Daniel rechecked his vest for the thousand’s time, and made sure that everything was tied up and ready to go.
He embraced his “Negev” machinegun and stepped out of the house through the door. It was around 10pm.
Outside, Omri Elmakias was already waiting. Him and a foggy night that will allow a limited vision of only a few dozen meters. Daniel waited a second for the platoon commander Yonatan Lerrer and Itai Shamir the radio operator to join in, and together they began to lead the 13th Golani regiment to a mission nobody could foreseen its tragic end.
It was 3 days after they crossed the border and took position in one of the deserted houses in the outskirts of the village of Markabe. Three days in which they were living in that house, waiting for missions, changing shifts and establishing
a kind of war routine. The bed was improvised from two mattresses found in the place. Daniel was quite skillful in these conditions. He would find a bit of empty mattress, lay his upper body on it, with the rest of his body on the floor and as his friends described – “would arrange his body in a sleeping position, smile his special little smile, close his eyes and fall asleep”.
The days went by without a shower, without even brushing the teeth. Three days of waiting in enemy territory, the kind of which they were yet unfamiliar with.
And then came the order. Between 9 and 10pm the evening of August 3rd the company commander held a short briefing, explaining they had to raid one of the houses of the village of Markabe looking for firearms and intelligence material, and off they went. When they started to walk in the foggy night there was a complete silence around. Daniel on the right, Omri on the left, Yonatan and Itai in the center. Close to each other. Daniel, Yonatan and Omri were the company’s eyes.
They had night vision goggles with which they could make sure that there were no ambushes, booby traps or any other dangers. Yonatan the platoon commander was navigating, pointing the way with his head or hands, signaling where to go and when to turn. At first it was a bushy terrain, and later a clear path that led them directly to the house they wanted. Before they could actually reach the house, they were startled by a burst of machine-gun fire. The force avoided returning fire at first, fearing friendly fire. The company commander immediately verified on the radio that no other IDF forces were close by, and when they realized it was terrorist fire, they all started shooting back towards the enemy. The leading quartet – Daniel, Omri, Yonatan and Itai – were breaking the door to get into the house. Daniel sprayed the locks with his Negev, and his friends broke the door with hammers. The house yard caught fire, and before they could finish the job the regiment commander ordered to abort the mission and get back to their base. Within moments the fire sounds subsided, the night silence took over, and the force was rapidly heading back.
After five minutes of silent walking, Omri Elmakias picked up his pace, he sensed something. He quickly reached the platoon commander, Daniel and Itai, who were slightly ahead, whispering he thought he saw something. He barely finished his words, and while Daniel, Itai and Yonatan were kneeling down and turning left towards the suspected site, gunfire opened from one of the village houses on their left, its door opened and out came one of the terrorists shooting a burst of fire at the force.
He was taken out immediately by the company leader. The soldiers hit the ground instantly and returned fire. Seconds later,
Itai started crawling back to get away from the enemy fire. He stroke Daniel on the back to signal him to join him but Daniel did not respond. This was the moment when it became clear that Daniel was hit. Itai immediately yelled “Daniel is injured!
Daniel is injured!” and Dr. Igor Rotshtein came running forward towards them, but he was killed from an explosive charge before he could reach Daniel. Omri was also hit in the chest, and later died of his wounds. Daniel, as it became clear at the end of the battle, was killed instantly from the initial strike. When he was extracted from the battlefield he was already dead.
“I identified him immediately by his blue eyes”, told us later the medic.
This bitter end signed an entire life that began on March 5, 1986, when Daniel was born. The first child, first grandson, and the first chapter in an experience that his mother Varda will describe only shortly after his birth in those words: “I cannot remember how my life looked like before Daniel was born”. It really was an idyll: Avinoam a medical student, Varda a microbiology student, one and a half room apartment in Kiryat Yovel in Jerusalem,
a blue eyes baby, and a future that was all one huge promise. The potential became clear from the beginning. Two weeks after he was born, Daniel already reaches with his hands for the colorful mobile hanging in front his face. He was putting together puzzles before his first birthday. When he was four, he engineered complex Lego constructions. Not that anybody was surprised, but the house was filled with joy. Daniel went to kindergarten when the family was living in their new house in Neshr, near Haifa. The family settled in Ramot Izhak in Nesher and Daniel started elementary school there. Even in first grade it became obvious that Daniel needed stimulation and challenges of his own. The teacher immediately recognized that the quiet blond kid is simply bored in class and doesn’t find interest in the booklets and assignments that the other kids in class were working on. The school principal, Herzelia Siton, diagnosed him immediately as a kid with above average potential, and when he was in third grade offered his parents an offer they could not refuse: A special private enrichment program that will enable him to study with a special private teacher outside the class several times a week. Daniel was given math problems, riddles, logic challenges.
He was taking in with a big thirst for knowledge the teachers words and catching on what he missed in class easily.
In the same year he was diagnosed by the ministry of education as a gifted child and entered a special program for kids of his kind.
