you, Zachary. If you could see your commanders, your comrades, close to 60 years old. Some of them already have grandchildren. But we are burying you today. A young soldier, just 22 years old. The battle of Sultan Yakoub in the first Lebanon War was one of the toughest the IDF has fought. A battle that left us with an open wound in our hearts. The IDF suffered many losses in the battle. And more than anything, the pain of the three soldiers missing in action: Zachary, Zvika and Yehuda. And today, when we bring you, Sergeant First Class Zachary Baumel, to eternal rest, nearly four decades after you fell, is the day that the State of Israel fulfils the oath it makes with its soldiers, men and women. Today, we can say with full faith, that we do everything – even the inconceivable and the unbelievable – to fulfil our oath: to bring home our soldiers who did not return from battle. Today, we can say honestly and humbly to our soldiers past, present and future: we did not give up and we will not give up on this sacred task until all those who fell defending our people and country are brought home. We will not cease until all our boys are back home, including your comrades in arms Sergeant First Class Yehuda Katz and Sergeant First Class Zvi Feldman, and all those who fell in battle and whose resting place is unknown.

Zachary, family, ten years ago exactly Yona Baumel ז”ל passed away. Yona was a dear man, a symbol of courage and determination. I knew Yona well. We all knew Yona. Since that awful day, the battle of Sultan Yakoub, Yona did not rest for a single day. He dedicated his life to the constant and obstinate search. He left no stone unturned in collecting every fragment of information that could lead to finding the boys. Yona traipsed between leaders and officials in Israel and around the world, doing all he could for Zachary, his and Miriam’s youngest child. He taught us a lesson in dedication, determination and a father’s love for his son. Yona had a whole intelligence network. He built a huge archive. I know that before he died when he was at death’s door, he said that he had failed. He was disappointed. ‘I did not complete the mission,’ he said. ‘Zack didn’t come home.’ Yona, today we can finally tell you – you did not see the day, but the mission to bring Zachary home to be buried in Israel has been completed. I would like to thank the IDF and the whole Israeli intelligence community, who have worked on this sacred mission. Special thanks to Russian president Vladimir Putin for his commitment to this humanitarian mission, and for his warm friendship for the State of Israel and the Jewish people. Over the fresh grave of Sergeant First Class Zachary Baumel, let me say a prayer and make a promise for all those still missing and those whose place of burial is not known: ‘they shall come back from the land of the enemy, your children shall come back home’. May his memory be a blessing.”

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