Among the many fallen soldiers who will be honored and recognized on Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day), the story of Nissim Gini of blessed memory is particularly remarkable. He was the youngest IDF soldier, who fell at only 10 years old. Gini, born in Jerusalem, was a lookout and messenger who passed information between the different fighters’ positions in the Jewish Quarter during the War of Independence. On May 27, 1948, after his watch ended, Gini was called back to the guard tower, where he was shot by a Jordanian sniper. He succumbed to his injuries the next day, with the falling of the Jewish Quarter.

“The story was very present in our home”, recounts Devorah Gini Malki, Gini’s niece and the daughter of his brother Natan Gini. According to her, every Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day) was full of preparations in her home. “It was an intense 24 hours of memory and togetherness. My father would go from one event to the next and it was evident that Nissim’s falling was something he always carried with him”.

Participating in the ceremonies was, according to her, a message that her father did not forget Nissim and always carried his memory in his heart. “My father probably carried a sense of guilt for not saving his brother and that feeling never left him to his last day,” she adds.

Old family photo

For many years, there was only one known photograph of Nissim, that was cut out of a group photograph with his classmates, in which his face is blurry. But a few years ago there was a surprising turn of events.

In 2018, the Gini family hosted relatives from France, and among other things they visited Nissim’s grave on the Mount of Olives together. The tour was led by a guide that told those present that during her time working for the City of David she had seen an additional photograph of Nissim.

After a short investigation, the guide was able to locate the photo, and it was brought to Nissim’s sister so she could identify the people in the picture. One of the children in the family photo was recognized as Nissim Gini, and his family was excited to discover that another picture of him had been found.

It turned out that the old photograph had spent years lying in a forgotten album at Nissim’s sister’s house, which the family knew nothing about. One of the cousins had posted the picture to the “Old Jerusalem” Facebook page, without the knowledge of the extended family, and thanks to the publication, it reached the City of David guides.

“The picture that was discovered was a total surprise to our family. We always knew the unclear picture of Nissim that was taken and enlarged from a class photograph. For me, this picture caused an emotional upheaval; it was a kind of greeting from a vanished world,” says Devorah. In fact, this is the only picture we have of my father, Natan Gini, who fought alongside Nissim in the Jewish quarter and was the last person who spoke to him and accompanied him in his final moments of life,” she adds.

Devorah also added that after decades in which Nissim’s memory was indelibly impressed into the family’s consciousness with a blurry face, for the first time they saw his smiling face clearly. “Up until then we vaguely imagined what he looked like and finally, we had a clear [image of his] face,” she mentions.

According to Devorah, the story of her uncle Nissim’s death greatly affected her desire to do something meaningful and imbued her with a strong connection to the land of Israel and Zionism. She worked for many years at the Jewish Agency for Israel, and in recent years she has worked on developing educational curricula for the City of David.

“There is no doubt that the combination of the City of David, the strong connection to Jerusalem and educational work with students and teenagers falls under my definition of “meaningful work”, she says. “It’s exactly what I was looking to do in life following my family story,” she concludes.