These were days of intensive efforts of medical studies for his father, Avinoam. Demanding studies into the night,
piles of books by the bed, endless nights on call in the hospital. A desperate effort to juggle between the wish to be with Varda, Daniel and his brother Guy, and the commitment to do it – become a doctor. This was the basic training period for the young doctors, that if you want to be a family man and a future doctor you are required to stretch your abilities to the maximum. “How will you make it?” asked once one of his friends. “Somebody has to be a doctor,
so why not me?” was the answer. These, perhaps, were the words that Daniel would tell himself during the basic training in Golani, stretching himself to the limits. “Somebody has to be a fighter, so why not me?”
At the end of the forth grade the family moves to Washington DC, where Noga was born. Avinoam obtains a fellowship position and the family is joining in for two years. Daniel was uprooted from the social environment he loved so much in Ramot Izhak. He quickly adapts to the new environment in America – learning the language, coping with the new academic challenges.
But his heart is back home with the group of friends from early childhood he cherished so much.
When he will go back home to Israel and start school in the prestigious Hareli school, he will again embrace to himself the same group of old friends, even though the family has moved from Ramot Izhak to Haifa. Journeys, parties, night-clubs, music, and of-course – soccer. A lot of soccer. As a teenager, he loved everything that was connected to “Macabi Haifa”.
Regular attendance in gallery C with the most dedicated fans of the team on Saturdays, scarves and flags all over his room, regular reading of the sports section in the newspaper, and a total familiarity with anything green – the color of the team. In his own way, he took with him the team he loved even to the army. In his private wallet – as if it was a lucky charm – an old season ticket from one of Macabi Haifa’s most amazing championship winning year was found. Daniel kept that sweet memory close to him. The teenager years are passing by. A silent introverted shyness on one hand, and on the other hand sports and hanging out. And it is all packed in 6’ 3” with blond hair and blue eyes.
The big dilemma started when the draft orders came and Daniel entered the military sorting system. Already in the twelve’s grade Daniel new he wanted to be a combat soldier, but a congenital problem in his right ankle lowered his medical profile so low it made it impossible. Daniel began pressuring his parents, and in particular his father who was a physician. He asked him to help him raise his profile, make the necessary phone calls to the right people. He knew that this was a simple matter for Avinoam. The parents were confronted with a dilemma but it was decided immediately: No, we will not take it on our conscience to arrange a higher profile for Daniel. But we cannot stop him from doing it by himself. At first they tried to persuade him to serve in one of the intelligence units. “This way you can use your talents to serve the army according to the medical profile you were given and not risk yourself as a combat soldier” they told him, but he was not convinced. Daniel insisted on improving his medical profile and he finally succeeded. When he got out from the medical committee after the second appeal his face glowed with happiness. His new profile was 82, and that was the final sentence. Now he was fit to be a combat soldier. Daniel went for the demanding tryouts for the paratroopers and
although he finished them and did not give-up he did not get in. When he was finally enlisted to the Golani brigade he was content.
On November 21st, 2004 he enlisted and immediately was totally connected to the life in the unit and the fighters culture. As the training course progressed so were the other family members being carried along. They were also infected with the Golani bug. Golani stickers on the car, Golani symbols at home, regular attendance at the different ceremonies throughout training and at the end of each stage. The Shiran family joined Golani and was proud in Daniel’s achievements, that here also – unsurprisingly – excelled. After completing training he was chosen to carry the “Negev” machine-gun of his unit. He was the one his commanders asked to go first, in front of everyone else.
These were difficult times, and Daniel was in all fronts: The Philadelphi line in the south, Jenin, Gaza and the northern border. As usual, he did not share his experiences and said little. Short telephone calls, a few soothing words to the worrying mother, and an effort to keep on going despite his medical foot problem he was not in a habit of complaining about. “I will be O.K.” he told his parents, who were concerned from the tremendous effort he made. “Enough with the digging” he would silence his mother when she kept on asking again and again.
In the same way, with just a few words, he expressed himself on his last Saturday. It was the end of July, with a deadly summer heat.
The Hizbulla missiles are falling around the family neighborhood in Haifa. The 13th regiment was called to the north and Daniel updates his parents over the phone that his commanders allow family visits to the unit that was stationed close to the border. For the family it was like an enlistment order. Varda, Avinoam, Guy and Noga went into the car and rushed to the north. A case of Coca-Cola, pita bread, humus, sweets and cakes that Varda made – everything Daniel and his friends loved. They sat down in a wood by the Shiphon mountain, ate, drank, armed Daniel with the case of Cola and the packs of goodies and went back with a pray in their heart. Six days later Avinoam will tell on his firstborn son’s fresh grave: “He held the case of Cola in one hand and the bag of goodies in the other and went back into the base. I stood there watching him. At a certain point it became heavy for him. He stopped for a second, lay down the case, improved his grip and then kept on going. I watched him until he vanished from my site. I don’t know why, but a troubling thought entered my mind, that this may be the last time I ever see him”.