I did not know Lieutenant Uri Koton. I happened upon his grave in Kibbutz Dafna Cemetery, three years ago the day before the 42nd Jerusalem Day. Since it was the day before Jerusalem Day, I already had a Jerusalem municipal flag on my car and decided that it would be an appropriate anonymous tribute to Uri’s memory to leave the flag on his grave.
This morning, stuck in one of the festive traffic jams caused by the street closings ahead of today’s celebrations for the 45th Jerusalem Day, I thought of Uri Koton’s grave again. His gravestone is a standard Israel Defense Forces issue.
The headstone reads:
“Uri Koton, Lieutenant 400236
Son of Rivka and Shimon
Born 28 Kislev 5698, 2.12.1937
Fell in the Battle for Jerusalem during the Six Day War
28 Iyyar 5727, 7.6.1967
He was 29 when he fell”
Following that information are the Hebrew initials “Taf Nun Tzaddik Bet Hay” which stand for the sentence from 1 Samuel 25:29 that reads: “May his soul be bound securely in the bundle of the living.” At the foot of his gravestone is the additional information: “Uri, son of (Kibbutz) Dafna. Paratrooper, Educator, Husband to Ruthi, Father to Eran. Loved Man and Earth.”
After “suffering” through the traffic jam for an hour I finally got home and lit a candle in memory of Uri and the other 776* fallen soldiers of the Six Day War. Then I began my day but nagged by the fact that I didn’t really know anything about Uri Koton I decided to look him up on the internet. Since he was a son of Kibbutz Dafna, I went to the Kibbutz’s internet page and looked him up on their memorial page. There I found his photograph.
And read about him in Hebrew. Here is a translated summary of his life written by Kibbutz Dafna members:
“Uri, son of Shimon and Rivka was born on 2.12.1937 in Nes Ziona during his parents educational stay there. He was two years old when his parents came to settle in Dafna in the Galilee. He was a talented student and as he grew he developed leadership qualities and was a guide for his fellow students. After completing high school he enlisted in the Israel Defense Forces in March, 1956. He completed his military training in the paratroopers battalion, and following that he completed an officer’s training course with distinction and served as an instructor for the paratroopers unit. After completing his compulsory military service he signed on for an additional year completing his military service with the rank of Lieutenant. He met his wife Ruthi, during his six month period community service after his military service, in Holon, where they both worked at the HaShomer HaTzir (Young Guard) Kibbutz movement educational branch.
Kibbutz Dafna decided that he should continue his education at Oranim Seminar. Initially Uri did not fully agree with the Kibbutz’s decision but out of strong personal discipline and commitment to the Kibbutz, he accepted our decision and completed his studies with distinction. During this period of time he married Ruthi and they settled on the Kibbutz. His younger brother, Oded, was killed in a pilot’s course training accident in 1962. During the time after his brother’s death he served as a source of strength to his family. After Oded’s death, his mother asked him to resign from his paratroopers’ unit but Uri refused her request, explaining to her that his place was in the paratroopers.
Soon after, Uri began teaching 9th graders at the local school, it was a difficult year for him, but he overcame his difficulties. His son, Eran, was born and he spent his free time with him taking him on field trips and telling him stories. He also spent time working with new immigrants to Israel. He was well loved, respected and viewed as a positive example by his students, the new immigrants and all he met. From time to time he was called in for reserve duty. He was doing his reserve duty when the Six Day War broke out. He fell in the battle for Jerusalem near the Lion’s Gate (St. Stephen’s Gate). He was survived by his parents, his wife, and his young son.”
I did not know Uri, but thanks to him and all those who fell in the Battle for the Reunification of Jerusalem, I and thousands of others have a reason to celebrate today. May Uri Koton’s memory along with all those who fell in the Six Day War be for a blessing.
*The 777 fallen Israeli soldiers of the Six Day War is proportionally equivalent to the number of USA troops killed in action during eight years of fighting in Viet Nam.
Kibbutz Dafna Hebrew Language Internet Page: http://www.dafna.org.il/
First two photographs taken by Isa David-Ben-Rafael, copy right owned by IsraeLightly.
Photograph of Uri Koton from the Kibbutz Dafna internet page memorial section, copy right owned by Kibbutz Dafna