What Yom Hazikaron Means to Me

Tags: Federation, Israel, Overseas

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Gil Geva Keinan, one of Cleveland's ShinShin, shared her family's emotional story during Yom Hazikaron, Israel's Memorial Day commemoration. Read the story and watch the video below.

by Gil Geva Keinan, Cleveland ShinShin

He drove at ten-thirty at night. Everything around him was dark and quiet. He sat in the black Mercedes with his driver and his young security guard. Another Mercedes with additional security forces were directly behind them. They were on their way to meet the secret agent he had been working with for several months. They knew each other very well, and developed a close relationship. They trusted each other and were even friends. Together, the Israelis moved towards the border with Lebanon. They were excited and nervous about this mission. The goal of the mission was to meet the agent to receive information, as had happened several times before. The information was important and critical. They traveled without headlights so nobody would see them and to maintain the secrecy of the meeting. Along the way the other Mercedes with the additional security forces lost their way, and was no longer with them. They arrived at the entrance to the village close to the border, and suddenly and shockingly gunfire opened from both sides! The Shin Bet coordinator and the young driver were killed on the spot. A few minutes later the other car arrived and saw everything that happened.

During the investigation of this horrible event, it was discovered that the secret agent with whom he had worked double-crossed him and set up the ambush. It was one of the most painful cases of the ShaBaK, General Security Service- he was betrayed by his loyal and trusted agent and friend.

Zeev was 29 when he died in action. Until that moment, he was a young man, ambitious and highly motivated. He was a young coordinator in the Shin Bet and dedicated his entire life to this role. And when I say he devoted his entire life, I also mean his closest family.

At home waiting for him his loving wife, Gila, and his two young children, Yulit, who was 7 years old, and Nitzan, 2 1/2 years old. They were used to his long trips and time away from home. He would often spend several days away for each operation. They were used to his absence. He always made sure to prepare them for the day that he might die. He prepared them because he was almost sure it would happen.

And from his perspective, there was no question at all. He would do anything to protect his country. Even in the army, when his mother did not agree with him being a combat soldier, since he was an only child, he faked her signature and entered the role of commander in the military police. Later, when he became a coordinator in the Shin Bet, and he had his own family, they moved every year to a new place of residence. They lived in the south, north, kibbutz, city, anything to be close to his work. Zeev was a patriot. He was fearless in a suspicious but inspiring way. He was ready to die a thousand times and to know that he did everything for Israel. He wanted his children to know what true love for the place where you live is, what sacrifice is, what loyalty is. He always said, "I have no other country," out of complete faith that this is truly the place that needs to be preserved and protected at any cost. This is home.

Why am I telling you about Zeev? Zeev Geva Greenberg, a 29-year-old, is none other than my grandfather.

The same 7-year-old girl who lost her father, whose name is Yulit, is my mother.

And this story is a huge part of who I am.

Although my grandfather is a historical figure and I have never had the chance to speak with him, he lives within me. Within me and within each and every one of my family members.

To grow up in a bereaved family that lost one of its members in the fight for the country is such a huge challenge.

This family will live with an open wound, one that you wake up with and go to sleep with.

There will be days when the wound will simply be there, there will be days when it will itch and not let you sleep, but it will never heal.

We do not need a memorial day to feel the pain of the heroes who sacrificed themselves for the country.

For us, every day is a day of remembrance.

And everything will take on a different meaning.

Every soldier we will see will remind us of our beloved, and every knock on the door will make our hearts skip a beat.

To be a bereaved family is certainly the hardest thing we have to deal with, and if we had the choice, we would choose not to be included in the list of bereaved families. Nevertheless, it is a great privilege.

This story united us as a family around one idea: we will do anything in our power to protect Israel. Our home.

Even as a little girl, I knew that I would continue my grandfather's path in one way or another. My mother, that 7-year-old girl who grew up without a father who sacrificed himself for Israel, always made sure to raise me and my sister with Zionist values. Without anger, with a lot of pride.

And we could have been angry. We could have been angry at the agent who betrayed us. We could have been angry at the reality. At the loss. But from that day on, we chose to be proud of every detail in this story, and to pass it on. So that as many people as possible would know what a hero my grandfather was. So that as many people as possible would feel the endless love for Israel, and the dedication and loyalty to her.

Behind my choice to be a Shinshin (Israeli young shaliach) far from home, on the other side of the world, stands mainly him. My grandfather.

My choice to be here today is a continuation of his path. Not in exactly the same way, but with the same values and the same goal. I left everything behind for a whole year. My home. My family. My friends. But I never hesitated, not for a moment. I knew that distancing myself from Israel would be the best way for me to get closer to her, and to bring more people closer to her. This is the best way for me to show my love for my country.

The values that my grandfather believed in are the same values that carry me every day here at work, and in general. My Zionism and the values that I was raised with, are what brought me here, in order to make the people who sit here today feel the love and passion for the land of Israel, even from thousands of miles away.

I want every each one of you that sit here today to know that you have an important and meaningful role in protecting our home. Protecting this home starts with the small things we can do. To be there for each other, to live with loyalty and dedication, and above all, to spread our love for Israel. To remember that there were people who gave their lives for this place, And today, our role is not only to remember them, but also to continue their path in our own way. Today, and every day.

And to my Grandpa, thank you. Thank you for caring so much. Thank you for teaching me to love my country without limitations, even when you're no longer here. I promise to continue your path forever.

Thank you.

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