Nitsan Baldran. Photo: IDF
Sunday marks Israel’s memorial day. The country’s official Day of Remembrance (Yom Hazikaron) is seen as a day to reflect on victims of terrorism and the soldiers who have fallen on the field of battle. One such person is Nitsan Baldran, whose story is chronicled on the IDF’s official English-language blog.
Nitsan grew up in Lotem, a new kibbutz in the Galil. He helped his parents build the kibbutz from scratch. “Physically it was not easy but we had a lot of joie de vivre,” his mother Tzipi told the blog.
At twelve years old, he taught himself how to ride a horse without a saddle or boots. “He spent a lot of time with the Bedouin and Arab kids. They all lived in the area,” his mother says. Nitzan also spent his time taking care of the little zoo kibbutz and the goat. “We passed on to our children a love of the land,” she says.
In November 1996, he enlisted in the Golani Brigade. Tzipi recalls that Nitzan didn’t cope well with authority, and they were sure he’d end up in trouble while serving in the IDF. But Nitsan settled into his new role comfortably.
In November 1998 Nitzan was killed in Lebanon while his company was performing a mission to track down the terrorist cell responsible for killing four IDF soldiers.
That same night soldiers knocked on the door at Nitsan’s parents’ home. “I went down and I immediately understood what had happened. Tsipi did too. Even today, the memories are muddled,” his father Jacky told the IDF blog. “They explained what happened and asked where we wanted Nitzan to be buried. Tzipi was in total shock.”
Nitsan with his Mother. Photo: IDF.
“At the time we had no cemetery. There was a place where we liked to go with the kids because you can see the Kinneret from there. Meanwhile, the army and the municipality took us to Haifa to identify the body. When we returned, the army had already prepared the burial place.”
“During shiva, I felt that all of those people were carrying us,” says Tzipi. Jacky continues: “Nitzan is always here with us. Tzipi has never said that he is dead. I can say it, but it is not easy to say or to hear myself say.”
“We have a great relationship with the soldiers who were with Nitzan. All his friends are in frequent contact with us,” he says. Nitzan’s fellow soldiers continue to gather at Kibbutz Lotem every year and remember him through small gestures. He wanted to travel and see the world, so every time one of his friends returns from an international trip, he places a stone from that place on Nitzan’s grave.