Tank Crew

Letter from Ido Tal
During Uriel’s first year in the yeshiva, I was privileged to be his Older hevruta (study partner). Our hevruta only met in the evening – learning the Baba Batra (Talmudic tract) but our friendship was ongoing.
I remember the difficult beginning, the difficulty in getting used to intensive learning at the yeshiva, our weariness after a full day of learning and the need to be at another learning session at night, the difficulty in learning Tosfot (i.e., annotations to the Talmud) in the seder bekiyut. But despite the difficulty, Uriel would always get there before the learning session so that he could manage to learn something beforehand. It was important for him to finish on time so that he could go to sleep, so that he’d have strength for the next day.
I remember the notes he arranged on the table, the daily learning routines that we had to get done. If we missed anything – Tanach (Bible), Mishnah (Jewish doctrine), Rambam (Maimonide’s teachings) or Daf Yomi (the daily page of Talmud), then we had to make up for it. Uriel preferred the analytical, halachic issues over aggadah (homiletic literature). When we got stuck in the Tosfot, and Uriel would wait for me to come up with a solution, he didn’t just sit there, arms folded or just stare into space: he’d open a book and learn in the meantime.
Uriel had a great love of learning and a desire to progress and to get closer to Hashem. Together with his learning and love of Torah, he loved people. With his captivating smile and with his bright eyes he’d go around and shower love and happiness on his surroundings. I remember how his love for his family was reflected in his conversations — his love for his parents and sisters, and how happy he was when his sister married.
Uriel also loved sports. He played tennis during lunch break he’d play some form of football using a Frisbee. One night a week and on Fridays he’d play football and basketball. He loved juggling and taught me a little. I also remember his love for Chassidic music and it was so apparent when we were learning, because from time to time, he’d read a word that reminded him of a song.
A great man was taken from us and the pain is great. I am sorry I couldn’t come to the shiva to talk to you face to face. May Hashem comfort you among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem and may you never suffer more sorrow.

If I can help you in any way, please tell me.
Ido Tal
Shadmot Mechola
Emek Beit Shean.

Uriel Liwerant, Z”L
What else can be said about Uriel that hasn’t been said? Of his eternal smile, his calm, his good heart, of the short, amazing time that we were privileged to know him.
We decided that the best way to speak about Uriel is to put Team 3A’s (Arad, Yonah and Netanel) words into writing, for the book that will be published in Uriel’s memory:

Dear Uriel:
I can’t grasp that I’m writing these words because of the fact that you’re gone from us. In my short acquaintance with you I saw in you a mentor and a person that I must learn from. Your serenity and persistent happiness was an inspiration to me and I hope to be able to continue learning from it. I will always remember you. You weren’t only a good friend but a professional commander of the first order. You always knew the goal and mission of our exercise and you always took any last-minute training changes in stride.
It was always important for you that we complete our tasks on time, even though it meant getting up early before everyone to pray. It didn’t bother you, though and you always came to me and asked me to get up a few minutes before everyone so that we could finish up.
Uriel, I’ll never forget you and will keep you in my heart. The last thing that I ask of you is that you watch over us from above and always be with me and help me in the decisions I have to make, as you did before this terrible thing happened.
With great appreciation.
Netanel Uzan (your driver):

For Uriel Liwerant, Tank Commander 3A, may his memory be blessed.
It’s the early evening hour and I’m sitting in the “recreation corner” on the base. IN the background, I hear the rest of the guys unpacking equipment and placing it in the company sergeant major’s depot.
How can I write the name “Uriel Liwerant” in the same sentence with words like “killed due to…” The whole day, I, Arad Woldenberg, your gunner, imagine myself in your place, in the same situation, in the same place, at the same minute, at the same second. In the second that you, Uriel, saw that the tank was about to overturn and fall off the bridge. I remember vaguely what happened. The time was 4:30 am. It was the fourth regimental exercise in two weeks. We were tired, we already completed most of the exercise, and suddenly I hear the three words that I dreaded hearing: Team, overturn exercise.” At the very moment that Uriel saw the tank was overturning, he didn’t lose it. Not for one moment. Just like an experienced, professional commander. You commanded, or more correctly,you did what was imposed on you, in the best way possible. Uriel, it’s important for me that you understand that with your last command you most definitely saved me, one of the team. And that’s how you displayed the quality of your leadership as a tank commander. With your last words you left the team united yet, in the same breath, something was missing.
Uriel, although I only knew you a month and half, we had a common goal that we agreed upon in our first conversation: to get me into the tank commander’s course. Unfortunately, you’re absent, and so I promise you that I’ll continue to operate in the same way and even more so, because now you’re looking at every step I make, at each given moment.
It saddens me that I didn’t have a chance to know you better, but when something is written above, nothing can change it. I will always remember your bashful smile, your brown face after an exercise, your sigh of relief after we hit a target, your dedication toward your staff and your tank.
We will miss you
With great appreciation,
Your gunner
Arad Woldenberg

