When it happens, G-d forbid, and you have to write something about someone who no longer exists, people tend to mention his good qualities, good things that he did, etc. This tendency is not unfounded. It enables us to part from the deceased with memories of all the good that he left behind, and through these memories we are somewhat comforted. So I hope that we will always mention and remember the infinite good that Uriel, of blessed memory, has left behind him. In this context, I too would like to write about two points that come to mind as soon as I think about him. The first is his wide, toothy smile. Uriel was always, always happy. The second point is his persistence in learning Torah, especially during his army service. I remember him always walking around, whenever it was possible to do so, with pages of gemorrah in his hand. May his soul be bound in the bond of life!
Uriel! I wanted to write you things that I remember about you. Someone at your funeral said, “When a person dies we are reminded of all the good things about him. With you, Uriel, there is nothing new to learn. I think that everyone who knew you knew who you were and what it was about you that made you so special. Therefore, I will just give a few short examples. Whilst we still barely knew each other, during the period of basic training, we were given a very short amount of time in which to eat. You and Chagai, no matter what mood you were in, you always came forward to open up the cans of food and you yourselves would always take last. Something small that represents something so much greater. After you finished your course for tank commanders, and you joined our regiment, I remember that I used to say to you, “So, Uriel. What will be? Where are the epaulets with your new rank?” It didn’t interest you in the slightest,
and you always used to say, “Oh yeah, right…”
On the seventeenth day of Tammuz (a fast day), Gutman and I said, “We are not moving today. We will just rest in the synagogue.” And you (and I do not know how) worked that day as usual, and you fasted throughout the day. That is just who you were.
Before I end, I must mention your ceaseless learning, your constant smile, your simplicity, and the fact that you never complained in any situation. I have nothing to say other than that I will remember your forever!
With everlasting love,
I will never forget the beginning of the training course when we were promised that during the week in which we would all be guarding the settlements, the outstanding soldiers would be placed in a nearby settlement (Latrun) with excellent working conditions. Uriel, who was of course one of the outstanding soldiers, gave up this privilege so that I could have it in his stead as I was a married man. Also during the trek before we received the insignia of our unit, when they began running in the dark without being able to see anything, and I was so hesitant- “What? Where?”- Uriel pushed me forward, laughingly, jokingly and said to me, “Eliran, don’t worry. Nothing will happen to you, believe me…” And throughout the trek he kept pushing me forward the whole time.
We return at 2:00 a.m. after a week out in the open terrain. There are more security conditions that have to be finalized, we have to get up in another three hours, and there is also guard duty. But Uriel will not allow anyone from the staff to go to sleep before we sit around together having coffee and some 37% (chocolate chip) cookies. Uriel- you were a great friend who loved everyone. You were so straight and so happy, with a quietness that one could not upset. It was simply impossible not to admire you.
My strongest memory is of the two of us opening up canned goods together during basic training. One day he brings a really good can opener from home so that we should be able to open up the cans faster. Suddenly I realized that even at home he stops to think of all of us back at the base, and worries that we should have more time to be able to eat.
When the Rabbi of Efrat eulogized Uriel, he brought down the explanation that the Zohar gives on the verse, “My beloved has gone down to his garden to graze amongst the gardens and to gather roses.” G-d, he says, descends into His garden and gathers unto Him those whose sweet smell reaches across the distance- those who are most righteous.
This is exactly how I feel.
Uriel my brother, you were a good friend.
From you I learned what modesty really is, what it means to be serious and yet so happy at the same time, and what it means to be filled with diligence and yearning in your pursuit of Torah studies.
During the third Sabbath meal on the last Shabbat that you were granted, we were together with a few of our friends in the synagogue on the base. You sang the Sabbath songs along with us in your sweet voice, while at the same time you were completing the last Daf Yomi (the apportioned page for the daily learning of the Talmud) for the week.
I was fortunate to be with you during the week of guard duty in Latrun. What good times we had together that week!
I miss you Uriel. I want you to slap me hard on the back while calling out, “What’s happening Gabi Yoissi?!?” That is the nickname you gave me for some reason. No one ever called me that before, and apparently no one will ever call me that again… When you would see me after we had not seen each other for a while, you would flash me one of your magic, slightly bashful smiles. You would make me feel as if you were truly happy to be seeing me again.
I hope that we will know how to continue in Uriel’s ways, that we will know how to emulate his special personality and his outstanding qualities.
It is difficult to write about Uriel when the pain is still so fresh and the memories keep surfacing on their own.
