It was on the evening news on Channel One that I learned that an Israeli commander from Netanya, named Dov Barry Harari, had been killed in an incident on the Lebanon-Israel border. Apparently, he was picked off by a Hezbollah sniper while inspecting the electronic fence. I held my breath and thought in trepidation, “I do hope that he was not the son of any of my friends in Netanya”, where I had lived for many years.

In this tiny country of ours it is impossible to live in a vacuum. We are all connected to so many people, whether from one’s neighbourhood, social life, army service, youth movements, synagogue and so on. One’s mind works overtime internalising any situation where there is sudden tragedy. How many of us spent hours phoning around during the periods of suicide bombings when buses were randomly blown up in many busy thoroughfares in Israel? We were frantically seeking assurances that our friends and their loved ones were safe.

I watched the news on TV, like most people, shocked by what had happened. The scenes switched from pictures of Harari at his son’s bar mitzvah, to family members in Netanya talking about him.

I looked at this face, partially covered by an army helmet, and thought, “I know him. He is not the son of a friend, but someone I know personally”.

I immediately called Phillip, a close friend who had introduced me to Barry. He did not believe what I told him. He had heard the name Dov Harari and assumed that it was no one whom he knew.

By midnight, we both digested the fact that Barry, a carpenter with whom Phillip had worked for years, was indeed the Lt Col on reserve duty who had been killed by a Hezbollah sniper that day.

Barry made all the shelves and cupboards in two apartments that I had moved to over the past seven years. I had been thinking about contacting him to do some more work for me.

Barry was famous for delaying delivery of work. On several occasions, it was due to miluim, compulsory reserve duty. Once when I went to his workshop, I asked him, “How can you do that to your customers?” He answered, “What is more important than serving one’s country?” For me that excuse was enough; I so admired his principles.

Barry, then in his forties, was at an age where reserve duty was no longer required. On another occasion, he was missing from his premises when his mother was sick.

Barry was an outstanding human being, a big man and a gentle giant. One could only have the utmost respect for him. He was extraordinarily modest, not typical of the brash macho types who constantly boast about their heroism and their ranks. Even Phillip, who knew him so well, did not know that he held the rank of Lt Col.

I identified with his family over the loss of their son and brother. I too had lost a son at a similar age, albeit to cancer, and know how deeply affected his teenage children will be; He was their role model.

I identified too, like all mothers of children who have served in the IDF, but mostly I identified because I, almost a stranger, knew what a truly special person he was.

In my home, I have fitted cupboards which are in constant use. In their silence, they will remind me of him every single day. May he rest in peace.

 

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Zelda Harris
Zelda Harris was born in London and came to Israel in 1949. She returned to England in 1966. She was a founding member of the Women's Campaign for Soviet Jewry. In 1978, she returned with her family to Israel and has been active in various spheres of Israeli Society since. Together with the late Chaim Herzog, she founded CCC for Electoral Reform, was the Director of BIPAC in Israel, and a co-founder of Metuna, the Organisation for Road Safety, which received the Speaker of Knesset Quality of Life Award for saving lives on the roads and prevention of serious injury. She is now a peace activist, blogger for Times of Israel and is writing her life story.

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