Translation by Yonatan Silverman
On Independence Day, IDF Cpl. Chaya will meet an Israeli president for the second time. In 2001 she met former president Katzav who came to express condolences after she lost her relatives in the Sbarro terrorist attack and next week she will meet president Shimon Peres.
Only this time the circumstances will be of a happier nature. She will be receiving a citation for being an outstanding soldier.
Eleven years have passed since the terrible attack at the Jerusalem restaurant. Chaya (age 19) was then only 8 years old and was badly wounded and lost both her parents and three brothers. She and the five siblings who remained alive struggled with the state authorities for their economic rights as orphans following the incident.
However, the pain and the anger did not prevent the children in the family from contributing to the country. A year ago Chaya enlisted in the Israeli Navy. There she was integrated as a soldier in the office of the head of the weapons division. Now, it appears she has done her job well as the navy chose her as one of the outstanding soldiers who will represent the force in a ceremony on Independence Day.
Chaya’s selection is particularly impressive as only 120 soldiers receive the special citation each year from the president and Chief of Staff.
“When they informed me about this I was happy and proud,” Chaya said. “Enlisting was always my dream, despite what I went through. In the years that passed since the terror attack there was never a moment when I did not think about enlisting in the IDF. I enlisted to contribute to the country and it was clear to me that I would give everything I could.”
The difficult terror attack continues to stick with Chaya even today, but she refuses to accept any compensations from the government.
“I still live the attack, it is part of my life,” she says. “It is something that is just part of me and will always remain so, but it is not something that influences my day to day functioning, it is simply part of who I am. In the army they know my personal story but it does not cause anything special. I never asked for special treatment and I would not want anyone to treat me differently. I want them to judge me only on who I really am.”
Chaya is devoting the week before Independence Day to rehearsing the torch lighting ceremony, where she will march with those selected for this year’s citations. Between each step and each parade she tries to imagine what she will feel when she receives the certificate from the president and Chief of Staff. “I will feel proud,” she says. “And of course I will also feel that my parents are with me there and they are proud of me at the same moment. I have no doubt about that. Also my brothers will be there with me. It will be very emotional.”
“Published in “Yediot Ahronot” from an article by journalist Tzvika Brot.”
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