April 20, 2009
We have just completed our Jewish collective and individual responsibility to commemorate our ancient exodus. We are still celebrating our short but powerful Israeli spring with colorful blooms everywhere. In spite of all modern plagues, security and economy to name only two, we feel the spirit of renewal and strength in the air. The roads, the trails, and the nature reserves are full with families who are taking advantage of the long vacation in order to get to know their country, their history, their roots, and . . . their own kids.
As we get closer to Yom Hashoah (the Holocaust Remembrance Day), Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day for the fallen soldiers of Israel), and Yom Ha’atzmaut (Independence Day), the unique Israeli mix of ancient, modern, memory, remembrance, renewal, and joy becomes even more complex. The story of the children of Israel leaving Egypt to become a free nation in this very land is repeated in the story of the exodus from Europe after the Holocaust to create the modern Jewish state here. The hardships of fighting our enemies and building our country, then and now, are blended with the feelings of relief of being independent, free, and strong.
We can read it all in the Hagada, in the bible, and in history books. However, we should also be able to feel it ourselves, deep inside, first hand, in person and as a nation. It does not really matter if we are already physically located in Jerusalem or if we just promise to be there next year, as long as we keep our promises. But, even more important: We are obliged to deliver the message and infuse these unique Jewish feelings into the next generation. We should let them know that “a nation that does not respect its past will not have a future.” We should tell them about the “promise that has stood for our ancestors and for us.
In this inspirational occasion in between Pessach, Yom Hashoah, Yom Hazikaron, and Yom Ha’atzmaut, I would like to keep this obligation of telling the story and to commemorate some of the people who gave the ultimate sacrifice during this “Holy-Days” season. The heroes of the fulfillment of the promise:
March 30, 2002 - Kinneret Boossani
Was seriously injured in a terror attack in Tel Aviv. She was burned over 85% of her body and had a minimal chance of survival. The word Chaya (alive) was added to her name that night as a remedy for recovery. She was in a coma for 88 days and then started a slow and painful but courageous journey back to full life. Sheila Raviv, a family friend, shared Kinneret’s exceptional story with the world through her weekly blog: “It became essential that the world know about the amazing woman who has defeated death and even through her pain was able to smile.” I had the privilege of personally seeing that unique smile shining out of her burned body early on after she woke up, when David Saginaw, Adam Schwartz, and I, representing UJC MetroWest, visited her in her hospital room. Seven years later, Sheila reports: "After many painful operations, Kinneret Chaya is a beautiful woman. She was able to turn her scars into stars and her bitter into better. She met the love of her life, Amir, and since miracles do happen, Kinneret Chaya Boossani Twig is now the doting mother of Odaya (thank god), a beautiful little girl.”
March 30, 2009 - Dror Kandelshein
After two years and eight months in the hospital, Dror (freedom), the last wounded soldier from the second Lebanon war, was recently released. He was severely wounded in his head in the summer of 2006 and suffered critical brain damage. He was in a coma for eight months and since then has been in hospital rehabilitation. When Dror awoke from his coma, UJC MetroWest, via the Ed and Leah Frankel Terror Victims’ Fund, donated some equipment to his room to make his new life a bit easier.
“He will never be the same,” said his father. “He will spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair and will have to go through various treatments and operations, but his determination and courage is amazing and miraculously brought him back to be with us at this year's Seder table.”
April 2, 2009 - Shlomo Nativ z”l
Was only 16 when he was brutally murdered by a Palestinian terrorist while playing in his back yard in Gush Etzion. In a letter to the family and the leadership of Gush Etzion, one of MetroWest’s partner communities, Gary Aidekman, President, and Max Kleinman, Executive Vice President, wrote:
“Our Jewish world is big enough that we often don’t personally know those affected by terrorism, but it is small enough that we share on a very personal level the anguish. The community of Gush Etzion is built upon a foundation of heroism and fortitude in the face of adversity. We know well that you will continue to strengthen the State of Israel and the Jewish people. We are proud to be your partners in that endeavor.”
April 11, 2009 - Shimon Shiran z”l
Succumbed to his wounds exactly seven years after he was injured. It was Pessach of 2002 when Shimon, his wife Hili, and their daughter Adi went out for lunch at the Matza restaurant in Haifa. A Hamas terrorist blew himself up, killing 15 and injuring many others. Adi was killed. Shimon and Hili were severely wounded. Hili was slowly able to recuperate, but Shimon had a critical head injury and since then had been struggling between life and death, confined to a rehabilitation hospital.
As if it was planned from above, exactly on the seventh Remembrance Day of the attack and the loss of his daughter, Shimon gave up and became the sixteenth casualty of this brutal attack. Hili, the wife, mother, and survivor was quoted as saying: “It is not a relief; Shimon was an amazing person and we miss him a lot. However, for the first time in seven years I can finally mourn my beautiful girl and my husband. I can start trying to rebuild my life.”
Pessach 2009 - Gilad Shalit
This was already the third Pessach in a row, the holiday of freedom, which Gilad Shalit spent in Hamas’s captivity. More than 1,000 days have passed and we still don’t see the end of this tragic story. On many Seders throughout the world, a symbolic extra chair was set up for Gilad so he wouldn’t be forgotten. In many Hagadot an extra reading portion, the fifth son, was added to remember and pray for his rapid release:
“The Child Who Is Held Captive - What does he say?” Help me with your great compassion. Bring me back and save me from our enemies. Hear my plea, for you listen to my prayers with sympathy. You must answer: I am my brother's keeper! I seek out my brother. For the sake of the missing and the captive I shall not be silent. For the sake of our sons I shall speak out ‘To proclaim liberty to the captives and the opening of the eyes of those that are bound.’
On April 26, the MetroWest community will conduct a special youth gathering to remember Gilad and call for his release. It is not just that we keep the Mitzvah of “I shall not be silent, for the sake of our sons I shall speak out.” We are also updating the Pessach Mitzvah: “And you shall tell your sons and daughters and the entire world’s inhabitants.”