One of the supreme joys in Mir Hadassi’s young life was when she and her parents converted to Judaism in Holland and made aliya. “From the very first moment I saw Israel I fell in love,” she said. Her devotion to the nation intensified when she did her military service in the north which came under rocket fire during the first Lebanon war in 1982.
At the same time she met her husband Yossi and, after army service, settled in Kibbutz Merhavia (where Golda Meir first lived when she arrived in 1921).
Three years later, in that beautiful Jezreel Valley, Yonatan was born. Mir talked proudly of her son who loved to walk in the fields, ride his bicycle on the roads, take midnight swims in the kibbutz pool, and climb up the water tower. During his high school years he chose milking the cows as his kibbutz job.
“He milked all 600 of those cows,” Mir said proudly. “Twice a day! Every day! This was no small undertaking but Yonatan did it in his usual fun style – with rock music blasting loudly. Then he’d slip into the kitchen with his friend Arnon to make French fries.”
Time came for Yonatan to join the army. “Like most proud kibbutzniks,” Mir said, “Yonatan loved the land of Israel and understood that he had to contribute in a significant way.”
With his leadership skills he was a perfect candidate for the elite Maglan unit, which specializes in targets deep behind enemy lines. He was decorated for his determination and courage.
In July 2006 Hezbollah kidnapped two IDF soldiers and rained heavy rocket fire as far south as Haifa. This triggered the second Lebanon war. Yonatan’s mission was to cross over and take out those rocket launchers.
Mir talked to him on the evening of battle. Had he slept? Had he eaten? All the silly questions a mother asks. She finished with how much she loved him.
“Okay,” he said.
“What okay?” she shouted. “Are you embarrassed to tell your mother that you love her in front of your friends?”
Yonatan laughed. ”I love you too, Mom.”
Little did she know that would be the last laugh, the last words, she would hear from her son.
That night Yonatan and his team entered Lebanon and encountered an extensive network of well-disguised and fortified Hezbollah bunkers. Yonatan was first to be hit by enemy fire. His friend, Yotam Gilboa, the unit medic, tried to save his life, but he too was struck down. In the end the Maglan team succeeded in stopping the rocket attacks from that sector.
A citation for courage and sacrifice was issued for Yonatan. And Mir…well she can’t explain what she received. “As I watched my beloved son being buried, I was forced to confront the reality that I will never see him again. My days are filled with relentless longing. Each day I must face anew the challenge of continuing to live with the ever-present sorrow of missing a part of myself.”
Mir looks at her two daughters, Sharon and Eden, and her heart fills with anxiety that they, who have lost a brother, must face the prospect of one day losing a husband or son.
As Mir related her story, tears clouded the eyes of many of the 1,300 guests at the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces annual dinner on March 13 at the Waldorf-Astoria. The dinner included 30 Israeli soldiers who flew to New York for the occasion. The event, under national director Maj. Gen. (Res.) Yitzhak “Jerry” Gershon and dinner chairman Benny Shabtai, raised $25.8 million for the spiritual and recreational welfare of IDF members.
Mir told the Israeli soldiers in the audience, “We are blessed with an amazing country and you represent the very best part.”
Mir Hadassi and Benny Shabtai address the FIDF dinner.
Col. Mike Gould of the U.S. Army and Capt. Shira of the Israel Navy at the FIDF dinner.