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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The 'connectedness' of being an Israeli

Long time readers know that from time to time I write about some of the people who hitch rides with me on my morning commute.  Sadly, not all of the stories are happy ones, although some have happy endings and almost all seem to be intertwined in some way.

One of my former travel companions was a young elite IDF Paratrooper named Yosef Goodman who was killed in a tragic training jump.  He and his commander had become entangled in each other's parachutes after exiting the airplane, and Yosef had heroically cut away his own chute at the last minute, saving the life of his commander... but at the cost of his own.

Another of my regular hitchhikers was a young woman named Gila who was studying at the time at Ben Gurion University in Beer Sheva.  Gila's and Yosef's families lived a few doors away from one another in Efrat, and knew each other quite well... to the point that just a few weeks before he was killed, Yosef had tried to 'set up' Gila with his former army commander who had already finished his army service.  However Gila was seeing someone at the time and Yosef's former commander was about to depart for an extended teaching assignment in Australia, so the meeting was never arranged. 

Or more correctly, Yosef never lived to see it.

After the funeral, Yosef's family sat shiva in their home, and quite naturally, Gila was a regular visitor among those who came to comfort the mourners.  But unbeknown to her, so was Yosef's former commander, Ben.  They ended up meeting at the shiva... and in words far more eloquent than mine (I recommend reading the whole thing)...

"... on the day of their wedding, [Gila and Ben] each went to visit Yosef Goodman's grave in order to thank him. Ben left the wedding invitation at the grave."

I'm still friendly with Gila and her family, although I don't see her much since she transferred to the Hebrew University in Jerusalem to finish her degree.  But her husband, Ben, is now studying in Beer Sheva, and is a regular member of my carpool. 

To be sure, not all of the connections that exist in this small country are happy ones.  There are very few Israeli families or extended groups of friends who don't share some painful memory of a tragic death... by terror or in the line of duty.  But I can't help feeling that there is something almost electric about the connectedness that exists among the special people who call Israel their home... as well as the hope that sometimes springs from the ashes of even the most tragic losses here.

Posted by David Bogner on February 18, 2009 | Permalink

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I have a similar "connectedness" story involving some of the same characters, here:
http://adderabbi.blogspot.com/2006/10/midwest-meets-middle-east-tale-of.html

Posted by: ADDeRabbi | Feb 18, 2009 12:01:53 PM

We have discussed the tissue warning, have we not?

Posted by: Tanya | Feb 18, 2009 6:07:40 PM

Yeah, where was the tissue warning???.. great story.

Posted by: val | Feb 18, 2009 7:36:51 PM

Beautiful, beautiful story

Posted by: SaraK | Feb 18, 2009 9:43:01 PM

Beautiful story. Thanks for sharing it with us.

Posted by: Ilana-Davita | Feb 18, 2009 10:31:50 PM

I have tears rolling down my face. I am constantly amazed and awed by the heroism of our Israeli soldiers. What a story!

Posted by: Mata Hari | Feb 19, 2009 9:30:25 PM

G-d is definitely more involved here, where it's a "local call."

Posted by: Batya from Shiloh | Feb 20, 2009 6:07:08 AM

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