Daniel Mendel, z”l
Daniel was born on the 6th January 1979, Zain be Tevet in the year Heh Taf Shin Lamed Tet in Toronto, Canada to Cheryl and David Mandel. He is the younger brother of Nicole and Yonah and the older brother of Gabriel and Shlomo.
From his earliest childhood, Daniel was a mischievous "Gingi" (redhead). At an early age he showed an affinity for music and started to learn the piano. He was a very sociable child and showed qualities of leadership from very early on. At the age of four he spent one year on Kibbutz Masada and Moshav Amirim. When he turned eight his family came on Aliyah and settled in Alon Shvut in Gush Etzion.
He was a pupil at the local primary school. He rapidly became a central figure both at school and in the Bnei Akiva youth movement in Gush Etzion. Daniel continued his high school studies at the Neve Shmuel High School Yeshivah in Efrat. In addition to his studies, Daniel devoted considerable time to developing his unusual musical skills. During this period he practiced the piano, electric and bass guitars, harmonica and flute. He loved the land of Israel and enjoyed traveling across the country whenever he could. He particularly enjoyed seeing less known or seldom visited places, and doing things that others had not yet done before him. For example, when he was in his second year of high school, he spontaneously cycled through the Judean desert to the Dead Sea. In high school, he was a youth leader in Bnei Akiva youth movement at Kibbutz Kfar Etzion. After high school, Daniel devoted one year before his call-up to study at the pre-army "Preparation Program" in Atzmona in Gush Katif.
In the holiday period between the end of his high school studies and the beginning of his pre-army "Preparation Program", he went on a one-month camping tour of Scotland with a close friend. He returned from this trip with many experiences and a great love of Scottish and Irish music.
From his very first day in the pre-army "Preparation Program", Daniel devoted all his energy to his studies. He worked until late at night. Daniel led his group in their studies and was known through his critical, consistent attitude, sharpness and especially for his unwillingness to compromise - on even the smallest issue.
Daniel was also the social focus. He coalesced the entire class around him. Daniel was known for his infinite joy of life, he always had a ready smile on his lips. Another factor that attracted and unified his class and caused Daniel to be a central figure of the group - was his amazing musicality on a number of musical instruments - particularly the piano. On many occasions such as the outgoing of the Sabbath, and preparative parties, the class gathered to hear Daniel playing. This reached a peak during Purim when Daniel sat down at the piano and started to play. Slowly his fellow students and Rabbis gathered to listen to his wondrous playing - about which one of the Rabbis said, "…It's the first time that I see a piano being played, not by the hands but by the entire soul." The students of the "Preparation Program" to this very day remember his rare musical skills.
Daniel developed in a special manner during the "Preparation Program" and built a deep bond with the Rabbis who loved and appreciated him very much. Towards Passover, Daniel took the decision to continue in the "Preparation Program" for a further eight months until his call-up in March. During the second period of the program, he intensified his study efforts - concentrating on the significance of the Land of Israel as well as the significance of "TSHUVAH" and the significance of education - while forming his very special outlook on life.
In March 1999, Daniel joined the ranks of the Nachal Brigade. He was assigned to the reconnaissance company. He was a soldier in the Amit platoon. As always he invested all his energies in “doing” - and the outcome was not long in becoming apparent.
He was known in his team- by his joy of heart, emotional calm and coolness under the harshest conditions – as early on as basic training. As a friend in the section testified, “…Mendel - during the week of field training - when we were required to eat within seven minutes and be ready for a mission - took the matter calmly - instead of eating, he spent this time encouraging his buddies.” Naturally, as he did everywhere, Daniel bonded the team with his music.
He was also known by his uncompromising attitude to any assignment no matter how difficult - this characterized Daniel throughout his life. A friend in his team recalls: "….Mendel was synonymous with excellence and he left his mark on the team, forever."
Daniel completed his training course in November 2000, and his unit requested that he serve as a Non Commissioned Officer (NCO) for training recruits. He served for four months as (NCO) recruits of the November 2000 draft. Thereafter he went on the officers’ course and returned to the unit as platoon commander of the November 2001 recruits.
He led his soldiers throughout their course. In parallel to giving them their professional training in the most thorough manner, he injected many values that were important for him to transmit. He did this by taking them on numerous trips around the country whenever possible (so that the soldiers could understand what they are fighting for) and took them for visits to a home for battered women or to a party in an institution for the mentally retarded.
Daniel, better known as "Mendel" in the army, educated his soldiers in accordance with his special educational precepts, which he had developed over the years. He wrote his educational philosophy about training soldiers in a special document that he has left for us. This educational approach yielded exceptional results as he helped create a team of soldiers of the highest level of competence.
Daniel had boundless love for his soldiers; he felt that he was "bringing them up" just like a father. He took a group of young recruits and slowly built them - with lots of work - into a well-integrated fighting unit. The end-of-course ceremony for his soldiers was for him one of the happiest and exciting days of his life. When asked to talk at the ceremony, he spoke of his parental feelings towards his soldiers, who were like sons to him. "It is strange to talk to you about my parental feelings - but this happens. To see a group of recruits arriving, each one with his idiosyncrasies and his level of maturity, and to see you fellows now grown up, strong, proud, confident fighters - this is my personal feeling and it is very special".
He reaped his harvest and continued with the team he built, as their commander, when the platoon became operational – the thing he wanted to do more than anything else. He was supposed to continue with the platoon until August and then go on a short leave, from which he would go directly to a company commander’s course.
Daniel was killed in battle in Nablus on “Yod Gimel Nissan” at 5am as “Mendel Platoon Commander” while leading his soldiers in an operation to capture three wanted terrorists responsible for the deaths of at least thirty and the injury of over one hundred and fourty Israelis.
Daniel was buried in the Kfar Etzion cemetery. Thousands of people paid Daniel their last respects. Daniel leaves behind his parents, three brothers, one sister, three nephews and many, many loving friends.