Always in our thoughts, as the anniversary of our son’s death approaches I feel the need to write, as we experience the turmoil in Israel in these very difficult times.
My family is a bereaved family. Our son fell in Chomat Magen, in Jenin, after seven days and nights in battle, with no relief forces coming in.
Gedaliah (Hy”d) was a soldier in Israel’s elite infantry of Golani, in Gedud HaBokim 51. This unit of Golani was in the forefront of the battle against terrorists in the Chomat Magen (Shield of Defense) campaign in April 2002. (Chomat Magen was in answer to the mass murder by a terrorist from Jenin of a large party of celebrants at a Passover Seder in Netanya’s Park Hotel). Gedaliah was at home for the Passover Seder, having received a much needed week’s vacation from the army. When, on Motzei Chag (after the holiday), he heard on the news what had happened in Netanya, he called his commander and said: “I am no longer on vacation. I am volunteering, wait for me to get there.”
Gedaliah got the last bus out of Jerusalem and joined the forces about to enter Ramallah and Jenin. He was at the near end of his army service, and looked forward to going on to university. In his two and a half years in the army, Gedaliah rose to the rank of Staff Sergeant, and first worked as a commander training recruits and then was appointed as radio man to the Major in charge of the Front Line Command.
Gedaliah fell in battle on 27 Nissan, which in Israel marks the Yom Zichron HaShoah veHaGevura (Day of Remembrance of the Holocaust and Heroism). We will soon go to Har Herzl for his azkara [memorial service] 27 Nissan.
It has been five years of deep introspection, a need to renew faith in Hashem, a need to forgive Him for taking back our beautiful child.
A few weeks back we spent a weekend at an army base, prepared for bereaved families, who lost sons/daughters in the IDF. A very young man came to talk to us – he is a talmid of one of the great rabbis of Israel, and also serves as an officer in the IDF.
I can say that for the past five years, we have been “waiting” for an answer that will substantially relieve the questions and the pain. This young rabbi addressed families, some of whom lost a child as far back as 67, or 73. People came in wheelchairs, or with walkers, pitiful, broken people. They cannot forget their loss. In one case I know of, this elderly couple who lost their only child. They have no relatives in Israel. They are veteran immigrants. You would break apart to see the flow of tears mingled with the glow and the smile on their faces as this rabbi talked. It was a very deep experience.
Yet through this pain and sorrow, we understand that we are privileged to be living in an era of the greatest miracles, but because we are inside, we don’t see the intensity of the light. It is mostly those on the outside who have clarity of vision. We are caught up in our own personal time web, so we feel impatience, but we are within the time of redemption already. All the events we are undergoing so painfully, are meant to awaken the Jewish people and to bring us together as one unit.
The following story the young man told us illustrates all the things that are nagging at me so profoundly, and the answer is contained within.
As an officer in the IDF, he found himself with a “shadow” – an officer from a foreign (friendly) army was attached to him, to learn about tactics, equipment, strategy, organization, etc. After a few months, the officer said to Rabbi M.: “This is impossible. I have been to Finland, to other European countries to study their army and their military work, and I have learned tremendously. But from you Israelis, I cannot learn a single thing. Not one thing.”
Rabbi M. asked: “How is that?” And the man answered:
“Each rocket that fell last summer in the north contained an average of 100 kilograms of explosives. With over 4000 such rockets falling on Northern Israel, we could expect vast devastation, cities and towns in ruins, thousands of casualties. We are talking about 400,000 kilos of explosives, over 400 tons!!! But no… and your life goes on. We just can’t learn from you, because nothing here is normal. You guys are living on sheer, huge, obvious miracles!!!”
I myself came to the conclusion that the sudden exposure of almost every head of department – leader in government, police, court system, some Knesset leaders, the president, etc., as touched by corruption, both financial and personal, moral-ethical situations, is no accident. All those who thought they could tear Israel apart, by giving away or condoning giving away parts of Israel, are losing the legs of dignity they stand upon. They are being humiliated and are losing their positions. It is not just money. They’ll have fat pensions. It is their good name. A just punishment. And all this is a big broom, sweeping away the riff raff so that mashiach can step in.
And that will, I believe, be very soon.
During the Shiva, we knew that the loss of our beloved youngest son could easily destroy our lives, our personal grief robbing our family of all joy of life in the future. We decided to do everything possible to give content and meaning to our daily lives and so we set up a non-profit memorial foundation in Gedaliah’s memory. Yad Gedaliah’s objectives are directly in line with Gedaliah’s own way of life. He was always helping others, listening to others, lifting up the fallen in spirit, helping teens and orphans who felt abandoned and beaten by life. Yad Gedaliah for the past five years has been giving its support to rehabilitation frameworks with our volunteers, and with money, and with outings, with food coupons for soldiers from destitute families, and in the past year we have also filtered money to help Gush Katif refugees create employment for themselves, and for families in the Galilee hurt by the difficult assault on them last summer. We sponsor educational programs, and are working hand in hand with an OU program to help street children in Jerusalem. We may be contacted at Yadgedaliah@yahoo.com.
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.