For Lt. Hadar Goldin, a Funeral Instead of a Wedding

The atmosphere at a memorial service for the Israeli officer was almost festive; the words of his heartbroken fiancée echoed an unfathomable loss.

Ofer Aderet
Ofer Aderet
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Friends of 23-year-old Israeli 2nd Lt. Hadar Goldin mourn during his funeral at the military cemetery in Kfar Sava, August 3, 2014.
Friends of 23-year-old Israeli 2nd Lt. Hadar Goldin mourn during his funeral at the military cemetery in Kfar Sava, August 3, 2014.Credit: AFP
Ofer Aderet
Ofer Aderet

The bright yellow directional signs posted at the entrance to Kfar Sava looked at first like those banners hung up to guide out-of-towners to the local banquet hall for a bar mitzva. This time, however, they read, “Parking for funeral attendees.”

It’s painful to think that the signs could have easily been directing guests toward the wedding of the young man whose funeral was taking place. Only a few weeks ago Lt. Hadar Goldin had gotten engaged to his beloved Edna. Not long after the funeral of the three teens who had been abducted and murdered in Gush Etzion – can anyone even remember when that was, given the tumult of events that followed? – Goldin took Edna to Jerusalem, and proposed to her there, in the city she loves.

On Friday he was killed in a clash in the southern Gaza Strip. On Sunday Edna stood over the fresh grave, and said some heartrending things. “I so wanted to be your bride. I never thought you’d leave me alone so quickly. I have no idea what to do,” she said.

“Today you are the bride of all the Jewish people,” she was told, over and over. But it’s doubtful she found much comfort in that. Less than 24 hours earlier, on Saturday night, she stood before the cameras and told the whole nation that she was waiting to dance with Hadar at their wedding.

In the late afternoon it still seemed as if the city was celebrating something. Bus after crowded bus arrived at Weizmann Street in the center of the city, discharging its passengers. They were religious, ultra-Orthodox, and secular, Ethiopians, English-speakers and native born, members of youth movements, and lots of soldiers – many looking as if they’d come directly from the battlefield.

“Wow, I haven’t been on Facebook all day,” said one teenage girl to her friend, and the two giggled. But then the military command car arrived, bearing Goldin’s coffin, accompanied by motorcycles and police cars, making it clear to anyone who might have forgotten that they were here for a funeral. One woman who was standing near the road and saw the coffin up close, fainted. Another woman burst into tears. A baby in her father’s arms was wailing. “Why is she crying, mom?” asked another little boy. “Because she’s sad,” the mother answered.

Instructions from the Home Front Command were blaring from the loudspeakers. “If you hear a siren, you are asked to lie on your stomach and not to move until further notice.” This announcement was repeated three more times. Immediately afterward, sirens sounded in Tel Aviv and the coastal region. The booms could be heard in the Kfar Sava cemetery.

“It’s so typical of them to do such a thing,” said a woman, bitterly, presumably referring to Hamas. “Don’t worry, there won’t be a siren here,” said a religious man to his disabled friend. “I’ve spoken to God. He protects us. There won’t be a siren. Let them [the Arabs] leave; they have 52 states. We have nowhere else to go. What do we want, anyway? To keep the commandments, to observe Shabbat,” he murmured.

Then the ceremony began. Goldin’s father, Dr. Simha Goldin, made clear his pride in being the patriarch of an ethical, brave family imbued with a sense of mission and a will to sacrifice. A family coming from the heart of modern religious Zionism, which integrates Torah and secular knowledge with a love of the Jewish people and the State of Israel.

He expressed the hope that his son’s death would bring “a great repair to a conflict-ridden world,” and “a victory over the absolute evil that he set out to defeat.” From those in attendance he asked that they learn from Hadar’s good manners. “Hadar never cursed and never let his youth group charges curse. I ask that we all act this way … to act properly. Don’t hate one another. Focus on the good in your friends, not their deficiencies.”

Dr. Goldin described his son as “a Jewish fighter,” like Joshua Bin Nun. “Do as he did. Take the Torah with you and be Jewish fighters,” he urged the crowd. He also disclosed to the crowd that the brave officer had asked his mother to teach him to sew, and on his gun belt he embroidered the words, “strength and humility.”

“That’s the Jewish battle doctrine,” the elder Goldin said. “To know how to use strength when necessary and to use it with humility.”

Hadar’s twin brother, Tzur, also spoke. He promised never to part from him, “your life is my life, and my life is your life. There will still be happy times at home. There is no strength and no spirit like yours.”

En route back to the buses, the words of the heartbroken fiancée still echoed. “I so wanted to be your bride. I burst with pride that I was connected to a person who was so infused with values. I have no idea how life will look without you…

“I want to live for you and I look forward to the day when we’ll meet again. I thank you for the great privilege of making you happy.”

Edna (L), the fiancee of 2nd Lt. Hadar Goldin, mourns during his funeral in Kfar Sava, August 3, 2014.Credit: Reuters

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