Families Transform Memories of Fallen IDF Soldiers Into Animated Shorts

Ahead of Memorial Day, Website of Jerusalem's Beit Avi Chai cultural center hosts unusual database, seeking to 'bring back to life nice moments from a life that was cut off.'

The last day that Yitzhak Nathanson dropped off his son at preschool, 3-year-old Yaron cried and cried, begging him not go on reserve duty.

It's a memory Yaron Nathanson has held on to since 1980, when he last saw his father alive.

Stills from two of the animated memorial films in the project.
Shahar Tel-Dan and Dan Ronen

Now he has a new way to remember his father, and their final morning: a short animated film based on that memory that will be posted on the website of Jerusalem's Beit Avi Chai cultural center on Israel's Memorial Day.

Memorial Day begins on Tuesday night, and lasts until Wednesday night, when the national mourning morphs into celebrations of Israel's independence.

Stills from two of the animated memorial films in the project.
Shahar Tel-Dan and Dan Ronen

The Nathanson film is one of four of the first items in an unusual memorial database that transforms the memories of bereaved family members from written stories into animated shorts.

"The goal of the project is to resurrect moments of living memory that have nearly been lost," said Yotvat Feiereisen-Weil, who edits the Beit Avi Chai website. "Our hope is to succeed in bringing back to life nice moments from a life that was cut off."

Yaron Nathanson, who saw the short film about his family over the weekend, was pleased with the result.

"I really liked the animation," he said. "Even though I'm familiar with the story, the movie really played on my emotions and left me with my mouth open."

Nathanson said he was surprised at how much the animation, created by Nahman Lerer and Einav Weissman, could capture his emotions so well.

"It managed to illustrate the intuition I had then, at the age of 3," said Nathanson. "On that day it was like I felt that something bad was going to happen. I tried to stop my father, so he wouldn't go on reserve duty. I remember that I broke into furious crying, and I had the same feeling even when he took me to preschool and promised me that he would return and that we would see each other again. I remember him looking back at me and continuing to go, just like in the movie. I was surprised to see that even though the movie was made from someone else's perspective, it managed to accurately capture my feelings that day."

Liav Tsabari, the project's curator, said the power of the animated films lies in creating a visual memory of something that had previously existed only in people's minds.

"Animation has unique tools that don't exist in other media, and that's why it's particularly suited to a project like this," said Tsabari. "It gives you the chance to describe, in a living form, a memory of which you have no visual documentation, like video or photographs."

Other films include one about Yuval Glick, a pilot who died when his plane crashed into the Kinneret, and the memories of food writer Sherry Ansky, whose brother was killed in the Yom Kippur War.