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Friday, February 03, 2006

Ani Mishtatephet b’Tzarecha (I join in your sorrows)

[A guest post by Zahava]

This morning, with heavy hearts, David and I escorted Ariella to the funeral of her friend/classmate’s older brother Yosef Yitzchak Goodman (z”l). While proud of Ariella for wanting to attend the funeral and take her place among the adults of our community in comforting the family, my heart is breaking with the knowledge that the innocence of her childhood is now irreparably fractured.

David has often written about the incredible communal ties that bind each family – each individual – to one another here in Israel. Celebrations are shared as if one’s own, and funerals…. funerals are attended with hearts heavy which share not only the agony of the loss, but in the case of a young person ripped too early from this world, the knowledge that it could have all too easily been our loved one, that it could be us – me -- standing, shirt torn, asking forgiveness and bidding adieu.

This morning Mordechai and Anne Goodman of Efrat had the unbearable job of burying their second-born son. A son, who elevated the quality of their lives and the lives of all who knew him.

I had the privilege of learning Hebrew with Mordechai for 6 months last year. He is a man of great character. A man who greeted us all each morning with a modest and positive thing to say about one or another of his children. Mordechai and Anne are inspirational parents in that they deeply appreciate their children, and share that appreciation with all who know them. I never had the privilege of knowing Yosef (z”l) except through Mordechai. My heart is full with pain for this family -- their loss is truly unimaginable.

The Goodman family made aliyah 20 years ago. They have been a mainstay here in the Efrat community. They own the pizzeria in the original neighborhood of Efrat – almost everyone knows them. Both Mordechai and Anne are active in a variety of communal organizations, and by their example their children have followed suit. As leading members of the Anglo community here, the funeral was attended by a large number of ex-pat Americans. Among their discussions leaving the service could be heard a common thread – the difference between the life of a teenager here in Israel and the life of a teenager in the U.S.

There seems to be a loud but unspoken dialogue regarding the dangers which one takes upon oneself and one’s family when one comes on aliyah. And it is true, there can be no denying it, that coming here statistically increases the likelihood that one will find oneself standing shoulder-to-shoulder sharing the grief which grips life all-too-often here.

After a tragedy like this, questions of regarding the fairness of life abound – why do our children suffer these events, why do we put ourselves in harm’s way, how do we reach the communities we’ve left behind and convince them that being here is the right thing to do, how to we convince ourselves during these darkest moments?

We immigrants have our own special breed of coping mechanism. We remind ourselves that in today’s age, no one is truly safe anywhere. We wear the mantel of fatalism – if it is truly our turn, does it matter where we are? We cry and hug and comfort one another and pray that our being here, our love and dedication of a free Jewish state, will help to change and improve the current situation. In our sorrow and pain we remind ourselves that life, no matter where you are, has both ups and downs.

To those who read this from within Israel, I know there is no need to say more. To those who read this outside of Israel, I have two more things to share with you:

Even through the salty tears of grief I realize that I have much to be grateful for here. The compassion, the outpouring of love, the tremendous sense of loss that I witnessed today was a genuine expression of how tightly knit our lives are with those around us. Whatever the future holds for us, what ever joys or sorrows come our way, we will not endure them alone.

There are some who would say that my words today are precisely the reasons they would not or could not consider aliyah. I understand that there are also those who would say that our decision to come with our children was selfish, and they might use today as proof that we’ve unnecessarily placed our children in harm’s way and urge us to return to the States. To these folks I can only answer that even if I were to return, the knowledge of how linked our lives are to our land and to our people can never be erased. We could never again pause only for a moment, empathize and return to our lives untouched. And it is precisely this knowledge that comforts me and gives me strength. My life, and the lives of my husband and children have deeper meaning because of the communal relationships that bind us to one another.

May the Goodman family be comforted among the mourners for Zion and Jerusalem. May they know no more sorrow. May we all merit to know peace for us and for our children.

Kiss your children. Tonight, as you honor Shabbat, bestow upon them your blessings, and the blessings of Hashem. May everyone have a Shabbat Shalom.

Posted by David Bogner on February 3, 2006 | Permalink

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Beautifully expressed.

Posted by: Val | Feb 3, 2006 2:54:54 PM

Zahava,
Soon before we made Aliyah, I read a beautiful article written by an Israeli teenager who had just returned from the funeral of a friend killed by a terrorist. He said that for all of the difficulties he had endured being a teenager during the intifada, he was grateful that he gets to live his life in "the heart of the Jewish people rather than one of the fingers". He said that the pain he feels is stronger because his connection is stronger and he wouldn't trade that for anything.

