No Tombstone on Fallen Soldier’s Grave

Staff-Sgt. Li Mat was killed in Gaza; Defense Ministry will not allow his siblings’ names to be engraved on memorial

Shirly Seidler
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The inscriptions on tombstones in miltary cemeteries, such as the military section of the cemetery of Nahalal pictured. must conform to standard wording.
The inscriptions on tombstones in miltary cemeteries, such as the military section of the cemetery of Nahalal pictured. must conform to standard wording.Credit: Yuval Tebol
Shirly Seidler

There will be no tombstone on fallen soldier Li Mat’s grave when the family marks the 30th day after his death tomorrow because the Defense Ministry is refusing to allow the parents to inscribe his three siblings’ names on the marker.

Staff-Sgt. Mat, 19, a paratrooper from Eilat, was killed in a booby-trapped house in Khan Yunis on July 23 during the fighting in Gaza. Since then, his family has been arguing the point with the ministry, whose public committee for memorializing the soldier rejected their request by one vote.

“The ones who will be standing at the grave will not be the Defense Ministry, or a minister, or anyone from the Knesset, but us,” said Li’s mother, Smadar. “When we visit our son’s grave at the end of the week there will be no tombstone because of the defense establishment’s hard-heartedness.”

The ministry’s soldier memorial unit erects uniform gravestones on soldiers’ graves to mark the shloshim – the 30th day after death – and presents the family with the epitaph shortly before the date. Under the Military Cemeteries Law, the stone is engraved with the name of the fallen soldier, his rank and serial number, the place of his birth, his Jewish birth date and his parents’ names. The civil date and the soldier’s nickname will be added if the family requests it.

Widows or parents who want to add any other personal message must submit a special request to do so. The Mats submitted such a request and were turned down.

The Defense Ministry said, “The public committee for memorializing the soldier, which comprises bereaved parents, widows, orphans and bereaved siblings, recognizes and honors the family of fallen soldier Li Mat, who fell in Operation Protective Edge. The military cemetery regulations do not permit the adding of siblings’ names to the inscription on the tombstone.”

After the Second Lebanon War in 2006, the ministry said, a proposal to allow the inscription of siblings’ names was approved by then-Defense Minister Amir Peretz and forwarded for the approval of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, which never ruled on the matter.

The ministry said the public committee would reevaluate the Mats’ request at a later date and submit its recommendations to the Defense Ministry and Knesset committee again. “The Defense Ministry will act based on the decision made, and if necessary will change the inscription on the gravestone immediately.”

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