ORT mourns alumni killed defending Israel


21 August 2006 ORT graduates killed in action against Hezbollah ORT supporters and staff around the world are joining ORT Israel students, staff and their families in mourning the loss of loved ones who died while fighting Hezbollah. Among the ORT alumni who fell in the war was Sergeant Major Keren Tendler, 26, a helicopter flight mechanic. Keren, a graduate of the ORT technological school in Rehovot, became the first woman soldier to die on active duty since the Yom Kippur War when her aircraft was shot down over enemy territory on Shabbat, August 12. She was special, unusual, ORT Rehovot English teacher Shosh Levy told Haaretz. She was just like her name, a ray of sunshine. Another of Kerens teachers, Victor Zilberstein, remembered asking her why she opted for the male-dominated mechanical path at school. She replied that she would show how a girl could not only be as good the boys at mechanics but do better. In 12th grade, Mr Zilberstein said, she joined other students for a course at the Tel Nof air force base, which a Womens American ORT mission visited earlier this year. Keren was so enthusiastic and prepared her work so well that even the boys were jealous, he said. She was better than they were in most subjects. Keren Tendler zl Picture: IDF. In addition to being an excellent pupil, her teachers say she was friendly, popular and always ready to help. Keren, who was buried on Wednesday, August 16, gave an interview four years ago that was quoted by Maariv: My goal is to show other women that this position, an on-flight mechanic, can be performed by women. Keren leaves her parents and 16-year-old brother in Rehovot. Other casualties include Gadi Musayev, 19, a graduate of ORT Darsky in Acco; Dov Stranshus, 38, father of a student at ORT Megadim in Karmiel, Nadav Balawa, a graduate of ORT Megadim whose mother works at ORT Braude College of Engineering in Karmiel; Kobi Smilag, 21, whose father works at ORT Rehovot; Ilan Gabay, a graduate of ORT Greenberg in Kiryat Tivon; Yossi Karkash, 41, a graduate of ORT Afula and who has two daughters in ORT schools; Gilad Balachsan, 28, a graduate of ORT Megadim; Yoni Shumacher, 30, a graduate of ORT Rehovot; and Nimrod Segev, 28, a graduate of ORT Hatzor Haglilit. In addition, two ORT Kiryat Bialik graduates and an ORT Afula graduate are known to have been wounded in action; Tomer Weinberg, 26, a mechanical engineering student at ORT Braude, continues to be treated for serious wounds sustained in the Hezbollah attack that started the war. Messages of sympathy and solidarity have come in from across the ORT network worldwide. I cannot imagine the pain of families who lost a loved one and I wish to ensure them of my warmest sympathy, said World ORT Deputy President Dr Jean de Gunzburg, who is also Co-Chair of ORTs Israel Emergency Campaign. He added: I pay tribute to all those who defended so dearly the integrity and sovereignty of the State of Israel. All of us, in Israel and in the diaspora, should be proud of them. In this world of increasing anti-Jewish and anti-Israel fanaticism, with so little understanding and support from the international community, the soldiers of Israel are heroes. May their memory by cherished. Womens American ORT National President Judy Menikoff said that even for those of us far removed from the war it was deeply painful to receive the news of ORT students and alumni losing their lives. These young men and women willingly trained to be the best and to serve their country, she said. While we will always be enormously proud of their contributions and bravery, we are profoundly saddened. Once again, the potential to make extraordinary contributions to Israels accomplishments throughout the world continues to be denied because of terrorism and war. Michael Sieff, National Director of ORT South Africa, said: Even at the southern tip of Africa, removed physically but certainly not emotionally, we feel a direct connection with the situation in Israel, especially as part of the ORT family, and we also mourn the loss of our brave alumni and friends in Israel. The National Director of ORT Argentina, Baruj Zaidenknop, said that just as members of the ORT family have the opportunity to share many happy occasions and successes so we must also share the sad and bitter moments. Once again, he said, our sons and daughters have had to shed their blood for the defence of Israel and, by extension, for the Jewish people around the world. As sad as we are, we also feel proud of the attitude of these young people who did not hesitate to sacrifice their lives so that the Jewish people can live, we hope soon, in peace. Victor David Sassoon, the Chairman of ORT India, said that Keren and the other fallen soldiers were still among us, just not in a physical form. In thought and in deed, they live on; not just directly in the memories of the lives they touched but even thereafter through the lives influenced by the people whose lives they had directly influenced by their own actions. For them all we pray that their untimely departure should serve as an example of the wanton destruction that war brings and we wish the wounded a speedy and complete recovery. World ORT, founded in 1880, is the worlds largest Jewish education and vocational training non-government organisation with some 270,000 students Jewish and non-Jewish in 58 countries. ORT Israel is its largest single operational country with more than 100,000 students in 162 institutions.