May we hear only good news and I hope you post again on a happier occassion. Your writing is beautiful.

Posted by: houseofjoy | Feb 3, 2006 3:05:59 PM

Zahava,
That was so beautiful and chilling. Someone who does not want to make aliyah, who does not have the dedication it takes to live in the Land of Israel, may use your words as an excuse. But if someone is sincerely devoted to aliyah, I believe he/she will still come. The benefits still far outweigh the risks. Yes, it is an indescribable tragedy when young people have to die for their country, but we are in Galut and we have to fight for our Land. Thank you so much for this beautifully written post. I see that the eloquent writing skills are shared in your home! David, thanks for letting Zahava fill in for you today.
Shabbat Shalom to the entire mishpacha.

Posted by: Essie | Feb 3, 2006 4:06:21 PM

Amen. Shabbat shalom. I hope Ari is OK.

Posted by: Doctor Bean | Feb 3, 2006 4:20:46 PM

Lovely post, thank you for writing it. Only a fool would say anything about your choice to live there with your children. Life is full of bumps and surprises and you chose to share those bumps with a community you love. Even if you left tomorrow, you and your children would remain connected, take it from one who knows.

Posted by: Lisoosh | Feb 3, 2006 4:44:42 PM

I echo Essie words, Zahava that was a beautiful and eloquently written post. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

Posted by: jaime | Feb 3, 2006 5:46:14 PM

That was very well written and I really appreciate the sentiments you share.

When it comes to making aliayh the most agonizing question I wrestle with is what does it mean for my children and how will it affect them.

I think that you did a good job of illustrating that while there may be potential for more good there many benefits that help to mitigate the risks.

Posted by: Jack | Feb 3, 2006 5:52:24 PM

Thank you for this beautiful and tear jerking post.

I was born in Israel but live in the US. As kids we spent every summer in israel, in high school I lived there for 6 months, and as an adult I go back as often as I can. It is so hard to express the ties I have to my home, my land with my friends here.

My parents raised me with a strong sense of identity and my home land, and hope that one day in the future I can do the same for my children (b'h). Thank you for the beautiful post, I think that their is no one like the community of israel anywhere in the US, when you are stading in the street on yom ha'zikaron when the horns go off, or celebrating on lag Ba'Omer with hundreds of strangers, then you get a glimpse of the strong sense of community among complete strangers.

Thank you for the post and for sharing your feelings with us.

Shabbat Shalom.

Posted by: talushki | Feb 3, 2006 8:07:35 PM

We are from different worlds and different backgrouds - so to make aliyah is something I cannot completely comprehend. But I can respect the good intentioned decisions of others. And I can understand the monumental loss of a parent.
peace.

Posted by: lisa | Feb 3, 2006 8:28:05 PM

As someone who is in the midst of planning our aliyah for this summer, your post warmed my heart and reminded me of one of the reasons why we are choosing aliyah. That feeling of closeness and knowing we will never stand alone at the simchot or the sadness, that says it all. It is truly coming home.

Thank you for sharing,
~Susie

Posted by: emahS | Feb 3, 2006 8:40:41 PM

Thank you for this post, and for the honesty with which it is written. You just gave me one more reason to build my home in Israel one day.

Posted by: Irina | Feb 3, 2006 10:04:06 PM

Zahava- thank you for sharing in this time of sorrow for you and your family. I am truly honored to know you and your husband, David and the children if only through this blog. I send all my prayers to you and yours and especially to the Goodmans. I also pray for all those who have left their birth homes to honor G-d and Israel- may peace await you all.

Posted by: Regina Clare Jane | Feb 3, 2006 11:36:26 PM

Beautiful, Zahava.

Posted by: Stacey | Feb 3, 2006 11:38:25 PM

Our family is making aliyah this summer. Your comments and the comments on this posting remind us of how closely we are all connected in our joys and our griefs. My heart goes out to the Goodman family for their terrible loss and the grief that must accompany it. But to those who use such tragedy as a reason not to make aliyah, I say to you: children in Israel play in the parks and walk home from school in freedom from the fear of sexual predators snatching them off the streets; I haven't met a parent in Israel who fears a Jewish child will come to school with a gun and execute his classmates. If parents in golus insist on the delusion that everywhere outside of Israel is safe, then they are to be pitied.

Posted by: sarah willams | Feb 4, 2006 1:56:04 AM

Oh, *those* Goodmans. I hadn't realized. Wow. Nicely written, Z.

