The last article I wrote about the hugging female soldiers brought back to memory my friend Yonatan Paikes. Yonatan was my age, and for a short period in 1973, not long before the Yom Kippur War, our paths intersected during our military service. I did not know much about him. He was a quiet, intelligent and warm hearted boy. When, during that period, we found ourselves together by chance in a difficult and demanding situation, he was also a supporting and hugging friend. Our ways parted, and after a long period during which I heard nothing about him, I read an interview with an Israeli armour officer who returned from captivity in Syria in which he recounted Yonatan’s last moments. He was at his side when a Syrian force attacked the Golan Heights grove in which they took cover after they had to abandon their tank. I did not even know that he died in the war.
Nearly 40 years passed. I thought about Yonatan many times. About who he was and who he could have become had he not died in the war. The story of the hugging soldiers drove me to search for his memory. And what I found was surprising, very painful, but at the same time also encouraging and strength giving.
Yonatan came from a long standing and well rooted Jerusalem family. He was the grandson of the notable historian, geographer and biblical scholar Ben Zion Luria, a man whose life work deserves not just a separate article but a whole volume. Yonatan’s father, Lieutenant Colonel Michael Paikes of the Paratroopers Brigade, who was wounded during the battle on the Mitla Pass in the Sinai in 1956, was a battalion commander in the Jerusalem Brigade during the 1967 Six Days War and died in battle with the Jordanian Legion in the Jerusalem suburb of Abu Tor. Yonatan’s younger brother, Daniel, was a mountain climber and served in the army as a climbing instructor. He died with a friend in an accident while climbing the Alps.
Yonatan’s youngest sister, the artist Tamar Paikes, who was not yet born when her father died, produced a few years ago an emotional and powerful personal film called ‘Cardboard Squares’ about the way in which her family coped with the loss and the mourning, in which her mother Arnona and her older sister Michal also appeared. Michal, who was a medical doctor, passed away with cancer a few months after the film was screened. I watched the film a couple of times over the weekend, alone and with those close to me, and the tears flowed. After nearly 40 years I have found my friend Yonatan. I also recalled a line from a poem by Amir Gilboa I read many years ago: “Hurray my friend, my hero friend. Here I found your signs.”
You can watch Tamar Paikes’ film ‘Cardboard Squares’ (in Hebrew with English subtitles) here
A couple of years ago an interview with Tamar Paikes was published which you can read (in Hebrew) here