President Rivlin visit cuts short Zoom meeting with Baruch Ygal

May 17, 2020 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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Over 100 Australian participants plus family members tuned in to a Zoom memorial service to give prayers for Amit Ben Ygal fatally struck down by a cinder block on active duty on the West Bank last week.

President Rivlin comforts Baruch Ygal and Amit’s mother Nava and her daughter   Photo: Mark Neyman/GPO

The Zoom had been carefully planned. Rabbi Levi Wolff was going to daven Ma’ariv and deliver a special prayer to be followed by eulogies and some words from Amit’s father Baruch.

But the zoom meeting was interrupted by the arrival of Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin on a condolences visit to Baruch’s home. Following a short thank you to his Australian friends Baruch left the meeting to meet with the president.

The president, with emotion in his voice, said to Baruch and Nava, the parents of Amit: “I know that this is something that no-one wishes is said about their son, that he has become a symbol, but you should know that you have all taken a place in our hearts, and Amit will remain a symbol for us. A symbol of someone who gave his all for our country.”

President Rivlin signs the condolence book Photo: Mark Neyman/GPO

Baruch Ben Ygal told resident Rivlin:  “I was with him for so many ceremonies, and at Har Herzl where he told me, ‘Dad, I’m going to be an outstanding soldier at the ceremony at Beit HaNasi’, and who would have believed that you, Mr President, are here to comfort us on his passing.”

Baruch showed him a picture of Amit ז”ל with the president at an event together.

“How I wish I could have come to your celebrations, to his wedding,” said the president to the family, “but I am here today and I can only tell you that I feel the enormity of your loss, the strength of your pride and the depth of your pain. In our country, unfortunately, they often go together.”

There is no consolation, I know. I have seen pictures and videos of Amit, as have so many Israelis, and I immediately understood the enormity of the loss of our heroic soldier. I saw his ability and his conduct, I heard what his friends said about him and my heart was broken. Generation after generation we send the very best we have to serve the state. Every time, we say what will happen to the next generation? And every time, we find that the next generation of young people is even better. Such devotion. Such desire to be part of the success of our country. I am so proud to be president of a country that has parents like you, families like you.”

Amit’s parents told the president of his educational achievements and what the commander of the Golani infantry brigade said about his heroism. “When he told me that Amit died a hero’s death, I got up and went to his wardrobe, hugged his clothes and told him that his commander had visited and said he was a hero. And now, who would have believed that you, the president, would tell me my son is a hero?” said Baruch.

He added: “Mr. President, the hug we are receiving from the Israeli people is not something straightforward. It comes from all parts of society. We have a wonderful people, a people to be proud of. I have no other country and the love here, from all kinds of people, makes me ask myself if this is really happening. From all across the country.”

The president told Baruch that everyone he meets because of the death of Amit can tell what kind of an educator he is, and that every story of who Amit was tells that he grew up with the strongest and deepest values, which also gave him the strength to be the man he was. “You make educators proud,” said the president to Baruch.

In Australia, the memorial service was zoomed to the many members of Maccabi Australia some of whom personally know Baruch and some who had met Amit.

Tom Goldman was the president of Maccabi Australia in 1997 when he met Baruch Ben Ygal.

He said on the Zoom meeting: “My‌ ‌first‌ ‌encounter‌ ‌with‌ ‌Baruch‌ ‌was‌ ‌in‌ ‌1997‌ ‌during‌ ‌the‌ ‌ Maccabia‌h ‌games‌ ‌when‌ ‌the‌ ‌bridge‌ ‌into‌ ‌Ramat‌ ‌Gan‌ ‌stadium‌ collapsed.‌ ‌

It‌ ‌is‌ ‌with‌ ‌a‌ ‌sad‌ ‌and‌ ‌heavy‌ ‌heart‌ ‌that‌ ‌I‌ ‌find‌ ‌myself‌ ‌here‌ ‌today‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌shadow‌ ‌of‌ ‌another‌ ‌tragedy‌ ‌-‌ ‌ the‌ ‌untimely‌ ‌passing‌ ‌of‌ ‌Amit.‌ ‌ ‌

My‌ ‌friendship‌ ‌with‌ ‌Baruch‌ ‌has‌ ‌once‌ ‌again‌ ‌drawn‌ ‌us‌ ‌together‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌most‌ ‌devastating‌ ‌way. ‌

