Peres meets outstanding soldiers
Photo: Yosef Avi Yair Engel
On Independence Day, IDF Cpl. Chaya Schijveschuurder met Israel's president for the second time. In 2001, she met former President Moshe Katzav, who came to express his condolences after she lost her relatives in the Sbarro terrorist attack. But last week she met President Shimon Peres under much happier circumstances, after being honored as an outstanding IDF soldier.
Eleven years have passed since the terrible attack at the Jerusalem restaurant. Chaya, who was only eight-years-old at the time, was badly wounded and lost her parents and three brothers. She and the five siblings remained alive but alone.
However, the pain and the anger did not prevent the survivors from contributing to the country. A year ago, Chaya enlisted in the Israeli Navy, where she joined the office of the head of the weapons division. Now it appears she did her job well indeed – the Navy chose her as one of the outstanding soldiers to represent it in the Independence Day ceremony at the president’s residence.
Chaya’s victory is particularly impressive as only 120 soldiers receive the special citation every year from the president and IDF chief of staff.
“When they informed me about this I was happy and proud,” Chaya said. “Enlisting was always my dream, despite what I went through. In the years that passed since the terror attack there was never a moment when I did not think about enlisting in the IDF. I joined to contribute to the country and it was clear to me that I would give everything I could.”
The horrific terror attack continues to accompany Chaya even today, but she insists on not accepting any compensation.
“I still live the attack, it is part of my life,” she said. “It is something that is just part of me and will always remain so, but it is not something that influences my day-to-day functioning; it is simply part of who I am. In the army they know my personal story but… I never asked for special treatment and I would not want anyone to treat me differently. I want them to judge me only on who I really am.”
Chaya devoted the week before Independence Day to rehearsing the torch lighting ceremony, where she marched with the rest of the soldiers on the review plaza at Mt. Herzl. Ahead of the ceremony, she said: "Of course I will also feel that my parents are with me there and they are proud of me at the same moment. I have no doubt about that. Also my brothers will be there with me. It will be very emotional.”
Story originally published by Yedioth Ahronoth
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