THE HUMAN QUALITIES IN THE COMMANDER
"LIHIOT ADAM UMEFAKED"
Association for the Commemoration of the late major Shay Bernstein
My grandfather began it all. He was the only holocaust survivor in my family. Forty people from my family were killed in the holocaust. And the influence of that was always been in our blood. My parents raised us in the belief that army is important. We have always a drive to be in the army.
We were four siblings, all served in the army, three of us became officers. We were not only brother, but good friends. After shai death we changed our family name to bar-shay, in the memorial of our shai.
It was a beautiful Shabbat afternoon last summer when we lost our beloved Shai.
Shai started as a recruit in the pilot's training course .after, he switched to the armor corps where he and the tank became partners.
On Shabbat 12.8.06 he was the company commander leading the armoured battalion across the Saluki. An anti-tank missile fired from the outskirts of the village of Anduria.
Three days before he was killed Shai managed to get a few hours off to see Sivan-his girlfriend for the past 6 years. That was the night he proposed her.
Shai was born on June 10th 1982 to Ella and Shlomo Bernstein. His brothers are Michael and Guy, and sister Revital. He grew up in Beer Sheva and studied at the Technical High School affiliated to the Air Force.
He was a truly compelling character, attracting people to him like a magnet. His infectious humor made people laugh till they cried, and by bringing this quality with him to the army he succeeded in turning military service into a fun experience, so that his soldiers were happy to come back after leave.
Shai's training as an IDF commander drew on the heroic stories of battalion commanders in previous military campaigns, which became part of his own heritage.
During the major part of his six years of military service Shai filled the role of instructor, guide and educator to other soldiers. During his conversations with his soldiers he read parts from an holocaust books. The aim was to make them understand how important the strength of the I.D.F is .in order to prevent another holocaust in the future. He served as commanding officer in a tank commander's course, as well as in an officer's course. His career also included a period as company commander of new recruits whom he accompanied as they progressed as soldiers in the armor corps.
The values he transmitted to his soldiers were those he himself believed in and upheld: Zionism, excellence, and service in a combat unit, all motivated by his love of the country and belief in life here.
He was characterized by an extraordinary combination of the qualities of a professional officer with the ability to make fun of everything. His ability to create a synthesis of these two opposites was a consequence of study and hard work.
When the situation demanded it, in battle, Shai served as company commander who achieved the goals he had worked for and trained others to accomplish. He led his company into battle in enemy territory in order to protect the citizens of Israel.
The last assignment of Shai's battalion in the Lebanon war was to gain control of those areas north of the Litani River which served as launching posts for rockets fired into Israel.
Shai knew of the risk that not all the soldiers would return from this assignment, but he was well aware of the importance of carrying it out, and of radiating confidence to the forces he was commanding.
He did his utmost under the prevailing conditions, leading his company, directing them and showing total control of the situation. When the battalion commander was seriously wounded and evacuated, Shai took over without hesitation. He led his troops on, joking with them over the radio, fully aware of the importance of the mission he had undertaken.
Shai finally found himself in a situation where he could have proceeded to complete the mission, but only by abandoning a damaged tank that was exposed to enemy fire.
He chose to defend the soldiers who were with him, extend assistance to the tank crew and defend them under heavy fire. He did this until a missile penetrated his own tank, killing him together with his comrades Ido and Ami, of blessed memory.
At that moment his identity as a man and a commander blended into that of a hero.
We have recently begun to make a film in memory of Shai. We plan to screen it on television, but the more important objective is to show it to trainees in officers' and commanders' courses both in the IDF in general and in the armor corps in particular.
The film deals with Shai's biography, specifically focusing on the war and Shai's ability to lead his troops in battle. It will also follow his career as a commander through the eyes of the key personalities in his life and military service, and to allow viewers to get to know the fun-loving man who was a real friend.
Our objective is to educate IDF officers, commanders and soldiers to follow Shai's example of leadership, and to pass on his legacy – the importance of implementing the mission in the best possible way, while leading the soldiers in true comradeship, with total commitment to the justice of the cause.
The heroes of the second Lebanon war have been caught up in a web of accusations and committees of enquiry. We sometimes forget that we cannot take our lives here in Israel for granted. Shai and others like him have enabled us to continue living here, so it is our responsibility to tell the tales of heroism and to pass on those values in which our heroes believed.
Throughout his military service in the armor corps Shai was involved in the training of commanders, where his own role models had been the heroic commanders of previous IDF military campaigns. Today he takes his place among them.
We are producing the film, and planning to publish a book about Shai, so that he will continue, even after his death, to train commanders and soldiers to defend their homeland, which was his only home.
Because without commanders and soldiers like him, we would not be here today and will not be able to survive here in the future.
We are grateful for the swiss Association that donated for our film.
If you wish to help contribute to the cause, please contact:
Pictures of Shai can be found at our website: