By Rachel Benaim
Despite the severe heat, thousands gathered at Israel’s Kfar Saba military cemetery Sunday for the funeral of Lt. Hadar Goldin, 23, a combat soldier in the Israel Defense Forces’s elite Givati infantry brigade, who was initially presumed missing last Friday but later determined to have been killed in battle with Hamas.
People from all walks of life came to pay their last respects, from secular Israelis to ultra-Orthodox ones, from children to adults.
Goldin, who was engaged to be married, was a “prize” to the nation of Israel, his fiance, Edna Sarusi, said. “I thought we were going to be together forever. I didn’t think you’d leave me so soon.” Rushing through her remarks, her voice quivering, Sarusi said “I can’t believe you’re gone.” Sniffles were audible throughout the sea of people gathered in the cemetery to pay their last respects to the fallen soldier and from the balconies of the nearby apartment buildings.
All those who eulogized Goldin mentioned his smile – one that lit up his face and others wherever he went. His father, Simcha Goldin, described him as someone whose purpose in life was to better Israel. He asked the gathered mourners and all of Israel to “banish hatred from our hearts,” despite the loss.
When Tzur Goldin, the soldier’s twin brother, stood to begin his eulogy, sobs sprang from portions of the crowd. “Hadar, my brother,” Tzur Goldin said, “we don’t need words to know we’re connected. We’re two. We live together, and we will never separate.” Paraphrasing from the biblical book of Ruth, Tzur Goldin said, “chayecha chayai, v’chayai chayecha – your life is mine and my life is yours.”
Lt. Goldin had been listed as missing in action and feared kidnapped last Friday morning, only two hours after the start of a declared cease-fire. Late Saturday night, Brigadier General Rafi Peretz, chief IDF rabbi, publicly ruled that Goldin had been killed in action.
His conclusion was based on findings from the battlefield, and halachic rulings, the IDF said Sunday. The IDF provided no other details about the decision process.
Goldin’s father had called for all Israelis to attend the funeral as a display of national unity and to pay their respects to his son. As many as 10,000 people did so. David Singer, who traveled to the funeral from Jerusalem, said that although he didn’t know Goldin, “all of Israel are brothers.”
“We need to support each other,” agreed Noa Green, 22, an Israeli citizen. “Just as we celebrate together, we mourn together, like family.” The funeral was one of many recent farewells to fallen Israeli soldiers that have become mass events since the war with Hamas began.