IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot on Tuesday personally congratulated Israel-Prize-winner Miriam Peretz, mother to two sons who died in combat, 12 years apart, while serving under his command.
Eisenkot, accompanied by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, met with Peretz in the capital after last Thursday, when she was announced as winner of the 2018 prize for Lifetime Achievement and Special Contribution to Society for her work in education.
“All of Israel is excited for you. There is no one more deserving than you,” Eisenkot told Peretz at the Leyada high school. “Your path is uniting and unifying. It is an exciting enterprise.”
In a letter to Peretz, Eisenkot wrote, “For long years you have worked to educate the present and future generations.”
Peretz, 65, lost two of her sons in combat. In 1998, her eldest, Uriel, was killed in Lebanon at 22. Eliraz Peretz, who served in the elite Sayeret Golani unit like his brother, was killed in 2010, near the border with Gaza.
Noting that Peretz had channeled her grief at the loss of her sons into contributing to Israeli society and the IDF, Eisenkot said, “With the strength within you, you are an excellent example of contemporary Zionism.”
“We draw from you inspiration, and see in you a source of strength in our path toward fulfilling the purpose of the IDF,” he said.
Peretz presented Eisenkot with an edition of the Passover Haggadah that was printed in memory of her fallen son Eliaz.
In a handwritten Hebrew message penned inside the front cover, Peretz referred to the Passover theme of freedom for the Jewish people and wrote, “The falling in combat of my sons while protecting the homeland is testimony that the struggle for our right to live as free people is not over.
Peretz has dedicated herself to giving educational, inspirational talks to teenagers and soldiers, trying to give them what she described hope, love and a sense of purpose.
She was born in Casablanca, Morocco, moving to Israel in 1964, at the age of 10. In 2014, she was chosen to light one of the torches to celebrate Israel’s 66th Independence Day.
Eisenkot commanded both her sons at the times of their deaths, as the Golani Brigade commander in 1998 and as IDF Northern Command chief in 2000.