How easy it is to be reminded of him, of his great, ever present smile; to feel his hand around your shoulder; to imagine him with his gemorrah pamphlet opened in front of him, or to envision him sitting on the side humming the weekly Torah reading (twice, with the Aramaic translation as well) when everyone else had drifted off to sleep in the few, brief moments of rest allotted to us.
During the lineups for inspection of our complete equipment, when time is of the essence and everyone is extremely stressed, there is someone you know you can count on to bring all the division equipment which has to be inspected as well. And not to worry- there is also someone you can count on to return it afterwards. (And several times he explained to me in all seriousness why it was only logical that he should be the one to return everything.) When you eat out in the open fields, there is someone who opens up all the cans for everyone; there is someone who will tell the poor soldier in training who is on duty, “What, you forgot to set your stopwatch? Don’t worry, I set mine.” And there is someone who will call out in his stead how much time is left. And when people can’t keep up with the time schedule, he will encourage them, convincing them that it is not so terrible; after all, it is healthy to exercise your muscles by running and by doing pushups! “And of course no one is angry with you because you did not ask for an extension in time!”
There is someone who will help all the others before the lineup for inspection by the assistant commander of the brigade, even if it has to come off of his free time- because he has already finished his own preparations a while ago. He will show the others how to make the loop for the water canteen, and how you crush the thread after you burn it. There is someone who will always push the others forward during the running; there is someone who will take the division equipment; there is someone who will take your place carrying the stretcher; there is someone who will always volunteer, and there is someone who will come and say, “But why are you so depressed? It’s not so terrible here.” And he will continue shrugging his shoulders in the face of the one who is protesting, saying “I like it here.”
There is someone who will push a small Tikun (book for preparing the reading of the Torah portion of the week) into my hand before guard duty, saying, “Come back here when you know at least up to the fourth segment of the Torah portion!” There is another reason to feel happy when you get back to Camp Natan on Sunday morning.
During the time that he was not sure whether or not he would go out to the training course, I spoke to him about it. He shrugged his shoulders and said, “If they want me, then I want to be a commander. And if not, not.” The day before his tank overturned, Uriel came to the tent of our company (he was the commander of a different company in the regiment) to see all the guys, to talk a bit. His face was filthy, and I laughed at him, telling him that he looked made up.
He smiled and said, “What do you think? That I came in order to walk around with my rank on my working uniform? We came to eat powder…” What simple happiness, such innocence, so easygoing… How simple and modest he was, how much love he had for Torah. He had such a strong sense of obligation, of being on a mission in life.
“My beloved has descended to his garden to his beds of incense, to graze in the gardens and to gather roses. I am to my beloved and my beloved is to me, he who grazes amongst roses.”
There are a lot of things to remember about you. The simplicity, the generosity, the modesty, the happiness, the incredible good heartedness, the caring for others, the respect for others, and numerous other qualities which escape me for the moment. In particular, I recall a few minor scenarios which I have chosen to focus on for now. For example, the infamous “officer’s lineup” when we had to clean all our military apparatus and our rooms in approximately half the time in which it was physically possible to do so. Naturally, everyone was busy getting his own things ready and no one had time to worry about the next guy. Just at this time, the most stressful time of the week, you found the time to help all those who did not manage to clean their canteens or to shake out their “scabies blankets”. Of course, with your extreme swiftness, with every remark that you called out, you still managed to prepare for the lineup as well as the best of us.
The other time that I came face to face with your greatness was whenever you opened some snack or sweet that you had received from home (usually cookies or wafers). You did not wait until others would realize that you had opened the package, but you went around to everyone offering some of your snack, as if you wished that it would only get finished up already!
But more than anything else, etched in my heart is the one spiritual quality I think was your most obvious characteristic- the modesty, the quiet- the noisy, clamorous quietness of one who works for and worries about everything and everyone, without any need for external recognition for what he has done. A man who lacks any form of self-effacement, pretentiousness or a desire for respect or recognition. There is a reason, Uriel, that you won first place during the week of field training in the camouflaging drill, when even the instructor could not find you! For this is exactly how you conducted your inner life as well. You had an uncanny ability to humble yourself in a paradoxical proportion to your natural abilities and to the incredible knowledge that you possessed.
Obviously, this quality of yours did not render you passive or silent when you felt the need to express your opinion about something or to voice your opposition when necessary. I remember many instances when a group of us were engaged in fierce discussions about some issue or another and you would mostly remain silent. But at the end you would quietly make one remark, without any of the incitements that we had displayed, and your one remark would usually determine the outcome of the argument.
