‘Gal will always be 25’: Yoav mother shares story of son on Yom Hazikaron

By Stephanie Smartschan
JFLV Director of Community Development & Operations
On Israel’s Memorial Day, Nurit Grossman sat down at her computer. On the wall behind her hung a picture of her son Gal, drawn by a fellow member of his bomb squad.
Over Zoom, Grossman was able to share Gal’s story this Yom Hazikaron with both her friends and neighbors in Yoav and members of her Lehigh Valley family. Gal lost his life while serving his country in 1987, at the age of 25.
“Sometimes it’s difficult” to share his story, she admitted. “But the net result is that more people will know about him and hear about him, and that makes up for the discomfort.”
Grossman – a founding member of the Partnership2Gether committee – was born in London, but emigrated to Israel in 1962. She served in the army, where she met her husband Yudke, who was from Kibbutz Galon in Yoav. The couple settled there and had four children.
Over the years, the family twice served in Canada as Israeli emissaries. At the end of the second tour, Gal, nearly 18, had settled into life there and wasn’t sure he wanted to return to Israel. His mother told him he could stay, but ultimately he decided to go back and completed his army service.
“We were happy that he got through the army without any big accidents or serious injuries,” Grossman said.
About eight months after finishing his service, Gal came to his parents and said, “You know, I really don’t think I did enough for the country.”
It was a familiar speech to Grossman – similar to the one she gave her parents before making aliyah.
“We weren’t quite sure, should we take him seriously?” she said. But “it became very clear that he really felt that.”
He wanted to volunteer for a commander unit, but wasn’t accepted. At that point, he thought he would go back to the field and start university at the end of the year. But a week later, he got a phone call from the police, who suggested he join their bomb squad.
“I said, are you kidding? Gal never knew what was his left hand and what was his right hand!” she said.
But he passed his tests and was accepted to the bomb squad of the Israeli police force. He was assigned to Hevron.
Meanwhile, Grossman was embarking on her own career, working to set up the community center in Yoav. She was asked to attend a two-day meeting in Jerusalem for new regional heads. Coincidentally, Gal, about nine months into his service, was told to report to Jerusalem that same day for transport to Ramallah. So they rode to Jerusalem together, and she dropped him off before heading to her meetings.
“As he got out of the car, he said don’t forget, I won’t be home tonight, Mommy, I’ll be home tomorrow, so don’t worry, don’t expect me,” she said. “I watched him as he got out of the car and he walked away, and I was so proud of him.”
She went to her course in Jerusalem and late that night in her hotel, her husband Yudke appeared at her door. He was standing with an officer.
“He said, Nurit, there’s been a fatal accident and Gal was killed.”
“At this point, I knew only one thing. I couldn’t accept it, it couldn’t be true, because as long as I couldn’t accept it, then Gal would be alive,” she said. “I started shrieking there, it’s not true, it’s not true.”
“Even though I think I knew it was true.”
She rode back to Yoav with Yudke. “I don’t wish my worst enemy a trip like that. Every 15 minutes, I had to ask him to stop so I could throw up.”
She later learned that Gal was riding in a jeep from Ramallah to Jerusalem and collided head on with a tank around a very sharp bend. 
The week of the shiva passed in a blur. And when it was over, she thought “I could sit here feeling sorry for myself or maybe I can do something about road accidents.”
She went back to Jerusalem to speak to the head of the community centers, to let him know she could no longer serve in her position because she wanted to focus on road safety. And he said, “don’t you think you can do more with the might of the community centers behind you? If you stay with us, I will set up a committee and we will work with you.”
Her committee started holding demonstrations and doing what they could to make a difference.
At the same time, she and Yudke decided that if they wanted their other children and grandchildren to come home, they couldn't be a “miserable house.”
“We knew that Gal would not have wanted everyone to be miserable and in mourning,” she said. “He wanted to help his country, he wanted to be with his friends, he had plans from here ‘til tomorrow, and we knew that he would want life to go on.”
Today, all of her grandchildren know about Gal and talk about him often.
“It’s a difficult story, but it’s very important to me that other people hear about Gal because when you hear about him and you talk about him, to a certain extent, Gal lives on as he does with us.”