Today, Elie “graduates” from the Commanders Course and receives a higher rank in the army representing his new rank and training. Family-wise, it’s a hard day because my youngest daughter’s school has planned a special event and she doesn’t want to miss it. I’m trapped between needing to find arrangements for her (and not being sure that I’ll be back in time to participate in this mother-daughter evening) and going to Elie’s ceremony.
It really isn’t a hard choice – my daughter’s school is excellent and arranges such events at least once per year. In a few months, she won’t even remember this night, but Elie’s ceremony is different and so, somehow, I’ll find an arrangement and be there.
I was thinking about Elie today. If life weren’t complicated enough, I’m in the midst of helping to organize a national conference of technical writers this week and two guests have flown in from abroad to speak. I love when guests come from abroad, especially those who aren’t familiar with Israel. It lets me put on a different set of eyes, to see this land through their eyes once again, and talk about the land and history of my country.
They’ll be going today to Elie’s ceremony and I’ll have the fun of explaining some of what they will be saying (in Hebrew) for our guests. In the meantime, as I was preparing this morning, I thought of the moment I would introduce my tall son to these even taller guests. I’ll definitely be the short one in this crowd!
I thought of introducing Elie and then thought of explaining Elie’s name (Elie is actually a shortened version and the name we call him by). And then my mind wandered to a different path and I thought about how appropriate that today, of all days, I would choose to think of a different young man, in a different time, a different place.
That young man was called by the name Youmy (short for Binyamin, Elie’s first name), but Elie carries his name. Youmy lived in a small town near the Hungarian-Czechoslovakian border and married around the month of March…the year he was murdered by the Nazis. I don’t know what he looked like, how he thought, or behaved. I know only that right after Passover in 1944, the Germans came and took him away and he never came back.
His sister survived, married and moved to the United States. She never really got over what she lost and what was done to her, but she survived and more importantly she lived. She had four children, the third of which was my husband. When our first son was born, we asked my husband’s father if he had a name he wanted us to use. It’s a Jewish tradition among many Jews of European descent – to have a name live on. That is behind the rational for the National Holocaust Museum in Israel being called Yad VaShem (A Hand and a Name).
So my husband’s father told us to ask his wife, to give her the opportunity to have someone remembered and she gave us her brother’s name. Elie carries that young man’s name and does so proudly.
Today, Elie will be promoted in rank and responsibility in the Israeli army and I thought today how amazing it is, how truly correct it is that Youmy’s namesake should be doing something so important. Had there been an Israel when Hitler rose to power, there would have been a place to which the Jews of Europe could have fled.
Years ago, an Israeli leader stood on what was once the Warsaw Ghetto and apologized to those that had died there for coming 50 years too late. What I realized today, in thinking about Elie, is that life comes in circles. A young man died many decades ago because there was no army, no nation to save him. His name, though, lives on in my son, and today, Elie will stand with his army, representing his nation. so that no others will suffer what Youmy did.
Today, somewhere in the heavens, I hope Youmy is looking down and watching as Elie receives this honor and listens as Elie and the others dedicate themselves to protecting the Jewish people here in Israel and, ultimately, all around the world.