Teacher's Memorial Day confession

'I will wear blue and white proudly and stand with my fellow colleagues as a unit. Part of them. Not apart from them.'

Mordechai Sones ,

Eliyahu Drori z"l
Eliyahu Drori z"l
Flash 90

The recent death of Sergeant Eliyahu Drori, 20, a hesder yeshiva student in Sha'alvim, killed in a tank accident over the weekend, continues to send shockwaves throughout the nation. Tzippi Erblich, English teacher at Ahavat Yisroel Banim and Orot Etzion in Neve Daniel, wrote in a Facebook post of the effect the death is having on her own family and even herself. Drori and Erblich's son met in fifth grade in Ahavat Yisroel and have been friends and army comrades ever since.

"I have a confession to make," writes Erblich. "Although I lived in Israel since 2002, I barely related to Israeli cultural life. I didn’t feel the fervor of Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day) and Yom Haatzamaut (Independence Day). I always connected to the Jewish halachic aspects of Israel but I was not a blue-and-white fan club member. I was not educated in Zionism and had no family that served in the IDF. I was grateful to have Eretz Yisroel in Jewish hands and to be able to raise my children in the place where the Tanach happened. Zionism was controversial in the ultra-Orthodox circles I grew up in.

"Besides that, my Hebrew is awful. Although to an American I sound fluent, to an Israeli, my Hebrew dances on their nerves. This makes bridging the gap more difficult. When I admonished an Israeli first grade kid during recess for misbehaving he asked 'why you speak English at me?' I reminded him that I just spoke Hebrew and by his expression I could see that he felt that he had received enough punishment. I ended up feeling bad for him! I also look American. Before I open my mouth to speak Israelis are trying out their English on me. It seemed an obvious choice to become an English teacher.

"I reside in Ramat Beit Shemesh because it is so easy and comfortable and I can use words like barbecue instead of mangal. I was an Olah in a town of olim. I had basically resigned myself to it always being like this and even held onto a sense of pride in being more American than Israeli. I am not the only immigrant to feel this way.

"Until tonight.

"Tonight I heard the siren for Yom HaZikaron while I was at the Drori’s shiva. My heart felt an intense jolt of pain. The sizable group of visitors, including IDF soldiers, reacted with an identical jolt of shock and pain. My heart climbed up my throat and my soul screamed as it touched a raw wound of devastation.

"We lost a hero. Listening to his parents and siblings speak clarified where Eliyahu learned such dedication to Am Yisroel.

"Eliyahu was always 'Shmulie’s friend'. But tonight, when the siren went off, he became Eliyahu, who gave his life so that we can live safely in Israel. A Gibor B’yisrael. The Day of Remembrance, Yom HaZikaron, burned into my brain forever.

"That siren is for him now. He joins over 20,000 others who have died for Israel to be born and nurtured, protected and loved.

"I learned about a new person through their words. He was respected and deserving of honor normally given to a person much older and experienced. In the USA, I do not remember anyone at 20 who received the kind of awe that Eliyahu inspired.

"Tomorrow there will be many memorial ceremonies. How providential that the memorial I am attending is at the elementary school where my son first met Eliyahu and where I am a teacher.

"I will wear blue and white proudly and stand with my fellow colleagues as a unit. Part of them. Not apart from them.

"This national day of remembering the soldiers who died for am Yisroel now hits home in a very painful heartbreaking and personal way. It aches so badly and there is no remedy, no pain killer, no relief.

"Becoming Israeli changed me forever. I am more than just a shomeret Torah and mitzvot olah. I am entwined with the land and its people on a level that goes beyond anything describable in words.

"Eliyahu, you brought me to a new level of awareness and desire to work hard to belong. I will remember you and be inspired by your example and tell my students (hopefully in fluent Hebrew) about you as long as Hashem grants me the merit to be a teacher in our Israel."