They have been living without their sons for three years now, moving on but constantly reminded of the pain. The annual state memorial ceremony for the victims of the Second Lebanon War will be held Wednesday evening on Jerusalem's Mount Herzl, but even before the ceremony several bereaved families visited Mount Adir in the Upper Galilee to look north and hold a "tour of life" in memory of the fallen troops.
The group includes Ehud Goldwasser's father, Shlomo, who became a bereaved father in the past year.
"It's an exclusive club no one wants to be a member of, but all of its members feel close. People ask me if I have returned to routine – both my family and the family of Karnit (Ehud Goldwasser's widow) have gone through difficult times.
"We knew that the moment the doubt over Udi's faith will be removed we will all go back to routine and go on with our lives with Udi accompanying the entire time," he adds.
"On the first year we met the families on point 105, the kidnapping spot. The difference between us and them at the time was the hope to see the sons return home, which vanished last year when we joined the bereavement club," says Goldwasser, whose son was killed along with Eldad Regev as the two were abducted by Hezbollah.
About 70 families – parents, women, siblings and children – arrived at Mount Adir which overlooks most of the Lebanese villages where the fighters were killed.
"The pain becomes more human when we're together," says Ariela Goldman, who lost her 26-year-old son Sergeant Major Noam Goldman in a battle in the Lebanese village of Aita al-Shaab.
"The place where Noam was killed cannot be seen from Mount Adir, but the fact that other bereaved parents are there with me strengthens and helps deal with the pain," Ariela added.
"We are learning to live with the pain, learning to now always let it come out. It's always there – strong, difficult, intolerable – but after three years you learn not to let it control us. It doesn't become weaker, you just learn to not always let it be."
'Exclusive club no one wants to be part of' (Photo: Avihu Shapira)
The group of parents plans to set up a lookout point on Mount Adir, which will commemorate all the 121 Israel Defense Forces soldiers killed in the war.
"This country constantly waits for the bereavement to be small," the bereavement mother said. "The moment a soldier is killed there is a sort of privatization process – at first everyone loves the family and the pain is national, but then each family remains with its own private bereavement. In this commemoration we hope to create unity, a collective memory of all families rather than an individual one."
Goldman also criticizes the implementation of the lessons drawn from the war. "The Winograd Report story is a sad story about a report whose teeth were pulled out during the process. It became a sort of history book rather than a legal tool, and the committee members are saying this out loud."
David Einhorn, the father of Yehonatan who died in a battle in Aita al-Shaab, says that "this is the third year the tour is being held, but this time with the help of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, the IDF and the Northern Command we gathered at one of the magical pieces of nature combining the memory and the region which the sons fought and fell for."
The lookout point, says Einhorn, is meant to include a monument with the names of the fallen soldiers and explanations about each battle.
Ester's fate tied to Lebanese soil
When Ester Ben-Yehuda is asked how she is, she usually ignores the question. "I feel of lot of pain," she says. "I usually don't answer the question, just move on."
Her son, 24-year-old Captain Eliel Ben-Yehuda, a patrol officer on reserve duty, was also killed near Aita al-Shaab.
"I am very excited ahead of the ceremony," she tells Ynet sadly. "I haven't been to Mount Adir yet, but traveling there remind me of the trips to Eliel in Kibbutz Misgav Am, where he did his regular army service.
"Every Saturday when he wouldn't come home, we would go to him and he would take us to an observation point in the area, as a tour guide… This will be my first observation without my private tour guide. Now I have to look at the place he was killed in."
Ester speaks of the special connection between her son and brother, who never met each other. "The day we ended the mourning period for my brother, Yossi Eliel, who was killed in the first Lebanon War in a battle in Beaufort, is the day Eliel was born and received his name.
"My fate is tied to Lebanon's soil. I never thought my brother and son could have the same fate. I felt committed to have Eliel serve in the Golani reconnaissance platoon like my brother. I thought he could follow in his footsteps, but not in this sense of course.
"They were both killed on foreign land in Lebanon – one in the east and one in the west, one at the beginning of the war and one at the end of the war – but they were both killed by a direct missile hit and both died instantly. They both left behind girlfriends who they were planning to marry. Could anything sadder than this?"
The Mount Adir ceremony was attended by Northern Command Chief Major-General Gadi Eisnkot and senior IDF officers. The families expressed their hope that the lookout point would be completed in the next year or two in order to strengthen the fallen soldiers' memory.
Hagai Einav contributed to this report