In Israel, such a small country, we are so very connected, one with the other. This means that we feel the joys and sorrows of a nation as our own. When something happens to a soldier, it is as if it happened to a member of our family, our son, our brother, ours. Gilad Shalit turned 21 years old and has been held captive in Gaza for more than a year. For all of his 20th year on this earth, his family never got a chance to talk to him, to hug him, to see and touch him. I find that so hard to imagine, as I share Elie’s 20th year on this earth and celebrate each of his moments and accomplishments. I feel Gilad’s mother’s agony and his father’s frustrations. But Gilad is alive and so, like his parents, I continue to hope (and pray) for his release.
This past Thursday, Elie left his base to come home early. The next morning, two boys he probably never met left their bases to go home. Elie spent Friday running errands and helping me prepare for the Sabbath. It was a slow day, more relaxing than most. He took a brief nap, did his laundry, played with his sister, teased his brothers, and helped us slide into the peaceful Sabbath, broken shortly before it began, by news.
Achikam Amichai and David Rubin decided to spend the day doing what they loved – hiking through the beautiful mountains south of Jerusalem. This morning, Elie returned to his base to continue his training in the Commanders Course. Achikam and David were buried last night.
I never met them, but I mourn for them; I feel their mothers’ pain so deeply and wish I knew some words that would bring them comfort. I am haunted by their handsome faces, by the strength I see in their smiles. A friend from their community wrote these words…sometimes when words fail me, I find others that express so clearly what needs to be said. Thus it is with David Wilder’s words:
Achikam Amichai and David Rubin were warriors. Both served in elite units, one naval and the other air force. They were trained to protect their country, to defend their people, to do whatever necessary to defeat the enemy. They faced a surprise attack, but did not despair. At least two of the terrorists attacking them were killed; perhaps also a third one also. During the battle they fell, but they saved the life of a young woman who was with them. Had they not fought back, had they died without a fight, she too, almost certainly, would have been killed. They knew the odds were against them, but they knew that you do not give up without a fight.
Their love for their land, for their people, for their beliefs, their courage, their very lives, is the quintessential Jew in Israel: this is true leadership; this is the way a Jew should live today.
We may have lost two of the best, but we have, staring us in the eyes, the Jewish Israeli of the future. Not Olmert, Peres, Livni, not Mazuz, Beinish, or Barak, rather people like Achikam and David, they are our future. Achikam means, my brother has risen; David, the eternal King of Israel. Achikam is a brother to all of us, he rose above the everyday drudgery of life, to give his life for his people, for his land, for his G-d. David exemplified the bravery of his namesake.
May their lives and their memories be a blessing upon us all; may we learn from their lives and continue on the path that they laid out before us.
–David Wilder is spokesman for the Jewish Community of Hebron.