Contributing AuthorA contributing author.
At Ari?s funeral, Stewart explained that Ari was named after the lion because he and Susie wanted him to be a strong courageous person, and Yehoshua because they wanted him to be a leader. His parents chose his name so that the initials of his first and middle name formed the initials of Eretz Israel.
At the shiva, [the weeklong mourning period], Susie told me that when I spoke in Ra?anana, she thought she could relate to my pain. Now she knows that she had had no inkling. It is pain that you keep drowning in, over and over.
All parents that make aliyah to Israel know that by coming here, they take the horrible risk of losing a child, of entering this pain. Before my husband and I made aliyah, Rabin and Arafat had their famous handshake and we naively hoped that maybe our sons would not have to go to war. Instead, my 13-year-old son Koby and his friend Yosef Ish-Ran were killed by terrorists, stoned to death in a cave near our home in Tekoa.
We never thought it would happen to us though. Nobody does. You couldn?t make aliyah if you thought that you would be the one.
Still every new immigrant knows the risks, even before these past 2 years of violence. And we still come. Why?
Recently I spoke with a group of people from a synagogue in Florida who were on a solidarity mission to support Israel. One of the women explained that she?d been to visit Israel last winter and in June and in September. I asked her why she came. She thought for a moment before replying that it was like ?visiting a sick relative in the hospital.?
That answer didn?t sit well with me. Yes we are suffering. But regardless of the enormity and magnitude of the pain, we do not live in a hospital. No matter how bitter our experience, we aren?t sick and neither are our kids. You can see the beauty of the children in this country and know that despite our perilous situation, we and our children thrive.
One new immigrant told me that when she lived abroad she felt that life passed in front of her. Here she says, ?Life passes through me.?
If being Jewish is the deepest part of us, then living here feeds that part of ourselves. But there is a terrible and tragic price to pay for living here, for loving this country. No death of a child here is embraced. Our sacrifice is not one we seek or give willingly.
The meaning of the word ?Israel? is??he who struggles?. By living here we are part of the struggle for the Jewish homeland. That struggle is as old as Jewish history. That struggle is not yet over. In this struggle, we need to remind ourselves of this: We brought our children here to live more fully, to love more, to give more--not to die, not to be killed.
Susie and Stewart can teach us about this love. During the week of Rosh ha Shana, after speaking to Ari who was stationed in Nablus, and hearing he was hungry, Susie spontaneously organized local merchants and friends to donate a feast for the 35 boys in Ari?s unit. In one day, she collected shwarma, and cartons of soda, and cookies, and enough food to feed an army, literally. Susie?s love is what fed the boys in the army in Nablus that night.
We cannot allow death to constrict our vision or limit our love. Ari can still lead us if we remember the real reason we moved here: just as the pain is greater here, so is the love.
Sherri Mandell can be reached at Info@KobyMandell.org