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Friday, March 07, 2008

Echoes of gunfire, past and present

This past Wednesday evening my parents took us out for dinner at one of our favorite restaurants; Beit Ticho (Ticho House) on HaRav Kook Street.  It was a celebratory dinner in honor of Ariella having been accepted to the prestigious Pelech High School in Jerusalem. 

After finishing the delicious meal we were getting into the car and I paused to point out a stone wall near the spot where we were parked.  The wall was pocked with dozens of bullet holes.  I'm sure a Jerusalem historian could probably say what battle was fought there... but I simply voiced my guess that it was probably from the Six Day War since the line dividing the Israeli and Jordanian forces was only a few blocks from the spot.  But in truth the bullet holes could just as easily have been from the War of Independence.  After all, Jerusalem is no stranger to the sound of gunfire.

As we pulled away from the restaurant I through for a moment about telling my parents about Rav Kook, the great man for whom the street was named.  They enjoy hearing such historical tidbits during our Jerusalem wandering, but in the end I got sidetracked by a more mundane discussion of which route would be best to take back to their apartment in the German Colony. 

By the time I heard the news last night of the terror attack on the the School that Rav Kook had founded and nurtured, I was too stuck in the present to think much about connections to the past.

During the night I woke up a few times and checked the news for updated details of the attack, and upon checking my email I found the terrible news that one of the victims of the shooting had been the 16 year old son of some friends of ours.  That by itself would have been devastating enough, but this tragedy was unimaginable. 

I have known the boy's step mother since we were both single, and we have many mutual friends.  I remember trying to comfort her in a Brooklyn hospital room many years ago as her young husband was slipping away due to medical complications in the aftermath of a traffic accident.  When he died, I couldn't imagine how this young woman would ever be able to put her life back together again. 

But somehow she did. 

When we moved to Israel, Zahava and I were delighted to find that this woman had made aliyah and was living in our community.   We frequently bumped into her on the street and often sat and 'shmoozed' with her at the local park on shabbat.  She'd married a wonderful man - a second marriage for both of them - and the family they had made for themselves was a seamless collection... some his... but all truly theirs.

The news that tragedy had visited this woman again was almost too much to imagine.  I wanted to wake Zahava to tell her, not because it couldn't wait 'til morning (bad news can always wait!), but because I didn't think I could bear the news alone.  But in the end I let her sleep.

As if sensing my lonely despair, Yonah soon padding down the stairs and joined me in my bed.  His nocturnal visits are not that unusual but in a change of roles, this time he would be comforting me. 

I lay awake for hours with Yonah sleeping next to me.  I tried to find sleep myself, but for the most part I alternated between checking the news on my laptop and covering Yonah's face with enough kisses that I would never be able to look back and regret having missed even one.  But even my small attentions to my sleeping son were bitter sweet because of the knowledge that just a few hundred yards away there was a family whose young son would never again awake.

As the time for Yonah's school bus came and went (and emails arrived with funeral details), I continued to hold his sleeping form next to me.  There will (G-d willing) always be time enough for school and play and army service and life.   But with the echoes of gunfire, past and present, ringing in our ears this morning, I'm sure many Israeli parents had trouble letting their children go.

    המקום ינחם אותך בתוך שאר אבלי ציון וירושלים



Posted by David Bogner on March 7, 2008 | Permalink

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» Echoes of gunfire from Stand for Israel
One Israeli blogger, during a sleepless night of checking the news for more on the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva attack, discovered that one of the victims was the 16-year-old son of a friend. He comments:I lay awake for hours with [my [Read More]

Tracked on Mar 7, 2008 5:35:21 PM

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Oh David, this is too sad and horrible for words.

Posted by: Lila | Mar 7, 2008 10:38:52 AM

Thank you for the tears, David. After visiting the Kotel yesterday, trying to do some of the spiritual work in this great battle against pure evil, I attended a women's Rosh Chodesh event in Alon Shvut. While we were singing and playing music and sharing Torah and laughing, eight beautiful boys were being slaughtered. The enormity of the contradiction made a train wreck in my brain; and I could not cry. Your essay helped. The prayers and songs and tears are not enough. Even Yitzchak Dadon saying into the camera that the Kalashnikov was given to the enemy by Peres and Olmert isn't enough, though I was glad he insisted on saying it. Shooting lots and lots and lots of bad guys isn't enough. I am waiting for the true Purim, when clarity takes over, and evil is clearly labeled as evil, and good is clearly understood as good. In the meantime, I will continue to feed my family in this most holy of places, and do their laundry, and support the warriors who are in uniform, and the warriors with pens and voices, and the warriors who sit in yeshivot. And I will kiss and hold my sons, as medicine for my neshama.

Posted by: rutimizrachi | Mar 7, 2008 10:53:40 AM

I once was good friends with a guy named Ira M. who worked EMS in Brooklyn, who died in a Coney Island hospital, after a car accident. And I went to the shiva at his wife's house. I know they had just gotten married. I was just wondering if this would be the same woman. BTW I am a devoted reader of your blog although I've never commented before. I live in Paris now and events like this make me feel like I should immediately make aliyah.

