I promised myself that I wouldn’t think today, knowing that this Memorial Day, my first as a mother of an Israeli soldier, would be that much more difficult.
I would light a candle in memory of Israel’s fallen soldiers, as I do each year, but I would not allow myself to imagine, to think for even a moment. There are ways to mourn, ways to feel sympathy for others without taking the pain in too deeply. That’s what I tell myself each year, and then I watch the names and see the faces and listen to the stories of those we have lost.
Israel’s Memorial Day commemoration begins with the wailing air raid siren. Once again, cars come to a stop wherever they are. Israelis are notoriously late – but not for this ceremony. At exactly 8:00 p.m., the siren wails. It is the signal for a nation to begin, or perhaps to acknowledge, their mourning and their gratitude. For the next 24 hours, we will hear only about those we have lost. The bravery, the courage, the dedication, the sacrifice.
How shall I bless him, with what will his child be blessed, asked the angel?
And blessed him with a smile that is like light.
And blessed him with eyes, large and wide
with which to see every flower, animal and bird.
And a heart, with which to feel all the sights.
Noam Meirson was only 23 years old when he was killed in Lebanon last summer. His tank was hit by a missile. I went to his funeral and was overwhelmed by the hundreds, if not thousands, of people who were there. It was an outpouring of love and sympathy for his family and a recognition of the tragedy that had befallen his family and all of Israel. This young man, killed only a month before he was to be married, reminded all of us that Israel was again at war. May his memory be blessed.
How shall I bless him, with what will he be blessed?
And blessed him with legs to dance forever.
And a soul with which to remember all the melodies.
And a hand that collects shells by the shore.
And an ear, attentive to old and young.
This year, we will hear the story of Michael Levin, who went back to America last summer to visit his family. When Michael heard that Israel was at war with Hizbollah, he cut short his visit and flew back to the land he had chosen as his home, to join his paratroopers in Battalion 890. He was killed by a Hizbollah sniper in the Lebanese village of Ayta A-Shayeb. He didn’t have to come live here, except that he loved this land above all others. He didn’t have to leave his family to come back and fight, except he had long ago accepted that Israel was his family too. And Israel needed him last summer and so, without a moment’s hesitation, Michael came. He flew back to join his men, his brothers, because in his heart, and in ours, he was and will always be, a part of Israel. May his memory be blessed.
How shall I bless him, with what will this youth be blessed,
asked the angel?
And blessed him that his hands, wise among the flowers
should succeed also in learning the strength of steel.
And legs that dance the road’s journey.
And his lips that sing the rhythm of commands.
Major Roi Klein was only 31 when his unit was attacked in Bint J’beil, in Lebanon last summer. One of the terrorists lobbed a grenade towards the group and as the grenade settled on the ground near his troops, Roi yelled out “Sh’ma Yisrael” and jumped on the grenade. He took the force of the grenade, thus saving his troops. He left behind a young wife and two small boys and yet again, redefined what it is to be an Israeli hero. May his memory be blessed.
Philip Mosko loved to volunteer for the local ambulance squad in Maaleh Adumim, his home town. He died in Lebanon doing what he loved to do best, help people. A room has been dedicated in his honor and the volunteers, including my sons Elie and Shmulik remember Philip. Maaleh Adumim and my sons mourn a boy from here, a young man who was dedicated to saving lives and in the end, gave his life to Israel last summer. May his memory be blessed.
How shall I bless him, with what will he be blessed this child, gentle youth.
This boy now is an angel,
No more will they bless him, he will no more be blessed.
God, God, Oh God,
If only you had blessed him with life.
— Ma Avarech – How Shall I Bless Him
By Rachel Shapira
May God bless the families of Noam and Michael and Roi and Philip and all those who have lost sons and daughters, husbands, fathers and grandfathers, brothers and sisters and may He send them comfort.
May God bless the soldiers of Israel – with life.