Yair Ashkenazy was the very embodiment of the ideals of the IDF. He was born a short 36 years ago and was tragically killed during Operation Protective Edge in Gaza six months ago.
Yair was raised with the values and heritage that emphasized the importance of the Israeli land and the Jewish people. His father was an IDF paratrooper. When it was Yair’s turn to join the IDF, he helped found a special canine unit called Oketz that trains dogs for operational missions.
During his service, Yair took part in many operations in Lebanon. During one of them, his dog was killed by a mortar shell and Yair was mildly injured. He was taken to the hospital to be treated yet insisted on returning to his unit as soon as possible.
After three years of active service, Yair was released from the army and began his civilian life. His military duty, however, continued on for another 15 year; he answered every call to serve as a reservist for training or operational activity.
Yair met his wife Moria when they were just 5 years old – they were next door neighbors who played together. His family moved but their paths crossed again after Yair’s military service and they fell in love. From that moment on, they were inseparable.
Yair was a very intelligent person and a man of many talents. He was extremely motivated, articulate and had high emotional intelligence, so it was no surprise that he chose to pursue a career in law. While in school, he took on multiple jobs, including night jobs, so that he and Moria could afford their basic living expenses and try to build a better for themselves.
Fortunately for the young couple, the FIDF IMPACT! Scholarship was introduced for former combat soldiers and Yair was among the first 200 soldiers to receive one. He considered himself extremely fortunate to receive this prestigious honor. “I remember his excitement clearly,” recalls Moira. “He was very happy, thrilled even, and almost cried when he got this opportunity.” Not only did it provide much needed financial support but most importantly, Yair saw it as tangible appreciation and gratitude for the hard work of IDF soldiers.
Yair and Moria married in 2004 and he started to practice law in Tel Aviv. Not long after, Moria became pregnant with their first son Yoel. Being a father made Yair very happy. Moria remembers him saying, “I remember the song that was playing in the background on the way from the delivery room to the nursery, the rays of sunshine peeking through the window when I held Yoel in my arms. I remember each and every detail.” Yoel was followed by a brother Amir, now 4, and sister, Yahara, who is just a year old.
Moria describes her husband as a very modest man who was also opinionated, funny, and cynical. But, above all, he was a model father whose kids and family were the most important things in his life. Yair was a man who never failed to go to his children’s room to hug, kiss and tuck them in. A father who cooked, changed countless diapers, bathed and played with his children. A father who did everything he possibly could to bring happiness to his family.
On Friday, July 18th, the family planned to go shopping for school supplies for Yoel, who was about to enter first grade. Sadly, Yair did not go as he was called to duty that day for Operation Protective Edge. In his first week away, Yair spoke to Moria and the kids a few times, always reminding them how much he missed and loved them. In one conversation, he indicated to Moria that they were headed to Gaza and that they probably wouldn’t be able to talk for a few weeks.
The entire next week Moria had a bad feeling in her gut and could not stop crying and worrying about Yair’s safety. On the morning of July 25th, IDF officers delivered the news that Yair had been killed. In that moment, the 10 years of marriage, fatherhood and friendship were cut, severed, and abruptly ended – far before they should have been.
As unbearable as the days of the shiva were, Moria gained more insight into her beloved Yair. She learned how powerful his love was for his country, life and nature. But most of all, she heard how powerful his love was for the kids and her. For his family, it was comforting to know that Yair died as a hero, for the love of his soldiers and for the country that was so dear to him.
Particularly touching for Moria were the respects paid by the representatives of FIDF and the IMPACT! scholarship program. It meant everything to Moria that FIDF was there for Yair during his life and during the family’s time of great sorrow. Today, Moria speaks to FIDF audiences about her husband, Yair, keeping his memory alive.