HOME VISIT - Shula Ram, Haifa

By Sara Bedein

 

 

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                                                                   Elad with his daughter, Aila

Elad Shlomo Ram, 1975-2006

Killed during the Second Lebanon War, August 13th, 2006, one week before his 31st birthday. Survived by his wife, Galit, 10-month-old baby, Aila, his parents Atzmon and Shula and his 2 brothers, Gili and Yaron.

 

                                                                       

Elad, a reservist in the esteemed Golani Brigade and an engineer in civilian life, was called up for reserve duty at the outbreak of the Second Lebanon War. While the injured were being evacuaed, an anti-tank missile fatally hit Elad, only 14 hours before the ceasefire went into effect. Eladís second name, Shlomo was given to him in memory of his fatherís brother, Shlomo Ram, who was killed during the Yom Kipper War.

 

 

Shula, a warm, loving and very involved young grandmother is closely connected to her married children and grandchildren.  The Ramís living room contains a corner tightly packed with childrenís toys for the use of their grandchildren who frequent their home. During the week the grandchildren take turns sleeping at their grandparentsí home and Eladís 2 year-old daughter, Aila, spends at least two nights a week at their house where she sleeps snuggled between her grandparents.

 

Shula brings out awards and badges of courage awarded her son after his death. In addition there is a pile of diplomas and awards for Excellence from Eladís years at the Technion, Israel Institute of Technology, in Haifa. Shula recalls the years that Elad studied at the prestigious university and the frequent nights he would bring home his friends and classmates and review the difficult material needed for their studies. Shula  served them all dinner and delighted in watching her bright son so patiently teach his friends.

 

Among all the awards and diplomas, Shula pulls out a small stained notebook filled with notes and writing. It is the bloodstained war diary that Elad kept in between the battles he took part in. It was discovered in the front pocket of his uniform after his death.

 

Delicately fingering through the reconstructed blood-soaked pages (the original is being preserved), one gets a personal glimpse of what went on during the war and alongside the heart-breaking notes about losing a friend in battle or the injuries sustained by another, one perceives the deep dedication and loyalty Elad held for his country and his steadfast perseverance in protecting his beloved family and the people of Israel. 

 

Over the dining room table is a big picture of a broadly smiling Elad, the last picture taken of him when he was given a few hours leave from the war to attend his brother-in-lawís wedding. Baby Aila had just taken her first steps and the great accomplishment was saved as a surprise for Elad who took enormous delight in seeing his baby walk falteringly into his outstretched arms. Precious sweet moments that were over all too soon, when a few short hours later, Elad donned his army fatigues, kissed his family goodbye and headed back out to the treacherous war. That was the last time his family saw him alive. A few days later, after another day spent mostly in the bomb shelter, taking refuge from the Hizballah missiles raining all over the North, the family returned home to find a small delegation of officers bearing the terrible news of Eladís death.

 

Shula barely holds back the tears when she attempts to describe the kind of son Elad was. ďAlways a smile on his face, so giving and free with his hugs,Ē she says. ďI miss feeling his strong arms engulfing me in a tight bear hug. Elad was such a bright boy and excelled in everything he did.Ē

 

Shula takes a tiny measure of comfort in the fact that she had unexplainably saved all of Eladís text messages to her from the year 2005 until his death in August 2006. All the other text messages she would routinely delete from her phone. A few months after Eladís death, while cleaning out the storage room Shula discovered paintings that Elad had drawn when in high school. Years ago he had told her she could throw them away, and though not a hoarder, she had saved them. Now that every personal item of Eladís has become so precious, she is grateful to have them and to be able to take them out, look at them and trace the lines with her finger.

 

Shula and her husband Atzmon frequent the military cemetery where their son is buried. They always take with them extra memorial candles in case they run into other bereaved families on a spontaneous visit to one of the fresh graves surrounding Eladís. By now, Shula and Atzmon have come to know the families of all the young men buried alongside of their son. The cemetery has become a meeting place, a spontaneous support group, a place where at times no words need to be exchanged as the language of unbearable grief and bereavement is at times far more eloquent than words.

 

Two-year-old Aila goes with her mother every week to the cemetery.  She makes drawings for her father and places them under a rock on his tombstone. She likes arranging and rearranging the many small stones that are customarily placed on the tombstone. She was too young to have any memories of her father but at home she takes down his picture and kisses him on the eyes, the nose and his cheeks.  She tells her mother that her Abba is going to come home from the war soon and when her mother explains to her that her father is now a ďstar looking down and protecting her,Ē she shakes her little head and says passionately, ďNo! Youíll see.  Heís going to come home.Ē

 

Shula credits the Koby Mandell Foundation for being the first to get her out of her house and join a group of other bereaved mothers for a 2 day Mothers Healing Retreat. She says that the retreat was a turning point for her, enabling her to once again cling to life and connect with others who share the agony of losing a child. She comes regularly to the Koby Mandellís Haifa Moadon where she joins other bereaved mothers for a monthly activity that serves as a support group and as some of the mothers put it, their ďlifeline.Ē

 

As itís time to leave, Shulaís daughter-in-law drops Aila off at her house for an evening and night spent with her grandparents.  Shulaís face relaxes into a warm smile as Aila bounces into the house, a wisp of a girl with a swinging ponytail, chattering away. After hugging and kissing her grandmother she heads straight to ďherĒ corner of toys and busies herself with the dolls and doll carriage.