To the dear Liwerant family, dearer than gold, (writes Yonah, the tank loader). I met Uriel in the army, not in the yeshiva or in his neighborhood. During basic training your bed was above mine and you’d wake the room up in the morning – when everyone just wanted to sleep and we just didn’t want to wake up. There was roll call and you made sure that the entire unit was orderly, as it should be, down to the tiniest detail for cleaning duty at the end of the week.
And before the morning line up, when we were all stressed out, everyone whining and complaining about the heat and the commanders – Uriel would quietly open a package of wafers or his mother’s cookies and pass it around to everyone, or he’d sit in a corner of the room, studying from the Bible or finishing up some pages from Daf Yomi (the daily page of Talmud)..
During advanced training Uriel was in the team next to mine. We were in tents, with strong winds blowing. Yet he made sure that the rest of the guys were eating like they should, would smoke the tuna again and again so that everyone would have. Uriel and I were learning to be loaders in the tank, and we learned things from each other throughout the course. The main things which I learned from him, were tricks and professional tips. Uriel was a strong guy; pushing munitions was pretty easy for him. During training hikes he always took the heaviest jerrycan and never let anyone relieve him of it. And he tried again and again to help the others with the stretcher – while he’s still carrying the water jerrycan. He gave up only because the platoon commander didn’t let him. But Uriel would still try to help, stopping and helping the guys beneath the stretcher pull it forward.
During advanced training, our team always worked according to procedure, but always without undue pressure. We always had time to hang out together and have a good time.
Before we went to sleep at night Uriel and I would have a standing argument over when to turn off the lights. I tried to learn a little at night, and he wanted to close the light so that he could sleep, regaining his strength for the next day. In the end, we decided to close the lights only when everyone finished organizing their things before lights out. Not before. So that I could study, and not afterwards, so that he could sleep.
I didn’t see him and didn’t speak to Uriel during the tank commander’s course, because we were far away from each other. But as soon as he got to the company, it was as if we’d never been apart, as if I saw him yesterday and not four months previous.
When we were in the tank he always made sure that we’d have water bottles, so that we’d have something to drink from exercise to exercise. And the team made sure we’d always have cookies and sweets to snack on during the difficult hours spent in our team exercises. These exercises replicated war conditions – that is, every soldier had to be in full battle dress, with helmet and weapons, in the middle of the day, when the sun was at its hottest – expecting a call up soon – and we had no more water in the tank. The water tower was far away: at least a kilometer. The team was very tired, but Uriel went to the tower, filled up the jerrycan and brought it to the tank.
When Uriel became our commander, he exerted great effort to ensure that every safety measure was taken and took meticulous care to ensure that tasks were performed correctly. I, as a soldier, found this perfectionism — without concession, difficult and even annoying. But because he was a good a friend, I couldn’t argue or yell at him.
Now, after Uriel was killed, and I’ve had a chance to meet his amazing family, and the rabbis and the guys from the yeshiva, I see how everything – the home, the yeshiva, were reflected in a quiet, simple happiness, throughout his army service.
Before the last exercise, we were eating candies and snacks for fun and to stay awake. Before we got on the bridge the team was alert, everyone did their tasks as prescribed, even on the bridge and during the difficult seconds of the turnover itself. Uriel yelled “team overturn exercise” and a second afterward the tank was upside down.
Complete darkness. I’m screaming and looking around me. Uriel was always next to me in the tank (the commander stands next to the tank loader). I’m looking for him and can’t find him and I yell: Uriel, Uriel. Quiet. No answer. I try to make contact on the two-way radio to report the accident, but it wasn’t working. Darkness. I put on a light in the turret. The rest of the team emerged unharmed. We came out to a new day. With a great terrible void that’s impossible to fill, to a difficult reality that no one could have foreseen: Uriel’s death. The team survived and lives only because of him. Only because of his commands, and the order that reigned in the tank, the assurance that everyone was alert, that I, as a tank loader would be in the tank and not outside.
I received a mission: I received my life anew.
My task is to continue what Uriel began. I can’t think of anything that I’ll do in life and that I’l be able to fulfill and to realize completely the life that Uriel gave me in his last moments. When I see Uriel’s father, Aaron, his mother Joni and the sisters, I see Uriel.
I see the smile on all of them, the unbounded love, the simplicity, the calm, the shying away from the limelight that so characterized Uriel.
With love, with hugs, we will always be in touch because I feel a part of the family.