Israeli family mourns war victim
By Raffi Berg
BBC News, Caesaria
Doron Farkas picks up a picture of his son, one of many adorning the living room of the elegant family home in the northern Israeli coastal town of Caesaria.
In the photograph, a handsome young man smiles as he stands in the sunshine on the deck of a yacht.
"This was taken last year, when Thom was 22. He loved life," says Doron, his voice gripped by emotion. "I can't find the words to describe what kind of a person he was. It's too painful."
Months after the picture was taken, and just six days after his 23rd birthday, Thom Farkas died when his Apache Longbow helicopter came down in as yet unclear circumstances north of the Israeli town of Safad, close to the Lebanese border.
His commander, 42-year-old Tzviki Luft, from Moshav Hogla, also died in the crash.
The two crewmen were on their way to Lebanon to carry out a mission when they lost their lives, 12 days into the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah.
Thom, an accomplished airman and the youngest Longbow pilot in Israel, had flown numerous sorties across the border since fighting erupted on 12 July.
He was ordered north from the Gaza Strip, where he had been carrying out raids against Palestinian militants.
"I felt bad when I heard he'd have to fly in Lebanon and I was worried about him," says Doron, 52.
"It was a war we had to fight, but there's nothing good about killing people, and Thom felt the same way.
"He wasn't a natural 'army guy' - he liked to drink with friends and play his guitar. He was very much a peace-loving person.
"He had about three more years in the army, then he planned to go into business and to travel. He wanted to live."
Born in Canada in 1983, Thom was the eldest of the Farkas family's three children.
They were a close-knit family, and even when on duty, Thom would call home every day and visit whenever he could. The last time his family saw him was the day before he died.
"On the Sunday he left, he was the same as always," says Doron. "Given the choice at that moment, he would rather have taken a vacation than go back to the army, but he knew he was doing his duty for the country and wanted to do the best he could."
That night, Doron went to Canada on business, leaving his wife, Anat, and his daughters at home.
"I was in Toronto when I saw on CNN that a helicopter had crashed," recalls Doron. "That's how I found out."
"I called my family straight away, but they didn't know anything had happened.
"Normally, someone from Thom's squadron would call to say everything was okay, but this time they delayed.
"I knew what this meant, because I have experience of this."
Back in Caesaria, an army commander came to the family home and broke the news to Anat that Thom had been killed.
"I had to tell Thom's grandparents in Toronto and speak to many people on the phone, so I didn't have time to internalise it. The reaction came later," says Doron.
Doron flew back to Israel that night, arriving the next day.
"It's more now, a month later, that it's hitting me," he says.
Thom was one of 117 Israeli Defense Forces personnel who died during the month-long conflict. The fighting halted when a ceasefire was called on 14 August.
Doron says his son's death has not changed his view about whether Israel should have gone to war.
"I'm not a militant and I believe in peace, but Hezbollah were stockpiling arms and they have been kidnapping our soldiers for years.
"If we didn't do something about it now, we would only have to do it in the future."
If anything, Doron believes Israel stopped fighting too soon.
"Hezbollah are already rebuilding and it's only a matter of time before they provoke another war," he says.
Despite his misgivings, he says he does not feel Thom's death was in vain.
"Since his death, we have had messages of support from literally thousands of people who knew him. He was loved by so many. Thom gave 23 years to the world and was a gift to us all."
Link: Israeli family mourns war victim