Sunday, July 23

Blogging way too close for comfort

Funeral of IDF soldier. (Photo: Contrasto)
Israelis know this drill all too painfully well: You hear about a soldier KIA, a terror attack, even one of the recent train wrecks, and your stomach grips, you reach for the phone - do I know the person who was killed?
  • A friend in Ranana who, after just returning from a flight from the States late Friday afternoon, tells me she thinks she knows the family of one of the soldiers killed in fighting along the Lebanese border the day before. She says she'll find out for sure at synagogue later that night, and I'm glad she doesn't have time to check her email to read the death notice from their mailing list before Shabbat comes in (see An Unsealed Room below).
  • And, then she adds, her soldier son is being called up to Lebanon in coming days. My stomach twists into a knots.
  • I prepare a news report soon after the Fagr missile attack which killed eight railway workers in Haifa. I carefully verify the spelling of the names and ages of the victims and where they're from, before voicing the report.
  • The next morning, a close acquaintance takes the day off to attend a funeral: one of the victims was his first cousin.
  • The same morning, another friend tells of her visit to her mother in Tiberias over Shabbat. Two Katyusha missiles slam down on either side of their house during the stay, causing damage, but no casualties.
  • The whole family - three generations worth, all pile into the car and move down to Jerusalem "for the interim."
  • Friends, e-lists, tv, radio, newspapers, blogs, supermarket bulletin boards, and word-of-mouth tell of family, friends and total strangers hosting tens-of-thousands of northern residents indefinitely and arranging "temporary" housing.
  • Those hosting include evacuees from the 2005 Gaza withdrawal, many of the some 9,000 forcibly pulled out of Gaza settlements whom who are themselves, in dire economic, social and psychological states.

    From An Unsealed Room:

"The town I live in, Ra'anana, isn't that big. We have about 65,000 residents. You can't say that everyone knows everyone -- but you can pretty much take two random residents and they will certainly know several people.

"When we lose a soldier, the whole community feels the pain. You have to remember that the Israeli army is a citizen's army -- everyone goes. So soldier from your town isn't just a guy in a uniform, he is your brother, uncle, cousin or your best friend's son or husband.

"I just forwarded this E-mail:

It is with shock and deep sorrow that we announce the loss of Officer Benji Hillman, killed in battle in Lebanon. On behalf of Kehilat Bnei Aharon, the Raanana Community Kollel and the entire Raanana community we offer our sincere condolences to the Hillman family. Rabbi Dovid and Chana Simon Kehillat Bnei Aharon Raanana Community Kollel
May his memory be a blessing."
And then colleague Judy Lash Balint writes the following, and I immediately call her to verify and console:
"Five Israeli soldiers were buried today. Among them was Benjy
Hillman, 27, z"tl, the son of one of my oldest friends. Benjy was a
commander in the elite Egoz unit, who was killed fighting Hezbollah
terrorists in southern Lebanon last night.

"Just three weeks ago, 600 of us celebrated as Benjy and his long-time
girlfriend, Ayala Berger, finally got married after going together for
many years. The pure joy of the two families who had become good
friends over the long on-off courtship, was palpable. Ayala,
accompanied by her happy parents and radiant in her beautiful wedding
dress, walked down the path toward Benjy, who waited for her under the
chupa with his trademark shy smile.

"Today, in the military cemetery of his home town of Raanana, Ayala
walked toward Benjy again. This time, however, she was supported by
Benjy's younger brother Shimon and her father, her young face
contorted in pain and grief. Instead of approaching the chupa, as she
did three short weeks ago, she drew close to the simple wooden coffin
draped with an Israeli flag that held the remains of her new husband.

"Benjy and Ayala's story is a story of the ingathering of the exiles.
Ayala's family immigrated from Argentina around the same time as the
Hillmans made aliya from England, when Benjy was four years old."
Read it all.

Sister of Israeli reservist Oren Tzelnik, KIA mourns
at his funeral, 2002.

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