Multiplicity of Operations?

18/01/2012 Ben Kfir
Yakov Schaffer my great grandfather was born in Bukovina in the middle of the nineteenth century. He married Hanna Gott and had ten sons and daughters. Their first-born immigrated to England, two of their daughters immigrated to the United States and their fifth son died young from an illness. The others remained with their parents.
My grandfather, Rafael Schaffer, was their youngest son and he was born in 1894. During the First World War, he served as a corporal in the cavalry of the Austro-Hungarian Kaiser and was captured by the Italians. When the war was over in 1919, he returned from Italy to his parent's house. When he came back after a year of hardships trying to return home, he found out that four of his brothers who had also served on other fronts in a war not theirs, had returned in the same week as he. 

The small house of Yakov and Hanna Schaffer was not big enough for the whole family. My grandfather told me that the anti-Semitism he experienced during his service and captivity made him decide to immigrate to Israel. He achieved his dream and reached the Jaffa harbor on May 1, 1921, the same day on which the pogroms started and the author Hayim Brenner was murdered. His eldest brother Yechiel immigrated to Israel during the third immigration and both of them started to dry swamps and build roads. They always saved some of their limited salary until they had enough to help one of their brothers to pay his way to Israel, and so by common efforts they saved enough to bring to Israel their brother, sister and parents. Only three brothers remained there when Hitler and his murderers got to Bukovina.

In 1946, Shimshon Schaffer, Grandpa's nephew, came to Tel-Aviv. His parents had died in the holocaust and he hardly survived the concentration and death camps. The meeting between Shimshon, who was eighteen years old, and his grandfather Yakov was very moving. They had never seen each other before. My grandfather Rafael took his nephew to his house and helped him to rehabilitate his life. In the War of Independence Shimshon was recruited and became a machine-gunner in 'Givati' (an IDF unit). 
One night, in the 03.06.1948, they were part of the 'Pleshet' operation - raiding Ashdod. On the way there, the first cease-fire begun, the mission was cancelled and at the 'Ad-Halom' junction, they were called to return. Egyptian soldiers sitting in a pillbox dominated the valley, heard their footsteps and trapped them. When they came into firing range, they were shot mercilessly. The twenty years old Shimshon was killed with all of Givati's machine-gunners and they are all buried in a common grave in the 'Kfar Varburg' cemetery. My mother, her sister and the rest of Shimshon's cousins still visit his grave, every Memorial Day, because he was a Holocaust survivor with no family.

Paul, Rose and their three children immigrated to Israel from England before the War of Independence. Paul is the son of Markus (the brother who immigrated from Bukovina to England), and is my mother's cousin. David, their youngest son, was born here in Israel. During his regular army service as an officer in the paratroopers unit, his hearing was damaged and he was dismissed from reserve service. When the Yom Kippur War started he joined the paratroopers and was killed on 16.10.1973 when his half-track was shot at, while occupying the Tirtur-Lexicon junction, near "the Chinese farm" (a battlefield site in the Yom-Kippur war). David, Yakov great-grandson, was 25 years old, married and a lawyer. On Soldiers' Memorial Day, our widened family used to split; some went to Kfar Varburg and some to the military cemetery in Herzl Mountain. 

Nine years passed before the next two disasters happened. Two days before the "Peace for Galilee" operation started in 04.06.1982, Ori Bilanski from Ashkelon, a twenty years old soldier got killed on the border of Lebanon. Ori was a friend of my brother Aziz. In spite of the age difference, a special friendship struck up between them and Ori used to spend hours at my brother's house every week. I went with my brother to follow Ori for the last time and say the last goodbye, I saw my brother devastated by pain and sorrow. After Ori's funeral, we went to our own separate homes. The night went by and on the next day, in the morning, a friend came to us. He went to visit my brother and found him dead. Brain hemorrhage was the doctor verdict, but I knew that my brother had died from sorrow. Is my brother, Aziz, Yakov Schaffer grandson, also one of the victims of the Israeli - Palestinian conflict?

Isaac Eran is the son of Yechiel, and Yakov Schaffer's grandson. On July 1982, Gad Eran, the son of Isaac and Hasya from Beer-Sheva, was severely scalded when his jeep went over a landmine. Gadi struggled for few days and died on 10/07/1982. Gadi was 31 years old, married and a father to a young daughter, a successful geologist and a researcher. Another great grandson of Yakov and Hanna Schaffer was killed.

I did not know my great-grandmother Hanna. She died before I was born. I knew Shimshon only from my mother's stories. I was a baby when he was killed. I don't remember my great grandfather Yakov, even though he lived three years after his grandson Shimshon. I knew all the others who are mentioned here well. The bereavement and mourning was an integral part of our widened family. We spoke about the fallen and the absent while meeting on memorial days, happy events and holidays.

I don't know if I repressed it or never had it on my mind, but I never ever feared from bereavement coming to my own house, until Tuesday the 09.09.2003, on which my daughter, Yael, an officer in the Signal Corps, a fifth generation descendant of Yakov and Hanna Schaffer, was murdered. 

Many texts reach my desk. As the editor of the Forum members Newsletter, I read each and every word strictly. I transfer most of the articles to print with a degree of sympathy and empathy. When I read Nurit Shaham's March Newsletter and the part about the multiplicity of operations, I said to myself out loud: It's not a multiplicity of operations, it's a clearance sale." My mother who just passed in the corridor stopped and asked: "With whom are you talking there? Have you started talking to yourself? "Nothing'" I said, "Nothing", and fell silent.

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