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Old 03-09-2008, 11:57 PM   #1
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Fallen IDF soldier Banai defied deaf parents to join combat unit

Fallen IDF soldier Banai defied deaf parents to join combat unit - Haaretz - Israel News

At first glance, the hundreds of mourners gathered at the Ashkelon military cemetery Sunday for the funeral of Israel Defense Forces Staff Sergeant Liran Banai seemed to display both agility and morbid curiosity as they climbed every available surface in a scramble to get a good view of the proceedings next to the freshly dug grave. But then the reason became clear: Many of the mourners were deaf. They came to the funeral in a show of solidarity with Banai's parents, Guy and Gila, both of whom are deaf, and wanted to find a spot from which they could read the lips of the eulogizers. Due to the mass of mourners in attendance, however, few succeeded.

Banai died Sunday morning after succumbing to wounds sustained when Palestinian militants ambushed his IDF jeep while on the Gaza Strip border Thursday. Banai, of Ashkelon, was driving the jeep when it rolled over an explosive device next to Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha, on the Israeli side of the border with central Gaza. He was taken to Soroka Medical Center in Be'er Sheva in serious condition, and both his legs were amputated. Family members stayed by Banai's side for three days, praying for the miracle that would keep him alive. The doctors fought for his life, but lost the battle.

"He lost a lot of blood," said Dr. Motti Klein, director of the intensive care unit at Soroka. "It was an exhausting struggle that we hoped to win."

Banai's parents felt they needed to see him in the middle of the night, visiting him at 3 A.M. and going back to sleep when they saw there had been no change in his condition, Guy Banai said at the funeral in sign language, which was translated into Hebrew by a municipal worker. At 7:30 A.M., the doctor broke the news: "We tried, but we can't save him."

Guy Banai was one of several mourners who spoke about Liran's decision to serve in a combat unit - even though, as the son of deaf parents, he was exempt from doing so.

"Your mother and I didn't want you to go to the army," said Guy Banai, a member of the Ashkelon deaf association and an active member of the local deaf community. "But you asked us to respect you, so we let you."

Liran Banai's 12-year-old brother, Tamir, said that if he could turn the clock back, he would try to convince Liran not to go to the army, and their grandmother said Tamir would not be serving in the military. Banai is also survived by his younger sister, Yamit, who is currently serving in the army.

Banai's commander also mentioned the choice the deceased made in serving in the elite Givati Brigade.

"You could have gotten an exemption from combat service, but you decided to sacrifice," said the head of the brigade's Tzabar Battalion, in which Banai served. "I want to tell you that you were a friend and a fighter of the first degree."

Other family members also eulogized Banai.

"Liran, you served as our ears and voice," Gila Banai said. "You had a lot of patience. You never asked us for money, not a word; you treated us only with honor and patience."

"It's hard for me to digest that you're not here," Banai's sister, Yamit, said. "I don't know how I'll be able to continue without you. You will always remain in my heart."

A fellow soldier said Banai derived his strength from his family.

"I remember our first conversation," he said. "You told me about your family, and I still didn't get the reality you live in. I remember the day-to-day, the constant difficulty you coped with, and the day I met your parents and saw where you get everything from, the resources they gave you at home."
"Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light."
- Helen Keller
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