A Momentous Experience
unavailable. The next day, Yaniv lost his life in Lebanon. His
very once in a while, I have an "Aha!" moment that's
squad had set up a rocket-launching position aimed at a
as emotional as it is uplifting.
Lebanese village near the Israel border. At 9 a.m., the squad
I had just such a moment at the 11th annual din-
identified a terrorist group in a house and fired a rocket.
ner hosted by the Walled Lake-based Michigan Friends of
As fate would have it, that launch exposed Yaniv's position
the Israel Defense Forces. The Nov. 8 event at Congregation
to the terrorists, who fired back at noon. One soldier died
Shaarey Zedek in Southfield featured
instantly. Shrapnel hit Yaniv in the chest and he was moved to
several IDF war heroes. At least
a nearby house. While he was being treated, a rocket hit the
$500,000 was raised on behalf of
Two soldiers helping Yaniv were killed. His doctor lost
Israel's fighting forces.
consciousness; by the time he awoke, Yaniv had died.
A hush overtook the 700 people in
Irwin Groner Hall as Tal Szajnbrum of
Moshav Mey-Ami, near Haifa, remem- A Puisatino Summons
That same day began uneventfully for Tal. But at 6 p.m., his
bered the life and times of his older
commander got a call.
brother, Yaniv, just 24 when killed in
"He moved aside and his face was sunken:' Tal said.
the summer of 2006 in Israel's sec-
When the commander summoned him to a side room, Tal
ond war with terrorists in Lebanon,
spurred by Hezbollah's attack on two
"Then he said a sentence I will never
Israeli jeeps on
Tal said. "He told me: 'Your broth-
the Israel side of the border. Two sol-
was killed in Lebanon."
diers were killed, three were wounded
thus was transformed into
and two were captured in that attack.
Tal. His only brother
Yaniv's story is heartrending and
parents just had their
important. He was born in 1982 dur-
hearts broken and he was under siege in
ing Israel's first war with terrorists in
Lebanon, fighting for his country and the
Lebanon, a year after his parents were
Jewish ancestral homeland.
married. Each had made aliyah from
Despite anti-aircraft fire, an IDF heli-
South America at 16. The week that
copter arrived at 4 a.m. to evacuate Tal
Yaniv finished his three-year stint in
and several injured soldiers.
the Israeli army, Tal was drafted, serv-
Israeli hero Yaniv Sz ajnbrum
ing in the same paratrooper company.
Yaniv, meanwhile, went to work to earn enough money to
An Unbreakable Bond
fulfill his dream to travel through Central and South America. When Yaniv returned from Central and South America, he
decided that he wanted to study ecology to save the world
In April 2005, he flew to Mexico to begin his yearlong trek,
from melting icebergs.
country to country. The journey ended at the archipelago
For Tal, Yaniv's passion still burns brightly. Tal also plans to
known as Tierra del Fuego, south of Argentina.
pursue a career in ecology.
Yaniv returned to Israel in April 2006, three months before
"I have decided to follow in Yaniv's footsteps:' Tal said. "I
Israel's second war in Lebanon. Tal, meanwhile, was assigned
had always looked up to my big brother and saw him as a role
to the Lebanon border. At that point, two years and eight
model. That was how I felt when he was alive and my feeling
months into his tour of duty, he eagerly anticipated his dis-
hasn't changed since his death!'
Tal continues to draw strength from Yaniv, who he called
"Pinki" because of the pinkish hue emanating from his
Tars life changed forever on July 12, 2006, when Hezbollah
"My children will be educated on his character," said Tal, 22,
who visited Metro Detroit with his parents, Sergio and Mirta
Tal quickly got used to sleeping during the day, fighting at
night, skipping meals and not showering.
Tal closed his arresting message with a plea for the Israeli
"But most of all," he said, "we got used to the sounds of bul-
soldiers still in captivity: Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser
lets above our heads and the bombs that fell around us."
Yaniv then was re-called to duty. He entered Lebanon as a
in Lebanon and Gilad Shalit in Gaza.
As he so eloquently put it: "We must not forget them. We
reservist and via military radio warned his younger brother to
must not rest till they are back home with their families and
with all the people of Israel who love them and await their
"I didn't think that something could possibly happen to
safe return!' E
him," Tal said, "as he, in my mind, was invincible."
Tal recalled a night in a Lebanese village where Israeli tanks
had gathered. One of the tanks suddenly exploded under ter-
0 : What reverberates from Tal's moving words
rorist attack. Tal and others dodged bullets to rescue the sol-
about his beloved brother?
diers inside the burning tank.
"This is how we act in our army',' Tal said. "You will endan-
z z Do you view Israel as your ancestral homeland
ger your own life in order to help people that you don't even
or just the Jewish state?
After that skirmish, Tal called Yaniv only to find him
271 WEST MAPLE
November 15 • 2007