For‌ ‌more‌ ‌than‌ ‌20‌ ‌years‌ ‌I‌ ‌was‌ ‌privileged‌ ‌to‌ ‌watch‌ ‌Amit‌ ‌grow‌ ‌and‌ ‌blossom‌ ‌through‌ ‌the‌ ‌many‌ ‌stages‌ ‌of‌ ‌life,‌ ‌from‌ ‌a‌ ‌baby‌ ‌to‌ ‌a‌ ‌child,‌ ‌to‌ ‌a‌ ‌young‌ ‌man‌ ‌and‌ ‌then‌ ‌to‌ ‌a‌ ‌soldier‌ ‌-‌ ‌a‌ ‌grown‌ ‌man‌ ‌serving‌ ‌his‌ ‌country‌ ‌in‌ ‌an‌ ‌elite‌ ‌army‌ ‌unit‌ ‌by‌ ‌personal‌ ‌choice‌ ‌was‌ ‌tragically‌ ‌taken‌ ‌from‌ ‌us‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌ line‌ ‌of‌ ‌duty,‌ ‌forced‌ ‌to‌  ‌pay‌ ‌the‌ ‌ultimate‌ ‌price‌ ‌for‌ ‌the‌ ‌safety‌ ‌and‌ ‌security‌ ‌of‌ ‌Israel.‌ ‌ ‌

Amit‌ ‌had‌ ‌a‌ ‌close‌ ‌bond‌ ‌with‌ ‌his‌ ‌mother‌ ‌Nava‌ ‌and‌‌ ‌enduring‌ ‌love,‌ ‌friendship‌ ‌and‌ ‌respect‌ ‌for‌ ‌his‌ ‌ father‌ ‌Baruch.‌ ‌When‌ ‌Amit‌ ‌was‌ ‌accepted‌ ‌into‌ ‌the‌ ‌Golani‌ ‌branch‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌Israeli‌ ‌army‌ ‌it‌ ‌was‌ ‌the‌ ‌ greatest‌ ‌and‌ ‌proudest‌ ‌moment‌ ‌of‌ ‌Baruch’s‌ ‌life.‌ ‌Amit‌ ‌strived‌ ‌to‌ ‌be‌ ‌the‌ ‌best‌ ‌soldier‌ ‌he‌ ‌could‌ overlooking‌ ‌the‌ ‌option‌ ‌he‌ ‌had‌ ‌as‌ ‌an‌ ‌only‌ ‌child‌ ‌not‌ ‌to‌ ‌serve‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌Golani‌ ‌unit.‌ ‌ ‌ ‌

So‌ ‌great‌ ‌was‌ ‌Baruch’s‌ ‌love‌ ‌and‌ ‌admiration‌ ‌for‌ ‌his‌ ‌son,‌ ‌he‌ ‌would‌ ‌often‌ ‌drive‌ ‌up‌ ‌to‌ ‌eight‌ ‌hours‌ ‌a‌ ‌ day‌ ‌just‌ ‌to‌ ‌see‌ ‌Amit‌ ‌for‌ ‌five‌ ‌minutes‌  ‌or‌ ‌ten‌ ‌minutes‌ ‌at‌ ‌a‌ ‌time‌ ‌to‌ ‌give‌ ‌him‌ ‌a‌ ‌hug,‌ ‌deliver‌ ‌a‌ ‌treat‌ ‌or‌ just‌ ‌lay‌ ‌eyes‌ ‌on‌ ‌him.‌ ‌ ‌I‌ ‌can’t‌ ‌talk‌ ‌about‌ ‌Amit,‌ ‌without‌ ‌talking‌ ‌about‌ ‌Baruch‌ ‌and‌ ‌the‌ ‌special‌ ‌relationship‌ ‌we‌ ‌share‌ ‌-‌ ‌we‌ ‌ have‌ ‌adopted‌ ‌him‌ ‌into‌ ‌our‌ ‌own‌ ‌family‌ ‌here‌ ‌in‌ ‌Australia.‌ ‌He‌ ‌is‌ ‌dearly‌ ‌loved‌ ‌and‌ ‌cherished‌ ‌by‌ ‌the‌ ‌ entire‌ ‌Goldman‌ ‌family.‌ ‌Since‌ ‌our‌ ‌initial‌ ‌meeting,‌ ‌not‌ ‌a‌ ‌single‌ ‌year‌ ‌has‌ ‌passed‌ ‌without‌ ‌us‌ ‌seeing‌ ‌ each‌ ‌other‌ ‌both‌ ‌here‌ ‌in‌ ‌Australia‌ ‌when‌ ‌he‌ ‌visited‌ ‌with‌ ‌Amit‌ ‌on‌ ‌two‌ ‌occasions‌ ‌and‌ ‌at‌ ‌least‌ ‌once‌ ‌a‌ ‌year‌  ‌in‌ ‌Israel.‌ ‌ ‌