It is said that in the army a man’s attributes and detriments are fully revealed. We merited seeing that your inner peace, your stability and your natural gentleness were never diminished in the slightest- even at the most difficult and extreme moments in the army, and all this with tremendous modesty. Of course I cannot possibly extract in these few words the depth of your personality and your sublime traits. But mostly I wanted to remind myself what it is that we can learn from the short but enlightening time that we had together.
May it indeed be G-d’s will that, through our brief encounter with you, we will all succeed in internalizing the lessons that you have taught us. May we merit the ability to apply to our own lives what our sages said long ago, “the righteous in their deaths are called the living”, because their deeds and actions are long remembered and will forever live on.
“May his soul be bound in the bond of life.”
How is it possible to talk about Uriel? This is a very difficult question. I had the opportunity of getting to know you in the first year of our Yeshiva studies. A quiet man, always with a smile on his face, and one who always knew how to come up from behind with a slap on the back! At many different stages, I would garner strength just from talking to you, or just by observing you at work. As I said initially, I can connect you to every aspect of our training: During our long treks, you were always there with the jerry can on your back. During lineups, you always got a “Redo!” for polishing your boots. I remember that there were times later on when Diamandi would tell you “Redo!” without even bothering to glance in your direction, because he automatically knew what the situation called for!
You were always so persistent in your learning, and always made such excellent use of your time. What more can I add? You were always so pedantic about learning mishne, gemorrah, or even just about worrying that all the boys from the Gush (Yeshivat Gush Etzion) would have the paper detailing all the relevant information about everyone’s whereabouts.
I remember you juggling at Chagai’s wedding. You were always the rock in the middle of the ocean, something strong that everyone could hold onto so as not to get swept away. I am still stunned, trying to imagine how the fourth year of our Yeshiva studies will go on without you- physically, that is, because your memory will accompany us long after the tears will be used up… You were such a special person, and I cannot quantify your contribution in words- no matter how many I write. Even the tears that flow while I am writing cannot possibly describe how much I will miss you. One does not often merit meeting a person like you, and I am so happy that I got to know you over these past three years.
For a long time I had not met him, Mr. Death. It does not matter when, it does not matter where, when he comes he will catch you by surprise and smite you with force. When a loss of life occurs, shreds of memory surface on their own; from the depths of one’s thoughts they rise towards consciousness.
What should I say and what should I tell about you, Uriel?
We spent three years together, the three most significant years of my life. I remember your self discipline from the Yeshiva. I remember my attempts to connect with your diligence by suggesting that we learn together as a chavrutah- something which, to my deep regret, never materialized.
I remember your smile, which was always present on your face, even in the most unclear and difficult moments, especially during basic training.
I remember the look of shock on your face at some of the sayings and the madness of the commanders.
I remember your small gemorrah that was always with you in that desolate desert.
I remember the equipment you insisted on carrying on all the treks- the cursed jerry can that you always grabbed before I even had the time to decide if I wanted to be its next victim or not!
I remember the large palm of your hand, your strong handshake, which would grab you and support you all at once.
I will remember- because that is all that is left… I will always remember you and I will learn from you, my friend, to continue the journey of my life…
I was fortunate to have received Uriel as one of my soldier’s in basic training, to have had the privilege of preparing him to be a soldier. But it seems to me that more than what he learned from me, I merited to learn from him as he was a role model in all of his actions.
Uriel was an exemplary person- quiet, modest, always volunteering to carry the division’s equipment and to fulfill the most difficult tasks. All this he did in silence, quietly, without complaining on the one hand and not trying to stand out or to be ostentatious on the other.
He was always an excellent soldier, with a tremendous desire to succeed. Even when he was forced to part from his friends and to transfer to a division which was not a division of yeshiva boys, he did so happily, without complaining. He succeeded in forming deep ties and friendships with other boys who were not religious and were not exactly like him. Because of his abilities, Uriel was always considered as a candidate for enrolling in the tank commanders’ training course. Whatever reservations there were, were only due to budgetary constraints, and not G-d forbid because of doubts concerning his abilities.
At the end, Uriel did go out to the tank commanders’ training course, and there too he continued to excel, with his uncompromising demands of himself. All this of course without ever complaining even for a moment, and always with a smile on his face. This level of excellence Uriel demanded from himself spiritually as well- he persisted in studying the Daf Yomi every day! Even during the tank commanders’ training course! And so even through this I learned from Uriel about the extreme dedication that is demanded of us in the pursuit of Torah studies.
