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Tuesday, December 14, 2004

No Weddings, Five Funerals

Due to the closely related nature of the following subject matter to David’s last post, I asked if I might have the opportunity to guest blog on his site. Since you are reading this, obviously, he granted me the request (thanks honey!)….

David’s last post expressed his dismay over the lack of clear outcry from within our community when acts of violence – no matter how infrequent or misrepresentative – are perpetrated by Jews against our Arab neighbors.

Today, as I sat reading the headlines recounting the details of the deaths and funerals of 5 Israeli Arab soldiers, I was gripped by the question of whether or not these five families have received condolences from our community? If so, have the gestures been merely symbolic in nature? Or, do the numbers reflect the same courtesies and practices shown to Jewish families whose sons have been killed in the-line-of-duty while protecting our country?

It is a terrible question. What is worse, I don’t know the answer. Nor do I, as a new immigrant, even know how to go about gathering the information to answer this question.

What I do know is the following: Five young men who reported for duty Sunday morning are dead. Their families are bereft. Some of the deceased were Christian, some Muslim. None were Jewish. All the deceased were soldiers protecting our land, our government and our people.

I say “our” with pride and with gratitude to the soldiers (their memories should be blessed) and to the families that they left behind.

For all of our potential and realized differences (cultural, theological, sociological, and political) we still DO share several key commonalities, not the least of which is citizenship. Whilst some might consider this a minor thread of commonality, I do not.

I realize that for these men and their families, unlike the those in my social circles, service in the army or another form of national service is NOT a given. Additionally, their decision to serve can create a hostile environment for them (or their families) in their communities. I do not wish to argue the merits of if, or why this is true.  Nor do I wish to begin a discussion on how to address these issues.

What I would like to do, however, is express my sorrow and heartfelt condolences to the families of these brave young men. As a parent, I shudder in horror at the thought of losing a child in battle. As an Israeli, I participate in the both their pain and loss. As a citizen hoping for a better collective future, I am grateful that these sons have shared in the defense of our country and our ideals of freedom and democracy.  I am truly sorry that their honor and decency has exacted such a terrible cost.

These men who gave their lives to our country -- Sgt. Adham Shehada z”l, Sgt. Hussein Abu Leil z”l, Sgt. Araf Azbarga z”l, Sgt. Tarek Al-Ziadne z”l, and Sgt. Sayid Jaja z”l – have prompted me to write today not because their service was any more or less important than the service of any other Israeli citizen, but rather because the service of Arab, Beduin, and Druze Israelis is so much less expected than the service of Jewish Israeli soldiers. Less expected, and therefore I would argue, less easily taken for granted.

And yet, sadly, I suspect that ‘taken for granted’ is exactly how their families may feel in the coming days, weeks, months and years if no effort is made to show them the proper respect, comfort, and gratitude for the sacrifices their sons made on our behalf this past Sunday. I know that my words, in this context and format, will offer no tangible evidence to these specific families that we do in fact share in their loss. I hope, though, that my desire to remind myself that common human decency is not only decrying that which is destructive and evil, but praising and elevating that which is noble and good.

“Ani mishtatephet b’tsorechim” (I participate in your sorrow). I hope that the day will soon come when such losses will be unnecessary. I hope that together we will win the war on terror so that we might start rebuilding instead of burying. I hope that our children will one day serve side-by-side in an army to maintain peace rather than endlessly chasing it.

Posted by Zahava Bogner on December 14, 2004 | Permalink

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Well said.

Yehi zichram baruch

Posted by: Eyal | Dec 14, 2004 9:51:45 PM

Zahava-
I can't guarantee that this would work,because I have not checked it out.
But I'd be willing to bet that if you write out 5 copies of your letter to the families (translating your post would be beautiful!) and send it either to the army and/or to the municipal offices of the towns where the soldiers' families live, that the letters would find their way into the appropriate hands.
Sarah

Posted by: Sarah | Dec 14, 2004 10:21:30 PM

I'm far from knowledgeable about this, but Sarah's suggestion seems entirely logical.

A beautiful post, Zahava. Truly well-said.

Posted by: Lachlan | Dec 14, 2004 11:48:52 PM

Well said, indeed. Yehi Zichram Baruch.

