When tank driver Avraham Motzen, brother of world-renowned cantor Yaakov Motzen, fell in battle during the First Lebanon War in 1982, his family and friends from his yeshiva decided to honor him in the way that seemed most natural to them: by holding a Torah study session in his memory at his parents’ home.
The class was such a success that the group decided to repeat it every three weeks. Thirty-seven years later, those sessions were still going strong when Motzen’s mother Marta died early on Wednesday morning, on Memorial Day, at the age of 92. Motzen’s father, Yosef, had passed away some years ago.
Channel 12 was preparing a story about Marta Motzen and the periodical study sessions at her house when she died. On Wednesday night the story aired on the network.
Avraham Motzen was 24 years old when he was killed on June 9, 1982. His tank suffered a direct hit from enemy fire. A fellow crew member who was killed was Shlomo Aumann, son of Yisrael Aumann — later a Nobel laureate for his work on game theory.
Motzen’s parents were both Holocaust survivors. Marta lived through the Auschwitz death camp. Avraham’s company commander Dudu Brill was agonizingly aware of the family history when he came to offer his condolences.
“I’ll never forget the moment I came in,” Brill recounted to Channel 12 news. “Everyone was sitting, Avreimi’s father was sitting and the first thing I noticed was the number on his arm.
“Here you had this case of a Holocaust survivor, of people who came here, rebuilt their lives — and [then] were faced with loss.”
Brill remembered Motzen as a gifted tank technician. “He was in charge of maintenance in the tank. He was very quick and efficient. He always finished first, having done the best work possible on his own tank, and would go and help others. Both because he was a professional and because he had a big, big, big heart.”
“Avreimi was always a fighter,” his brother Yaacov said, using his brother’s nickname. “He was first for every task.”
Marta said when her son died she remembered something he had once said. “He had gone to a memorial of a friend of his and there he commented: ‘I hope his mother does something in his memory.’
“So it’s like he left me a will.’
Avraham’s friend and study group member Menahem Aizenman said: “Our beginning was really at the yeshiva. We came together there. Then in the army…when we could, we studied. So the natural thing was to memorialize him with Torah studies.”
Another friend, Yossie Breuer, said he felt “Avreimi’s spirit is here above us all the time.”
Pinchas Bak was the only member of Motzen’s tank crew to survive the incident.
“I think the mere fact I’m sitting here now is only thanks to Avreimi,” Bak, now a rabbi, said. “You can say he saved me because at one stage as we drove in the tank he said he couldn’t see the way, and he asked that I and the tank commander stand with half our body outside the tank to guide [him].
“At the moment of impact — it was a huge impact — the whole tank was set alight in one instant. And everyone inside had no chance of getting out. It’s only because I had half my body outside due to Avreimi’s request — because of that I’m sitting here.”
Bak said this connection to Avraham had made him particularly dedicated to the study sessions. “My wife knows. It doesn’t matter whether there’s a wedding or anything else. If there’s a Motzen class, I go to Motzen.”
In recent days Marta Motzen’s health had deteriorated. She had a stroke and eventually died early Wednesday morning, just as Israel marked the day honoring its fallen soldiers. Her funeral was held later the same day.
Asked by Channel 12 if the periodical study sessions at her home were something she looked forward to, something she waited for, Marta shrugged. “I don’t need to wait. They come,” she said with a laugh.
Her son’s friends joined in.