At lunch today with very close friends from up the block, a large part of the discussion concerned their 21 year old son who was there with a friend who is now walking again after a year and a half of not doing so owing to a bullet that had hit him in the leg.

Their own son had on several occasions been within a few feet of live bullets, as well. He has dragged wounded soldiers behind cement walls, and been in the other tent when the first tent was attacked by terrorists (with deaths). These things happen, unfortunately.

The story is about them, but also about the parents, children, friends, and siblings, and how they deal with it.

One of my children will be entering a year of preparation before the army next year, so she still has a year and a half to go, but we are also starting to work through these issues.

Parents, children, friends - you can't keep them safe all the time, but you can pray for their safety, and for peace.

Yehuda

Posted by: Yehuda Berlinger | Feb 4, 2006 7:33:40 PM

I can only echo others when I say thankyou for such a moving and thought- provoking post.

Posted by: siobhan | Feb 4, 2006 7:56:06 PM

Dearest Zehava

I pray you and your community and kelal Israel should not know any more sorrow.
My heart goes out to the Goodman family.
Shavua tov
yaffa

Posted by: savta yaffa | Feb 5, 2006 1:19:40 AM

Zahava, thank you for a heart rending and beautiful, thoughtful post. Thank you for your readiness to share these feelings with us. I am grateful to have had the experience first hand, through my time with you over a Shabbat, of the warmth and depth of the wider-family feeling you write of, and which is special to Israel. My thoughts are with you and Ariella, and of course the Goodman family.

Gam ani mishtatephet b’Tzarecha

Posted by: Judy | Feb 5, 2006 2:33:22 AM

Mrs. B- eloquence and beauty do not begin to describe your words. A fitting post, indeed.

Posted by: tnspr569 | Feb 5, 2006 4:42:19 AM

Shavuah tov, everyone. A sincere thanks to all who took the time to comment.

Val: [blush] I think you're biased...

House of Joy: Bidiuk! Thank you for hitting exactly what I struggled to say.

Essie: The choice to make aliyah is a difficult decision for most. The usual life process worries are definitely further complicated by issues of safety -- both physcial and psychological. Life ANYWHERE is what you make of it. I feel truly blessed to live in a place where my community has become my extended family.

Dr. Bean: I hope you and yours had a good Shabbat. Thank you for your concern for Ari. She is working through this in her own way.

Lisoosh: Thank you for your kind words. You'd be surprised what people have said behind my back, and would be downright flabbergasted with what they've said to my face. I try to chalk such actions up to insecurity on the speaker's part -- but it still hurts.

Jaime: Thank you for taking the time to comment. The chizuk (strength) you and the others have lent me is deeply appreciated.

Jack: These are the issues with which all pro-Israel parents wrestle. I do 100% believe that the benefits of living here by far outweigh the risks, but can appreciate that it is a tough spot on which to arrive.

Talushki: Thank you for further illustrating my points. I simply love the fact that on a single outing with the Yonah I get yelled at a minimum of 5 times over how he is dressed -- overdressed, underdressed, too masculine, too feminine.... I love that every one of those people who offers their two agarot feels a personal interest and connection to my child and to me. There is no place like home! :-)

Lisa: Your ability to step into another's shoes is one of the many compassionate qualities which make me proud and grateful to know you! You are a good friend indeed!

Susie/Emah S: Please let us know if there is something we can do to help you with your upcoming aliyah! We would like to be among those to say, "baruchim habaim!"

Irina: If we can help with your aliyah plans, please let us know!

Regina Clare Jane: Thank you for your kind words and prayers. Even before the benefit of all the new double-blind/scientific studies being done about the power of prayer, I have always felt that this positive use of spiritual energy has remarkable effects on the world. May peace await US all!

Stacey: See my comments to Val and to Jaime! :-)

Sarah: Well said! Please let us know as your aliyah date approaches and if we can be of assistance! B'hatzlacha with the packing! ;-)

Yehuda: Your words pinpoint the "there-but-for-the-Grace-of-G-d-go-I" aspect of what I was trying to convey.

Savta Yaffa: Amen, amen, amen!

Judy: Todah rabah, lach.

tnspr569: Thank you. Again, I blush.

Posted by: zahava | Feb 5, 2006 3:45:16 PM

Zahava -
Oh, I wouldn't really be surprised. You should hear what some people say about us lefties:-).

Posted by: Lisoosh | Feb 5, 2006 8:27:03 PM

Thank you! I'm afraid it won't be anytime soon, since I plan to finish my education first... But one day, I'll be there!

Posted by: Irina | Feb 6, 2006 5:05:41 AM

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