On Monday, 15.8.2017 (23 Av, 5777), a special and moving event was held at ADI Negev-Nahalat Eran to mark the birthday of Shir Bachar z”l, the officer after whom the Shir BaLev (Heartsong) project is named. Participants in the project are soldiers from intelligence units, who volunteer at the village.

While serving in an IDF intelligence unit, Shir volunteered regularly at the village for two hours a week. She worked with our smiley and beloved resident Liron, and a special, family-like relationship developed between them. Shir even came to visit Liron after she had completed her job at the base. Shir’s connection with Liron and other village residents was unique and very powerful. A relationship built on unconditional friendship and love. The caption she gave to a series of selfies she photographed with Liron read “At ADI Negev with Liron, my future husband.” The photographs convey a message of great love. Love of a person as they are. The selfies remain as a live and painful testimony. A silent cry for a better world for the village’s residents and their friends everywhere. The weakest, purest and most vulnerable. It’s as if Shir is telling us – “don’t look at the container, but at its contents.” Our work to benefit these people with the most extreme disabilities is an outstanding reflection of our humanity, work that exposes the contents of the human container, which can be found within each one of us.

After Shir completed her army service, she was killed in a rafting accident in Peru, during her post-army trip to South America. Her parents saw the photos of her with Liron only after her death, made contact with me and came to visit the village, where they met Liron, the resident whom Shir loved so much. Together, we decided to name the intelligence soldiers’ volunteer program after Shir – “Shir BaLev.”

The event opened with video-taped blessings sent by Maj. Gen. Herzi Halevi, Head of IDF Intelligence, and Maj. Gen. Poli Mordechai, Coordinator of Operations in the Occupied Territories, and continued with a particularly poignant musical piece sung by Shir’s friends, her sister, Nitzan, and her brother, Yam. They had written and composed the song, “Beyond the Bend in the River,” in memory of Shir. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

Following the ceremony, Shir’s family and dear friends toured the village along with the intelligence soldiers. It was particularly touching to hear the soldiers speak about their volunteer work and their feelings. The tour ended with an activity and singing in the cafeteria, the place where Shir so loved to volunteer.

Shir left an important and inspiring legacy. A legacy of voluntarism, love and contributing while completing intensive and meaningful service to the IDF.

Shir has become a symbol for an entire generation of talented young people, who see volunteering with the weakest individuals as the great test of our humanity. The test of mutual responsibility. The test of loving each person as they are.

This is the 7th year that this important and meaningful volunteer project has been operating, bringing the IDF’s best soldiers together with the village’s residents and children for two hours a week. We thank the intelligence soldiers, Shir’s friends and those who follow in her footsteps, for their incredible volunteer work to benefit the weakest members of society.

Shir’s outstanding example of voluntarism and love of mankind will stand as a pillar of fire, beating in the hearts of numerous young people in Israel and the world.

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