Posted by: Al | Mar 7, 2008 11:37:35 AM

Lila... I agree

rutimizrachi... Until Hashem un-hardens the hearts of the world's leaders (including ours) you are doing all that can be done.

Al... We're talking about the same woman. We probably met at the hospital or at the shiva.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Mar 7, 2008 11:43:53 AM

I read about this latest Jihad raid against Israel, in Jerusalem Post this morning. It is awful. I am sitting here - a Gentile Christian, on the other side of the world, who cares about Israel and prays for the peace of Jerusalem - and wondering what I can say. Only this: first I read Jeremiah chapters 31-33. Then I took up the book of Psalms and read one, another, another, wondering, where are the words that will speak into this deep darkness? Psalm 74, or 77, or 79? Then I knew. What else could it be, for yeshiva students, but Psalm 119? It never spoke to me before as it did today, especially in sections kaph - 'help me, for men persecute me without cause', lamedh - 'the wicked are waiting to destroy me/ but I will ponder your statutes', nun - 'your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path...the wicked have set a snare for me, but I have not strayed from your precepts...my heart is set on keeping your decrees, to the very end.' Or qoph, verse 150: 'those who devise wicked schemes are near/ but they are far from Your law'...When that evil jihadi entered the yeshiva he was near all those books containing the moral and spiritual wisdom of the people of Israel, but he was far, far away from the Word that says, 'do no murder'. Tonight I will read through Psalm 119 and I will remember those young, young students of the Jerusalem yeshiva, the dead and the wounded and their families.

Posted by: dumbledoresarmy | Mar 7, 2008 12:03:11 PM

Oh, David, its just to much to bear.

H"YD. May G-d avenge their blood.

Posted by: Baila | Mar 7, 2008 12:24:13 PM

It was hard for me to send my son to yeshiva this morning also, and I don't even live in Israel.
My thoughts and prayers are with all of you who do.

Posted by: Raizy | Mar 7, 2008 3:11:35 PM

This was so terrible, and on Rosh Chodesh Adar. How are we to be "marbim b'simcha"? David, thanks for the beautiful post. Shabbat Shalom.

Posted by: SaraK | Mar 7, 2008 4:35:11 PM

SarahK brought up the question that is on everyone's mind: how do we celebrate Adar amidst our horror and tears?
I thought about the inmates of Bergen-Belzen who danced on Yomtov, and I realized that they were not celebrating personal joy: they ignored their own wretched existance and the constant threat of miserable death, and they celebrated the great gift we received of a code of morality and ethics, they celebrated as representatives of our immortal nation's hopes and beliefs. They joined with the souls of the dead and the forgotten and derived strength from knowing that ultimately we will understand why this happened.

Dumbledore's-- Thank you for your good suggestion. King David was no stranger to suffering, and he joins us as we recite his soulful words.

Posted by: Barzilai | Mar 7, 2008 5:52:25 PM

peace

Posted by: weese | Mar 7, 2008 5:58:11 PM

Just terrible.

Posted by: Jack | Mar 7, 2008 10:10:34 PM

I cannot begin to fathom what you are going through each time a child boards a bus for school....yet.

Posted by: Jauhara al Kafirah | Mar 8, 2008 7:41:42 PM

I am Leah Moses' mother. We probably met in Coney Island Hospital. On behalf of Leah's family, I thank you for your beautiful remarks. Although Avraham David will never be forgotten, Eisha Dan, Orah Dina and Aleyet will bind them all closer together. Leah will survive and flourish again.

Posted by: Miriam Cartine | Mar 8, 2008 8:35:10 PM

I am not Jewish nor do I live in Israel,But as an American Christian and supporter of Israel I want to say how sorry I'm am to all of you who are grieving at such a great loss. I will hold you and the state of Israel up in prayer, and that God will hold you close to him and bring comfort to your broken hearts and provide you all with a divine covering of protection. Peace be with you.

Posted by: Gary Schnell | Mar 9, 2008 6:19:33 AM

Never thought you would be grateful for Yonah and his noctural visits, eh?

Beautfully written.

Posted by: Gila | Mar 9, 2008 6:41:40 AM

So much tragedy, so many wasted lives, when will it ever end?

Posted by: asher | Mar 9, 2008 1:35:57 PM

dumbledoresarmy... Thank you for having us in mind. I'm a big believer in the positive power of prayer.

Baila... Each time something like this happens I think to myself, the country can't take any more... surely this time we will finally act. And each time we seem to grow a thicker skin. I thought 'turn the other cheek' was a Christian value... not a Jewish one.

Raizy... Parents are parents are parents.

SaraK... Jameel has a good post up about how to deal with the pain during the Purim season.

Barzilai... Thanks, you've given me a lot to think about.

weese... ditto

Jack... true.

Jauhara al Kafirah... Until you have kids you can't imagine how vulnerable they make you.

Miriam Cartine... You raised a wonderful daughter. To say that she doesn't deserve such pain is pointless. Nobody deserves such pain. B'sorot Tovot.

Gary Schnell... Thank you. Every little bit helps.

Gila... Oh, I may grouse about his visits... but I treasure them.

asher... You don't really want my answer to that, do you?

Posted by: treppenwitz | Mar 10, 2008 12:13:38 PM

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