This is a mother’s story. Her name is Miriam Peretz. She was born in Morocco. In 1964, in the dark of night, she was spirited out of the country and brought to Israel by the Jewish Agency.
She met Eliezer Peretz and settled into a new happier life. Through the years they were blessed with four sons and two daughters. Their sons became officers in the Israel Defense Forces. Their daughters married combat soldiers.
A dozen years ago they paid the ultimate price for peace. Their firstborn, First Lt. Uriel Peretz, of the Sayeret Golani, fell in battle in Lebanon at the tender age of 22.
Last year, on the eve of Passover, after Miriam placed a full cup of wine on the seder table for Eliyahu Hanavi, there came a knock on the door. It wasn’t the Prophet Eliyahu. It was three officers from the IDF.
“As soon as I saw them,” she said, “I shut the door and closed the blinds. I shuddered when they came in. I didn’t want to believe it. I begged them not to tell me. Just let me have my son for one more minute.”
The officers came with news that her son, Maj. Eliraz Peretz, 32, a Deputy Commander of Golani Battalion Twelve, was killed fighting terrorists in the Gaza Strip.
Later the father Eliezer, unable to bear the loss, died of a broken heart.
So Miriam paid the ultimate price for peace a second time. As a result her next two sons were exempt from combat service. But they wouldn’t think of it.
“They saw it as a mitzvah,” Miriam said. “I signed the papers to permit them to become soldiers to protect our homeland. My sons were always first in line. They always did what needed to be done.”
With tears clouding her vision Miriam added, “It’s not fair for a mother to have to bury two of her sons. These are not choices a mother should have to make — which grave to visit first, that of my firstborn where the earth is old, or that of my younger son where the ground is still fresh.
“I pray to God to allow me to see my grandchildren grow up. “
There wasn’t a dry eye among the 1,450 guests at the 30th annual dinner for the Friends of the IDF on March 22 in the Waldorf-Astoria as they listened to the mother’s story. One by one they rose to pledge a total of $23.4 million for the spiritual and physical welfare of the soldiers of Israel.
Among the dinner guests were Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Organizations; Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founding president of International Fellowship of Christians and Jews who pledged $8.5 million; Joshua Matza, president and CEO of Israel Bonds; Ambassador Ronald Lauder; Israeli Ambassador to UN Meron Reuben; Pastor C. Hagee of Christians United for Israel; philanthropist Eugen Gluck, and Elias Kalimian of the Iranian-Jewish community in Great Neck, N.Y., who donated $1 million.
Benny Shabtai, dinner chairman for the 15th year, talked with Benjamin Netanyahu on video. The Prime Minister said that while he hoped for the best transformation of the Middle East from the current turmoil, Lebanon hasn’t turned into a democratic state, but a Hezbollah state. “That’s why we pursue peace but insist on security.”
Serving as emcee, Monica Crowley, a panelist on the McLaughlin Group and Fox News contributor, interviewed a tank crew member, Omer Cohen, in Israel by live satellite.
Cohen told how he spotted a missile streaking toward his Merkava earlier this month. He immediately engaged the tank’s new Active Defense System and blasted the incoming missile out of the sky. He saved the lives of the four men in his tank.
“We deployed that new system for the first time,” Cohen said. “It’s an amazing system. It made my mother happy.”
Cohen said he’s an American who came to Israel at age 27 and was drafted. “I’m an old man among my peers, who are all 18 or 19.”
On stage Crowley interviewed Capt. Neta Gery. She is the first female doctor accepted into the infantry — after carrying 55 pounds of equipment on a 28-mile hike.
Dr. Gery said she saw an Arab approach a checkpoint outside Ramallah. He was having a heart attack. Asked why he didn’t go to the hospital in Ramallah, the man said he didn’t have the money. He went to the checkpoint because he knew the IDF doctor would take care of him. Dr. Gery saved his life.
The keynote speaker, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, told about three brothers from a religious family that came from Johannesburg.
The three sons became officers in the army. Major Adam Weiler fought in the War of Attrition and was killed in his tank along the Suez Canal. In the Yom Kippur War the younger brother, Major Gideon Weiler, rejected orders to stay far from the front and joined a tank battalion in the north. He was killed as he was leading his soldiers.
“I was shocked to hear the news of Gideon’s death because the third brother had volunteered to the tank battalion that I was commanding. I was forced to relieve him.”
The third brother, Josef Weiler, now a scholar of international law, was at the dinner with his daughters.
“The spirit of the Weilers is the fighting spirit of the IDF, Israel and the united Jewish people,” Barak said.
Tim Boxer is editor of 15MinutesMagazine.com