Burying your child is a tragedy. Burying your child twice is an incomprehensible torment that no parent should ever know. David Tahar has painfully recounted how the unadulterated cruelty of the Hamas terrorists meant his son’s head was decapitated and taken as a trophy to Gaza, before being miraculously recovered and buried along with the rest of his remains over two months later.
Adir Tahar, only 19-years-old on the day he fell, was a proud combat solider in Golani. Described by his father as clever, happy, responsible and modest, he was raised in Jerusalem, in the neighborhood of Gilo. On the 6th of October, Adir was situated at the Erez Border Crossing. The only channel allowing Gazan civilians to cross into Israel. Here, thousands of Gazans would pass daily, seeking work or medical treatment. Until that dark Shabbat, it was an avenue for opportunity, enabling Gazan civilians to earn their livings and receive life-saving therapies in Israel. On Simchat Torah, it became an avenue for the unleashing of pure evil and hate onto the Jewish state.
That fateful evening, Adir was on duty, and characteristically, he remained on duty an extra two hours to keep the rotating officer company. He then spent time on the phone, talking with his girlfriend, before falling asleep in the early hours of the morning. Only an hour later, he was awoken to the fierce rocket barrage which would change history forever. Alerted to an intrusion, the 18 combat soldiers united and prepared to fight the tens of bloodthirsty terrorists headed their way. Also placed at the base were the IDF’s מת”ק team, responsible for co-ordination and communication at the Erez Crossing. A young team with absolutely no combat experience, who did not carry weapons.
After a brutal fight of less than one and a half hours, it was all over. Around 20 soldiers, including Adir, were slaughtered, and three soldiers (Ron Sherman z”l, Tamir Normandy, and Nik Bezier z”l) were taken hostage. Adir was killed mercilessly, hit with tens of bullets and three hand grenades, his body was torn apart and riddled with shrapnel. But that wasn’t enough to quench their bottomless hate. One of the terrorists, fueled by darkness, decapitated Adir and took his head back to Gaza as a proud symbol of his depravity. Shockingly, David tells us, it was put on sale for thousands of dollars.
After Adir was brought for burial, the IDF staff tried desperately to prevent David from seeing his son’s body, trying to protect him from the devastating image of the mutilation. But, determined to know every last detail of what happened to his child, he insisted on seeing him. Before Adir’s burial on the 10th of October, David stood at Mount Herzl, opened up the coffin and bore witness to the desecration of his precious son’s body. His son who was only identified by the ID tags in his shoes.
After the burial, David could not rest. Knowing that the face of his child was in Gaza, he was resolute to rescue it and complete the burial. For two and a half months, he turned every possible stone in his hunt. Questioning everyone he came across; nothing could stop him. He consumed hours and hours of the soul-destroying videos of the massacre. Giving a glimpse to the extent of his exposure, he shares; “the government put together a video which was 45 minutes long, but I watched at least 45 hours of videos”. Desperately, he searched for the smallest bit of evidence that might bring him closer to his goal. Although he did find a video of his son’s mutilated body, he did not uncover any clues to aid the search and his anguish continued to grow.
Three weeks ago, he received a phone call from the IDF. They had found the rest of Adir in Gaza. An interrogation of two Hamas terrorists had revealed important information about an Israeli soldier’s head that was being held in Gaza. A special unit was sent on a mission to retrieve Adir’s remains. And there they were found, in Central Gaza, near Palestine square, inside a bag. After almost three months, sadly not much was intact. Through dental records and DNA testing, they were confirmed to belong to Adir. During a small ceremony, his coffin was re-opened and his remains were buried alongside the rest of his body. And so, after an agonizing three months, the coffin was closed for the last time and both Adir and his family could finally find some peace.
An indescribable tragedy like this evokes emotions in all of us which are hard to process. It felt important to share this story, so that as many people as possible would learn of Adir and his horrendous end. As David said; “We need to scream to the world so that they see what they (Hamas) did to us”. The level of torture this family experienced is heart-breaking and we must all take the time to stop and to feel their pain. To sit in that dark, dark place with them and to simply cry. To never, ever forget who we have lost and what their families were forced to endure.
We must also recognize the greatness of these giants. To try and touch the incomprehensible enormity of David’s reaction to a parent’s worst nightmare. David, who, on hearing the news from the IDF, immediately said מזמור לתודה, a ‘Prayer of Gratitude’ to G-d. David, who, instead of descending into a pit of despair, chooses to spread messages of positivity and unity to Am Yisrael. Who repeatedly shares with all of us his heartfelt plea to the Jewish People: “I am praying to the Creator of the world, that despite this hard strike that we have received, that unity will prevail between us, that we will love our nation… I wish that the death of my son, and the rest of the holy fallen will not be in vain, that we won’t return to the hate and division that was here before the 7th of October.”
This is a message we have all heard frequently through this heavy period, and yet, we are already beginning to forget it. We are obligated to cling onto it with all our might. All those we have lost and all those who are bereaved are commanding us with this vital task. They are literally begging us to unite.
It is not enough to read this article, feel moved and then to carry on with your life. Each and every one of us must commit to increase unity amongst the Jewish people. This involves asking ourselves difficult questions about our own biases and how this contributes to divisions in our people. Only once we recognize and admit our own shortfalls can we then take the important steps together to build everlasting unity.
Adir was someone who truly knew how to unite people. He knew how to draw people in. Many of his friends were youth who were at risk, those who were at the margins of the community. He didn’t dismiss, he didn’t judge, he didn’t reject. He recognized their goodness with an open heart and embraced them with love. In his sacred memory, his family will be opening a support Centre to unite and embrace youth at risk in his home town. A haven that will epitomize the special person that Adir was.
May we keep Adir in our hearts and minds forever, and moved by his tragic end, take David’s request for unity seriously. Each of us committing to undergo uncomfortable self-reflection in order to make tangible changes to how we perceive, talk about and behave towards differing sections of our eternal nation. Only this way, can we build everlasting unity.
After all they have suffered, it is the very least that we can do. For David. And for Adir.