A father remembers his stolen child


Terrorist attacks feature all too often in the news out of Israel. With each suicide attempt that succeeds, lives are lost and sometimes, they belong to children whose parents waited in vain for them to return home from school that day. One such father was Yossi Zur.

He is determined to continue to give his son what was denied to him in death, touching many who now join him in honouring Asaf's memory.

There are some things that endure even in death. One of them is the love for a child.

On March 5, 2003, Yossi and Leah Sur had their son, Asaf, cruelly taken from them. Asaf, who was just in 11th grade then, left school with a trio of girls, and headed home on a No. 37 bus. The girls rode with Asaf for barely ten minutes before they left him and got off to get some food. Just two minutes later, the girls - one of them Ortal, Asaf's girlfriend - heard an explosion. Ambulances screeched to the scene. A Palestinian suicide bomber had blown himself on this bus they were just on, killing 17 people.

Nine of the dead were kids on their way home from school. Asaf had been just two months shy of his 18th birthday.

Asaf was also called Blondi, because of the shaggy golden hair he kept down to his shoulders. He not only looked the part of a surfer, he was one, and a good one at that. His parents had bought him an amateur surfboard but it did not take him long to graduate to become a pro. Every morning, Asaf used to look out of the window of his home, set on the western slopes of Mount Carmel, to check out the waves. If they looked good, down to the beach he went. Today, Asaf's surfboard and surfsuits are still kept in his room, where he used to listen to heavy rock and metal.

Four years have passed since they lost Asaf, but within the family, he remains pretty much with them.

"I need an hour with Asaf every day, in the same way that I devote time to my other children," explains Yossi, who compares him to his other three sons.

"Just as Arik, Almog and Eitan deserve attention, Asaf also deserves for me to talk to him, think about him and play with him. That doesn't mean I don't do anything else. I work, make a living, take care of the house. Asaf is part of my life."

Asaf was Yossi's and Leah's second son, and after his passing, they have added another boy Eitan to the family, but have yet to tell him what happened to the older brother he never met.

"He already knows Asaf well from pictures and from people talking, but soon we will have to tell him the whole story," says Yossi.

This defiance against losing Asaf to death led Yossi to create two memorials for Asaf that captured the imagination and hearts of a diverse group from around the world.

2007 was the year in which Asaf would have finished his compulsory military service with the Israeli Army. Like all the other young men and women, he would have embarked from one rite of passage to another, a trip to Asia or South America to see the world. But since Asaf could no longer do that, his father did the next best thing.

He brought the world to his son.

On New Year's Day that year, Yossi created a web page, asking people to send a stone from wherever they were. The stones would then be collected and placed on Asaf's grave.

By his birthday in April, more than 1,100 stones had arrived in the mail from 70 countries, plus two more from space, parts of separate meteorites that fell onto earth. This year, Yossi came up with another idea for Asaf. Now that the world had come to Asaf, for his 22nd birthday, Yossi would take his son out into the world.

Yossi placed Asaf's photo on the website with one simple request. People all over the world could print out Asaf's picture and take a photograph with it and send it back to him.

The collection is still going on, and it is still growing.

These are gestures meant for both father and son.

"You raise a boy so he will go into the world, grow up, see things and meet friends, and suddenly at the age of 17 it's all over?

"Going out into the world with him reflects the need to say 'I can't let this be the end,' so I am continuing his life experience with all the possible options.

"Because he cannot go and see the world himself, I will see to it that people become acquainted with him and get to know him.

"In the era of digital cameras and cellular phones, it is much simpler to send a picture than a stone. In the future we will probably create a combined album out of the stones and letters received and the pictures, which will be about Blondi's journeys all over the world.

"If I get a letter from people who say that for two full weeks they looked in South America for the right stone to send to Asaf, it's as though Asaf went on the trip with them. In retrospect, it gives me something, too. I say, 'Hey, I succeeded in introducing him to more people, in taking him to another place.' That is the closest thing to life that I can give Asaf at this time.


East Coast Park, Singapore

"I will continue to reveal Asaf to the world from one project to the next, for as long as I live."

According to Yossi, Asaf had spent the a month in Singapore back in 1995. Like so many visitors he loved the famous chicken rice and spent days cycling in East Coast Park.

There may be some who will recall seeing a blond-haired nine-year-old boy zipping along the beachfront back then. To what must have brought a smile to many a passers-by, we send this photograph, to Asaf, to Yossi and to the rest of the family that's still loving him.

If Yossi's endeavour has moved you too, do download Asaf's photograph from There you will also find other photographs that have already been sent.

And yes, do spread the word.


First Published: 
December 2008


Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.