The final tragic incident in the IDF's hardest day of fighting yet was a CH-53 Sikorsky helicopter crash in Lebanon Saturday night. Sergeant First Class Keren Tendler, an air force mechanic on board, was the first woman soldier to be killed in the current conflict.
Along with Keren, Maj. Sammy Ben Naim, 39, from Rehovot, Maj. (res) Nisan Shilo, 36, from Kibbutz Evron, Capt. Daniel Gomez, 25, from Nahalim, and Sergeant Maj. Ron Mashiah, 33, from Gadera were also on the helicopter. All crew members were declared "missing, presumed dead."
Proud to be in the reserves
At approximately 2:30 a.m. Sunday morning, IDF representatives arrived in Rehovot, in order to inform Keren's parents – Reona and Dan – that their daughter was missing. The quiet that characterizes the neighborhood was shattered by shouts of grief. Concurrently, IDF representatives arrived at the home of Keren's grandmother in Ashdod, to tell her the news.
Keren, friends said Sunday, was often seen arriving home in uniform, following routine reserves service. A number of days ago, she was called up once more. Neighbor Asher Dayan recalls that, only Thursday, Keren came to visit him. "She was so friendly, always smiling," he said. "She said that after a friend's party, she was going to 'special party' in the army. She didn't elaborate, but it wasn't the first time we'd seen her in uniform. She was always happy to serve and proud to do so, but I'm simply in shock upon learning of her service (in Lebanon)."
Keren leaves behind parents and a younger brother, age 16.
Ron and Sivan were expecting their first son in 3 months
Sergeant Maj. Ron Mashiah (33) from Gadera, had barely seen his wife, Sivan, or other family members, since the onset of the conflict in Lebanon. Sivan is sixth months pregnant and, in addition to expecting their first child, the couple planned to celebrate her birthday this Saturday.
Sivan and Ron married two and a half years ago, after meeting in the Tel Nof squadron. "She arrived at the squadron as a personnel officer," says brother-in-law, Guy. "They hit it off right away. The whole squadron came to their wedding. She personally knows the entire crew that was killed."
Ron's father, Avraham, said: "The whole family was supposed to meet Saturday. In the morning, Ron called and said that he was on high alert. We're a combat family so we don't elaborate about these things on the phone. We don't discuss secrets the way the blabbermouths do on TV."
Not only did Ron's father not know what his son was up to, neither did Sivan. "She didn't know and, I told him, it's better that she only know in retrospect," said Guy, adding "You could see in his eyes what a good person Ron was. His 'baby' in recent days was his aquarium at home."
Two weeks ago, Ron participated in operations in Baalbek, during which special units were air lifted into enemy territory. His brother, Dov, recalled: "I didn't even have time to hear details. The last time we spoke, he only said he was glad to go out on missions."
Ron's father said that his son did not express worries about operations in Lebanon. "He was confident, knew what he wanted. He was a meticulous boy, straight as an arrow, organized and loyal to his wife and family."
Ron leaves behind his wife, Sivan, parents – Avraham and Rebecca – and two older brothers.
Made her dream come true
Capt. Daniel Gomez (25), one of the two helicopter pilots, recently celebrated his wedding anniversary to his wife, Sarit. A day before he died, he surprised her and bought her the piano she'd always dreamed of. Sarit is six months pregnant with the couple's first child.
Daniel's friend since the age of 14, Matan, said today: "He was raised in Nahalim, went to the pre-military academy in Atzmona and, for as long as I can remember, dreamed of being a pilot. He loved the army, especially the air force, and wanted to go into Lebanon. When asked if he was afraid, Daniel said he was more worried about the soldiers fighting on the ground. He was modest, unpretentious, quiet and gentle."
In addition to his wife, Daniel leaves behind parents – Patrick and Miriam – and four siblings – Ayelet, Orli, Liora and Yair.
Eli Senior, Meital Beit-Or and Vered Luvich contributed to the writing of this article