You could try for information here:
Public Appeals Section, Public Affairs Branch, IDF Spokesperson, military post 01025, IDF
Fax: +972-(0)3-608-0343
Email: infoATmailDOTidfDOTil

Posted by: jennifer | Dec 15, 2004 12:40:14 AM

Beautifully said.

May God comfort their families. If you send your post, send the comments too so that the families learn that strangers all over the world honor their horrible sacrifice and wish them well. I was taken by the fact that you admit that this is still only a symbolic gesture. That's true, but what more can be done? If you want to make a concrete gesture (I have no idea if this is realistic) cook or buy meals for the 5 families for a day. I'm serious. That's a very Jewish response, and I think it would translate well accross religions and cultures. It would be a physical way of saying "your loss is immeasurable; I can not diminish it; let me feed you for a day." Your husband has my email address. I obviously live too far to participate in the cooking, but I would be honored to send a check. Again, I don't know any of the logistics, so if it's impossible, never mind...

Posted by: Doctor Bean | Dec 15, 2004 8:12:46 AM

Thank you Sarah, Lachlan and Jennifer for your suggestion and support. I will absolutely follow up on this!

Posted by: zahava | Dec 15, 2004 8:15:20 AM

Dr. Bean -- we cross-posted. I agree that food is a very Jewish response! ;-) When I contact the IDF to inquire how to send condolense notes I will also inquire as to your idea. If I hear something positive, I will be in touch....

Posted by: zahava | Dec 15, 2004 8:20:42 AM

z"l? Huh? I appreciate some Arab soldiers dying for us. I really do. But 'zochreinu livracha'? I think not.

Posted by: avremi g | Dec 15, 2004 10:24:04 AM

Avremi,

When I wrote this I thought that some folks might object to z"l. My Hebrew is not the greatest, and I have no idea if there is an alternative means expressing my idea, which isn’t to apologize for having said it this way....

I hoped to empahisize three ideas with my post:
1) These boys died in service to OUR country. Their memories and their surviving family members deserve the SAME recognition, honor and gratitude for their service as any other member of our armed forces.
2) Due to differences in our cultural, political and theological ideologies, I think it is extremely important to not squander the opportunity to show these families that their loss IS our loss.
3) The potential for the communities from which these soldiers came to feel marginalized is hardly theoretical -- chaval on us to not seize every opportunity to make them feel that their contributions are appreciated. The alternative, I fear, pushes Israeli Arabs into the eager and outstretched arms of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Al Aksa Martyrs....

I do not believe in falsely embracing our enemy. I do believe in appreciation, compassion and diplomacy.

Posted by: zahava | Dec 15, 2004 10:59:35 AM

Avremi... I have to go with Zahava on this one... Throughout Jewish history there have been small groups of people who have inexplicably sided with the Jews, often at their own peril. The people who hid Jews in their homes during the Holocaust come to mind... as do the non-Jews who went to great lengths to aid Israel during its war of independence. Every time a non-Jew puts his or her life at risk to safeguard the Jewish people... whether inside or outside Israel... should they lose their life in the process, their memory should indeed be a blessing.

These young Arab men volunteered for a combat role in the IDF despite threats to them and their families by Fatah, Hamas and other groups. They served while pampered young yeshiva students and Jewish conscientious objectors accepted the easily obtained deferments. These Arab soldiers, and many more like them, joined the IDF in full knowledge that they might one day face a blood relative on the battlefield! Yet they did so willingly because they felt it was the correct thing to do. They chose the hard path because it was the right path.

Zahava may have been mistaken in her Hebrew abbreviation. I don't know the correct abbreviation for "The memory of this righteous gentile should be a blessing to all", but that's what she should have put instead of simply Z"L.

Posted by: David | Dec 15, 2004 12:14:17 PM

I agree with the sentiments you expressed. I think that it really is incumbent upon us to go out of our way to thank those that do so for us as well. Especially given the great risk they place themselves and their families in.

Posted by: Jack | Dec 15, 2004 6:18:48 PM

Peace.

Posted by: lisa | Dec 16, 2004 3:19:45 PM

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