Spring in the Jewish state, while glorious, has its fair share of gloomy days. First comes Yom Hashaoh, recognizing World War II and the Holocaust, and so many Jewish lives lost. Then comes Yom Hazikaron, recognizing Israel's many wars, and so many Jewish lives lost.
Such sadness is prevalent as (at right) Maj.-Gen. Dan Halutz, Israel's chief of staff, places a flag on the grave of St.-Sgt. Yosef Goodman Sunday at Har Herzl in Jerusalem. One of 138 casualties this year, the U.S.-born Goodman was the most recent to have died in the line of duty. He was honored in a ceremony called "Flag Salute to the Fallen Soldier" as part of the nation's Yom Hazikaron, or Memorial Day, observances.
Goodman, 20, was a member of Maglan, an elite commando unit of the paratroopers. His parents immigrated to Israel when he was a baby. His father, Mordechai Goodman, spoke of his "great son, great brother – sensitive and a leader."
Yosef, he said, had formed an American football team in Israel, and was also on the army's track team.
He also noted that his son was an ardent Zionist who tried to convince his American friends to make aliyah.
The family has lived in Efrat – a settlement in the West Bank, near Jerusalem, with a significant American population – for the past 18 years. They own a pizzeria, where Goodman and his eight siblings helped out while growing up.
The soldier was killed Feb. 2 during a training accident.
His unit was performing a low-altitude jump along a beach in the south of the country. Goodman's parachute became tangled with his commanding officer's, and he quickly cut himself loose, saving the officer. Unfortunately, Goodman's spare chute did not have time to open.
Said the young man's father: "He was an excellent soldier, and they honored him for that."