When we really are a family
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.