Non-married partners of fallen and wounded soldiers are now officially recognized by the IDF, receiving special treatment by its Casualties Department.
In a document detailing the official procedure released by the department, non-married partners will now receive word of the tragedy by a Casualties Officer, will be entitled to personal days off work to mourn, and will receive psychological support to aid them with their loss.
Procedures were changed after partners of fallen soldiers in Operation Protective Edge united in protest against the indifference they experience by the system towards their grief.
The new head of IDF’s Casualties Department, Col. Joslin Bash, is credited for the new procedures. In the document detailing the changes, it is now stipulated that when a soldier’s family is notified of his death, the family must also be asked if the soldier had a partner.
“If they say yes,” the document states, “then the department will immediately assist in bringing the partner to the family’s home.”
The document also says that if the partner serves in the IDF, the message must be delivered by their commanding officer, who will oversee their travel to the family’s home.
Another issue that is now finally settled with the new procedures is that pertaining to days of mourning days.
According to the document, the partner will now be eligible for days off from the time of death until the end of the mourning period (seven days from the time of burial). In addition, bereaved partners will no be required to attend work on Memorial Day.
Psychological treatment will also be a new right to which the partners are now entitled. “If partner is interested, their details will be transferred to the newly established non-profit “Organization for Emotional Support of Girlfriends of Fallen IDF Soldiers,” the new points read.
“We do our best to adjust ourselves to the current times,” said an official source in the Manpower Division. “It’s a very complicated issue. During Operation Protective Edge there was a lot of controversy about this subject. There is no change in the girlfriend’s official status, but we decided to make official procedures for them nonetheless.”
“We are their partners, they are the ones closest to us,” said Noam Bar, girlfriend of fallen St.-Sgt. Tal Yifrah who was killed in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge.
“If they had done this (referring to the new procedures) for me, it would have been good,” she lamented. “There will unfortunately be others who will follow, and they deserve to be properly notified and not get it by rumor or a phone message.”
Bar is not the only one relieved by these changes in procedures.
Eden Bein received the message about the death of her boyfriend, Sgt. Sean Carmeli, almost by accident. “I was in the middle of an tour for teenagers from the US in Yad Vashem, as part of my duties as a soldier, when I started receiving phone calls from my friends,” she recalled. “It was a bit odd. I didn’t understand why everyone’s calling me. Sean’s mom even called me from Texas.
“After about half an hour, Sean’s best friend called me, crying hysterically. At first I couldn’t understand what he was saying, but then I heard him saying that a message about casualties was released that had Sean’s name in it. To this day, I haven’t seen that message,” said Bein.
Adi Tal-Cohen lost her fiancée, Cpt. Tal Bardugo, in a Gaza terrorist attack in 2004. “I was at the army when I saw the attack on the Television,” she recalled.
“I knew his platoon was there, so I called him but he didn’t pick up. I could just hope for the best. At some point his parents were officially notified by the City Officer, but no one told me. People close to me found out but they didn’t want to tell me, so some even lied. I found out later, on a phone call, when I was all by myself. It was the most terrible way to get the news. I just collapsed in tears,” she confessed.
Tal-Cohen says the new procedures are of the utmost importance. “No girlfriend will forget the moment she gets that message. They way she gets it is important is her rehabilitation as well. We never had any demand but to be notified properly. This is very important to the girlfriends unfortunately to come.”
MK Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid), who led the fight for the bereaved girlfriends since the conclusion of Operation Protective Edge, said on Sunday that “these important amendments clarify the recognition that grief and pain something (from which no one is immune), even if they are not married yet. The next stage is working for equality between wives and fiancées of the fallen, to help, even a little, with something which is feared by all.”
Rina Cohen, Chairwoman of the Organization for Emotional Support of Girlfriends of Fallen IDF Soldiers, welcomed the new orders on Sunday, saying “those girls never demanded money, only to be treated with respect. This is a moral debt we owe to the fallen soldier, which we have to pay.”