When we re­ally are a fam­ily

The Jewish Chronicle - - COMMENT - Ye­huda Wein­raub

LAST week, on Tish’a B’Av, the fast which marks the de­struc­tion of the first and sec­ond Tem­ples and Com­mon­wealths as well as other calami­ties that be­fell the Jewish peo­ple, I vis­ited the home of Staff Sergeant Guy Al­gra­nati, a neigh­bour of mine (though I had never met him).

Guy was one of three soldiers who were killed when they searched a booby-trapped house for a tun­nel open­ing less than a week be­fore.

The com­bat team com­man­der of this elite unit, a rel­a­tive of my wife, had him­self been wounded a few days ear­lier, but left his hos­pi­tal bed on a wheel­chair to at­tend the fu­ner­als of his men.When I tried to visit him in the hos­pi­tal I was told that he had again left, in to­tal dis­re­gard for his own health, to pay con­do­lence calls to the fam­i­lies of his fallen men.

When I ar­rived at Guy’s home, I found it swamped with to­tal strangers from the neigh­bour­hood and else­where.

They came there, just as I had, not be­cause they knew the fam­ily per­son­ally, but be­cause they felt a need to be there, to ex­press their ap­pre­ci­a­tion for this brave young man who gave his life in an at­tempt to make Is­raelis whom he had never met and would never meet, safer.

I couldn’t find Guy’s par­ents be­cause they were over­whelmed by the sheer num­bers of the vis­i­tors, but I was able to go over to his grand­fa­ther, a tall man in his 70s who was speak­ing to a young man, per­haps a com­rade-in­arms of Guy.

The grand­fa­ther looked the young man straight in the eye, grasped both of his arms firmly and said: “It is on your shoul­ders that the coun­try rests. Never for­get it. Be strong!” I had gone there to com­fort the fam­ily, but I left com­forted and strength­ened by the strength I had seen.

This sol­i­dar­ity is the main les­son that I can see from this “war”.

Though the peo­ple of Is­rael al­ways unite in time of ad­ver­sity, never have I seen the peo­ple so united in pur­pose as dur­ing this pe­riod.

They felt that they were fight­ing not out of choice, but out of ne­ces­sity: to rid the Is­raelis liv­ing in com­mu­ni­ties near the border and in the deeper home­land, of be­ing sub­ject to daily mor­tar and rocket fire, ob­vi­ate the dan­ger of ter­ror tun­nels and en­able Is­raelis to live their lives nor­mally. Man­i­fes­ta­tions of sol­i­dar­ity, self-sac­ri­fice and grandeur d’esprit have re­peated them­selves ad in­fini­tum.

There was the out­pour­ing of warmth by vis­i­tors in the hos­pi­tals, the tens of thou­sands of to­tal strangers who at­tended the fu­ner­als of lone soldiers who came from the USA and France, just to say thank you and to ac­com­pany them on their fi­nal jour­ney; the thou­sands who ag­o­nised with the fam­i­lies of Miss­ing in Ac­tion

They came be­cause they wanted to say thanks

Oron Shaul (who was de­clared killed in ac­tion but whose burial place is un­known) and who also ag­o­nised with the fam­ily of kid­napped Sec­ond Lieu­tenant Hadar Goldin (who was kid­napped and later de­clared dead); and an en­tire coun­try that came to a stand­still, liv­ing the drama of three kid­napped school­boys.

Last week the fam­ily of Hadar Goldin re­ceived the visit from his deputy com­pany com­man­der, Ei­tan, a young lieu­tenant who on his way back home first stopped off at the home of his fallen com­rade.

The young of­fi­cer, upon learn­ing that Hadar was miss­ing, had rushed into the tun­nel from which they had been at­tacked, in to­tal dis­re­gard of his per­sonal safety, in a fruit­less at­tempt to chase down the kid­nap­pers and save Hadar.

He brought back Hadar’s per­sonal ef­fects, and wept to­gether with the en­tire fam­ily. The Goldins thanked him and said: “You are now a mem­ber of our fam­ily.”

Now Is­rael grad­u­ally be­gins the ex­tended process of “re­turn­ing to nor­mal” (or rather to “rou­tine”), and per­haps to the cyn­i­cism and petty bick­er­ing that of­ten char­ac­terises our so­ci­ety.

But this “war” with all the pain that it has caused, has proven to us and to the world that we can el­e­vate our­selves be­yond parochial in­ter­ests and unite be­hind a cause in which we be­lieve, and that we are in­deed mem­bers of one fam­ily. US-born Ye­huda Wein­raub is a re­tired lieu­tenant colonel in the IDF Spokesper­son’s Unit, who con­tin­ues to serve in the re­serves. He is cur­rently a lec­turer in the School of Me­dia Stud­ies at Rishon le Zion’s Col­lege of Man­age­ment.

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