VISIT - Shula Ram, Haifa
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.