Hundreds of people, among them President Reuven Rivlin, attended the funeral Sunday of Daniel Tragerman, 4, who was killed by shrapnel on Friday when a mortar shell fired from the Gaza Strip exploded near his home at Kibbutz Nahal Oz.
“We were the happiest family in the world, and I just cannot come to grips with it,” said Daniel’s mother Gila Tragerman, at the funeral.
“We wanted to say thanks (to Daniel); you taught us how to love and you gave us so much joy. I find solace in the fact that you were a loved and happy child until your last minute.
“We wanted to protect you but even the Code Red siren failed to save you,” she continued.
“You would always run first and call your little brother (to the shelter), and then in a second it ended. We don’t want to say goodbye.
“You are the love of my life, the perfect child, every parent’s dream: smart, sensitive, ahead of his age group and beautiful, so beautiful.”
She continued: “We always said that you’d be the youngest world leader who would bring peace; so, if not in life then, we hope, in death.”
“Kibbutz Nahal Oz, you have paid in blood, which is beyond price,” Rivlin said, addressing a crowd composed largely of residents of rocket-battered southern communities. “An entire country is embracing you.”
Speaking of Tragerman, Rivlin said he was “a boy too small to cross the road by himself but old enough to know what a Code Red is, because that is also dangerous.”
“You are everyone’s child,” he continued. “We are burying a child for whose sake we were fighting.”
Daniel’s grandmother, whose own home was hit by a Kassam rocket in 2011 and who escaped without injury, spoke of her love for her grandson.
“My Daniel, my boy, I loved you so much,” she said. “You will always be loved. Send us the strength to deal with this disaster.”
Nahal Oz lies just hundreds of meters from the border with Gaza. During the attack Friday, the Code Red rocket alert warning gave the family just three seconds to reach a safe room, and Daniel did not make it in time.
“We are with you in deep mourning,” Alon Shuster, head of the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional council, said at the funeral. “The land of Israel is acquired through suffering,” he added, quoting the Talmud, and added that “we are here, all of us, knowing and understanding the difficulty… we know we failed in protecting little Daniel.”
Shuster called on the government “to prevent more killings here… here, in this painful place, we are waiting for another day, a day where children can play in their yard, and bomb shelters can be just another room in the house. So many children made it to the bomb shelter and Daniel didn’t make it; we will do all that we can so that life will go on.
On Saturday, in the wake of Tragerman’s death, the United Nations Children’s Fund put out a statement calling on both sides in the conflict to do their utmost to protect civilians, and in particular children.
“The deaths of children on all sides constitute further tragic evidence of the terrible impact the conflict is having on children and their families on all sides,” the statement said. “Children are bearing the brunt of a conflict that is not of their making. The fighting is inflicting terrible suffering on children and having a devastating impact on the infrastructure upon which they rely for their health, education, protection and well-being.”
On Saturday Gila, Tragerman’s mother, said the family was in the midst of preparing to leave their home for safer areas when the attack came.
“The suitcases were already packed,” she said. “A minute before the explosion I went out to take Uri’s baby carrier (her young son) from the clothesline and met the neighbor. I asked him if they were leaving and told him we were setting off now. I went inside and there was the Code Red siren.
“The children were playing in a tent inside the house, and from the moment of the siren to the explosion only three seconds passed. We didn’t have time to get the children and go into the protected room.”
The Tragerman family had previously left Nahal Oz in order to find safety during the Israeli-Hamas hostilities, but returned just days before their child was killed, during a ceasefire, on the safety assurances of IDF officials.
An IDF investigation showed that the mortar that killed Tragerman was fired from next to a Hamas-run shelter in Gaza.