Sisterhood Blog

On Yom HaZikaron, Remembering Trailblazer Keren Tendler

By Allison Kaplan Sommer

  • Print
  • Share Share
ORT Israel
Keren Tendler

The somber atmosphere of Israel’s Memorial Day (Yom HaZikaron) permeates Israel today. The entire country stops to memorialize and listen to the stories of soldiers who lost their lives in Israel’s wars, both to honor and celebrate their lives and their contributions, and to embrace their families who must live with the pain of their loss.

In these stories, women are cast in the roles of widow, bereaved mother, sister or daughter. But the story of 26-year-old Sergeant First Class Keren Tendler is different. Tendler, who fell in the Second Lebanon War in 2006, became the first female Israeli soldier to lose her life in active army service since the 1973 Yom Kippur War. She and the other four members of her helicopter’s crew died when their plane was shot down by a Hezbollah rocket.

Tendler was a trailblazer. After completing the Air Force mechanics course, she became the first woman to qualify to serve as a on-flight mechanic on a Sikorsky helicopter — an aircraft tasked with the rescue and evacuation of soldiers. Active combat roles were only made available to women after the landmark Alice Miller court decision In an interview with the Israeli Air Force magazine during her service, Tendler said, “I see myself as a combat soldier just like the others. My aim is to show other girls that they can do this job, too.”

Tendler’s teachers recall that her blue eyes, curls and slender figure belied the fact that she was tough, intelligent, and technically gifted. “She not only aspired to be as good as the boys and to be better than them. She was very competitive, and very serious about her studies,” Dr. Josef Grunfeld, the director of Tendler’s alma mater, ORT Technological High School and College in Rehovot, told The Sisterhood.

Nissim Hillel, her mechanics teacher in both high school and in college, noted that while it was rare for girls to pursue mechanical studies when she took up the challenge, today many girls study mechanics preparing to pursue hi-tech careers. “Keren was very ambitious, on one hand quiet and charming, and yet very aggressive in her studies,” Hillel said. “She stood out in her analyses and the way she discussed the material. She demanded a great deal from herself — she was a strong person. She very much wanted to be the Air Force from a young age — she had a direction, and she succeeded.”

After completing her required military service, she studied law, volunteered as a mentor to women who aspired to become flight mechanics as she had, and continued to complete her tours of duty in the Air Force Reserves. In July 2006, Tendler was called to active duty as a flight mechanic on Israeli helicopters engaging in active combat against Hezbollah positions in Lebanon. On a Saturday morning in August, her helicopter was shot down over enemy territory.

To memorialize Tendler and her accomplishments, ORT America established the Tendler Scholarship Fund, intended to encourage women to study flight mechanics. ORT also built Keren Tendler Memorial Garden in Rehovot, located opposite the military cemetery, the resting place of the young woman who left her mark on the Israeli Air Force, as evidence by the eulogy she was given by Brigadier-General Amir Eshel, the Israeli Air Force Chief of Staff.

Surrounded by male combatants, by complex giant machines, by air and ground forces, day and night in difficult weather: in the blazing heat and in the freezing cold, on snowy mountains, at sea and in the desert, in a hostile land and at home. You knew your mission and were determined to accomplish it.

You have left your mark, you have set new standards, you taught us that the small body with a helmet and a pony tail was really a giant whose presence was a privilege to us all. May your memory be blessed.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Yom HaZikaron, Memorial Day, Keren Tendler

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.