Excellence, modesty, happiness, boundless friendship, fierce dedication to Torah- all these I merited to observe and to learn from Uriel, of blessed memory, during the course of his training.
May his memory be for a blessing!
It worked out that I had to spend a Shabbat with Uriel in the Golan Heights as part of a guard duty team. As it happened, this was to be Uriel’s last Shabbat with us. I remember him walking to the synagogue on Friday evening, beaming and smiling, greeting me with his salutation, “Shabbat Shalom, Gardin” (with the accent on the second syllable), as only he used to call me. In the morning, we went to make Kiddush in the tank field of “Bezeq” where he was doing guard duty. Despite my attempts to convince him to sit he refused- “I can’t; these are the orders.”
On Sunday at 7:00 a.m., I was dozing off at guard duty, and Uriel came running by me, smiling. He had already finished praying and was doing his running exercise, despite the fact that the regiment had not yet arrived and there was nothing imminent he had to do.
It quickens my heart to see that even when just using “sample” memories from the last day and a half that we had with him, the same good qualities that were emphasized in him throughout his life were shining forth so brightly in those final hours: happiness, serenity, diligence, the ability to serve as a role model to others, and the complete lack of a need to be self-effacing.
I learned so much from this special boy. I wanted to talk about the one quality of his that I most admired: His diligence in worshiping G-d.
Uriel was really a greatly pious man. I will tell two stories that will prove this point. Whoever knows Uriel knows that he would always walk around with the blue pamphlet of the Daf Yomi. Every yeshiva boy who is in the army tries to take something small upon himself: learning mishnayot, reciting the weekly Torah portion twice with the Aramaic translation as well, a chapter in the Bible, or a page from the pamphlet put out by the Yeshiva in Ma’aleh Adumim. Uriel was not satisfied with this. He attempted to learn Daf Yomi- one page of the gemorrah every single day, no more no less. He would always update me with how many pages he was behind in the Daf Yomi schedule, and when he would come back from a Shabbat at home or from a short holiday he would always use the time to catch up.
When I was in charge of arranging guard duty, he would ask to be given the second to last round of guard duty (which is known to be the worst of all) so that he and Yonah could learn together a little bit before morning prayers.
During our tank commanders’ training course, when everyone always tries to avoid staying on the base for Shabbat, I tried to persuade him to get out of it as well. He would always say to me, “I, I have my gemorrah here. What difference does it make to me- home, or the synagogue in Shizafon with the air conditioner…” Truly a very special person.
In the short break before we began our tank commanders’ training course, Yisrael, Yoad, Uriel and I went on a short hike together up North. We slept in an apartment that belonged to Yonatan Zel Zion. After an exhausting day, we managed to find out what time services would be in the morning in nearby Kazrin. We were told that services commenced there at 5:45 a.m. After doing a very short calculation, we figured out that we would have to get up very early to make it in time, and naturally it was already quite late at night. I was rather hesitant about this idea but Uriel immediately said, “What does this mean? There is a minyan? We are getting up!” And of course he is the one who woke up the rest of us first thing in the morning… And until we finally got to go on this vacation!!!
I will never forget his diligence and his fierce determination. If only we would all take on this one aspect of his personality… May there indeed be many more like him in Israel.
I will never forget the conversations we had together, and how I always competed with you over who would bring the most candies to the room. I will never forget your pure face, your pristine look, your smiling face. You never forgot to leave each and every one of us with a good feeling. May your memory be for a blessing.
They say that “G-d only takes the best ones”, and Uriel has proven that this is indeed the case… I was together with him during the tank commanders’ training course and there it became even clearer to me just how perfect he really was. During this course there is no one who does not complain, but Uriel never complained in his life- even though Yisrael would yell at him, “Sometimes you have to know when to complain!”
But I do not think that I have to give an example of how good he was; we all experienced him… Uriel was simply the enlightenment of G-d!
Uriel, of blessed memory, was a complete morale team in and of himself. Always in the grayest, must crushing moments, he knew how to flash one of his smiles or to amuse us with one of his antics- such as his mockery of Chagai’s marching rhythm which would totally blow him away! (Don’t worry Chagai- I hope you’ve gotten past this by now!) Or when we were out in the terrain and we desperately needed something sweet, Uriel always knew just the right moment to take out his bag of Hershy’s…