Box of memories

Website aims to tell stories of fallen soldiers to their young kids

‘Remember with Letters’ founder plans to write out by hand letters submitted by soldiers about their fallen comrades and present them to the bereaved

Gavriel Fiske is a reporter at The Times of Israel

The late Noam Ashram and his family, in an undated picture. (courtesy Ashram family)
The late Noam Ashram and his family, in an undated picture. (courtesy Ashram family)

Noam Ashram of Kfar Saba, a reserve sergeant major in the 179th Brigade, was 37 when he succumbed in January to injuries he had sustained a few weeks previously during a battle in central Gaza.

Ashram left behind a wife and three young children. Those kids, aged 7, 2 and 1, will grow up without their father and, in the case of the youngest two, without any real memories of him at all.

But thanks to “Remember with Letters,” a new project that aims to collect stories about fallen IDF soldiers, Ashram’s children, and others in the same situation, will be able to have a glimpse of their lost parent through the eyes of those who served with them.

Ashram’s death was a direct inspiration for the project, explained “Remember with Letters” initiator Tamara Wiesen, because he was close friends with her husband, who served in the same unit.

“I was just thinking about his kids, and what I could do for his kids that would be meaningful. Especially because they are small, they won’t grow up with so many memories of their father, and Noam was a larger-than-life figure,” she recalled, speaking to The Times of Israel by phone.

“I figured everyone on his team would have stories about him, so I thought I would collect them… I wanted the children to have this image of him as a superhero, a brave person. So many kids have lost parents in this war, so I decided I would widen it, to include every child who lost a parent,” Wiesen said.

Wiesen, who lives in Binyamina and also has three young children, works as a web and product designer for a medical tech startup, so she had the skills to set up a simple website to collect stories. It went live at the end of March and so far is in Hebrew only.

The project is specifically for soldiers to write about their fallen comrades, to record stories or experiences for the children that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to know.

Tamara Wiesen (courtesy)

“From the letters I’ve gotten so far, it really is a unique perspective with a lot of memories I don’t think they would get from other types of people who knew them,” Wiesen said.

She plans, for each fallen soldier, to write out by hand the letters received, organize them into a special box, and present the results physically to the families on the first anniversary of the fallen soldier’s death, along with a digital version. This way, she said, the family will have a unique memento in the house, and the letters themselves will be available for the children as they grow up and learn to read.

Wiesen, using her own internet and media research, estimated that there are “132 parents who have been killed, and around 350 children who have lost parents serving in the IDF or the Border Police.”

The project is a labor of love, run on a volunteer basis. Wiesen is slowly promoting the website herself, often through WhatsApp groups and bereaved families’ organizations. Wix, the web-hosting company, offered to host the project for free because of the subject matter.

“The response has been really good,” Wiesen said. “I’m trying to reach everyone, in the hopes that every child who lost a parent will be able to receive a stack of letters full of stories.”

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