Former Melburnian Arnold Roth and his wife Frimet might have thought they had endured more than their share of grief when their daughter Malki, 15, was murdered in a Hamas terrorist attack on a pizzeria in Jerusalem in 2001 that killed 15 innocents.
But the family was hit with tragedy again this month when Roth’s son-in-law Naftali Yonah Gordon, an IDF reservist, died after his tank took a direct hit in northern Gaza on December 7.
Master-Sergeant Gordon and another soldier of the 188th Armoured Brigade’s 53rd Battalion were killed and another two were severely wounded. All the tank crew were reservists.
Gordon, a 32-year-old Jerusalem physiotherapist, had been called up on October 7. Three weeks ago, while his son-in-law was on leave, Roth took “a ton of pictures” of him, with his wife Pesi, the Roths’ daughter. This week he described those photos as “very touching”.
Roth is grappling, as mourners do, with the thought of what exactly he might have been doing at the tragic moment his beloved son-in-law was killed.
He recalls that his family in Jerusalem had donated a basket of food and essentials for soldiers. “At that exact hour, maybe even minute, I don’t know, I handed off my basket and I took a snapshot of the driver and we just chatted … And at that hour, at that moment, Naftali was already dead.”
The sounds of his grandchildren, aged three and one-and-a-half, calling out to their dad still ring in Roth’s ears.
Gordon’s family were at home for the first night of Chanukah when IDF notifiers visited with the devastating news.
“Our little granddaughters were present and watching as the army turned up at the door. Everybody’s jaws fell on their chest because this doesn’t happen except for one reason. From that moment onwards, it’s been the goal of our family and their family to just keep those precious children away from all of this pain.”
Naftali and Pesi were married for four years.
Pesi was nine years old when Malki, her oldest sister, was killed in the 2001 terrorist attack. Roth said, “Both Malki and Naftali fell as a result of Hamas’s malevolence. That was Hamas then, this is Hamas now.”