When‌ ‌I‌ ‌attended‌ ‌Amit’s‌ ‌Bar‌ ‌Mitzvah‌ ‌some‌ ‌8‌ ‌years‌ ‌ago‌ ‌I‌ ‌was‌ ‌infinitely‌ ‌touched‌ ‌and‌ ‌proud‌ ‌when‌ ‌he‌ ‌introduced‌ ‌me‌ ‌to‌ ‌his‌ ‌friends‌ ‌as‌ ‌his‌ ‌other‌ ‌grandfather.

As‌ ‌families,‌ ‌we‌ ‌have‌ ‌forged‌ ‌a‌ ‌strong‌ ‌bond‌ ‌and‌ ‌recently‌ ‌joined‌ ‌together‌ ‌via‌ ‌zoom‌ ‌to‌ ‌enjoy‌ ‌seder‌ ‌at‌ ‌Pesach.

It‌ ‌is‌ ‌my‌ ‌deepest‌ ‌regret‌ ‌that‌ ‌due‌ ‌to‌ ‌COVID‌ ‌19‌ ‌I‌ ‌am‌ ‌unable‌ ‌to‌ ‌be‌ ‌with‌ ‌you‌ ‌in‌ ‌person,‌ ‌to‌ ‌hug‌ ‌you,‌ ‌cry‌ ‌with‌ ‌you‌ ‌and‌ ‌help‌ ‌support‌ ‌you‌ ‌through‌ ‌this‌ ‌unimaginable‌ ‌reality.‌ ‌ ‌ ‌

Baruch,‌ ‌you‌ ‌are‌ ‌young enough to be a son to me and close enough for me to regard as a brother.‌ ‌I‌ ‌share‌ ‌your‌ ‌pride‌ ‌in‌ ‌Amit’s‌ ‌contribution‌ ‌to‌ ‌his‌ ‌country‌ ‌and‌ ‌I‌ ‌share‌ ‌your‌ ‌torment‌ ‌and‌ ‌suffering‌ ‌at‌ ‌the‌ ‌loss‌ ‌of‌ ‌your‌ ‌son‌ ‌and‌ ‌best‌ ‌friend.‌” ‌

Chairman of Maccabi Australia Barry Smorgon told the Zoom participants: “Baruch’s involvement with Maccabi  Australia commenced in 1997 as part of the recovery of members of our team who were rescued from the Yarkon River.

Since then he has been a most important honorary team member for Maccabi Australia.

I first had the pleasure of meeting Baruch several years later for the annual Maccabi World Union plenum.

I have been in awe of him ever since as his ability and connections enable him to seamlessly do the impossible.

Baruch has assisted every single Maccabi leader in making our trips to Israel just that little bit more enjoyable and problem-free.

Whenever something that occurs that is out of the ordinary and requires fixing the first person that we all think of is Mister Fixit Baruch.

His love of Maccabi Australia is unlimited and he cannot do enough to please anyone associated with us.

We grieve for your tragic loss of Amit who you worshipped in everything for all that he did and all of his individual accomplishments.

You shared a  very special relationship with him and the look on your face when he was in your company was one of adoration and pure love and joy.

I had the pleasure of meeting Amit on several occasions and the most recent was exactly a year ago at the Yom Ha’atzmaut ceremony in Israel.

At the 2013 Maccabiah, Amit stayed with our junior team and whilst he flirted with the girls with his charm and good looks he certainly made a positive impact on everyone he met.

In recognition of his involvement with our teams over the years and the fact that he has paid the ultimate sacrifice and lost in life in such tragic circumstances, an award in his name will be made to a junior athlete who demonstrates leadership and determination for the benefit of Maccabi Australia junior team.  It will be a perpetual award and it is the very least we can do, to always remember a delightful young man and a real mensch.”

Rabbi Wolff recited the special prayer and the Caulfield Syngagogue’s cantor Dov Farkas sang El Male Rachamim.


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