Friday, August 04, 2006

A Bus Ride Home

Today I left work early. It's Tisha B'Av.

Tisha B'Av (the ninth day in the Jewish month of Av) is a day of mourning, on which religious Jews fast, that primarily commemorates the destruction of the first and second Temples. The first Temple was destroyed on the ninth of Av by the Babylonians in 586 B.C.E., and the second Temple was destroyed on the ninth of Av by the Romans in 70 C.E.

In addition to being the day on which the first and second Temples were destroyed, many other tragic events occured on this day.

The bus was filled with young people - late teens, early twenties. It was unusually quiet on the bus, but I was so tired that I really didn't pay much attention.

I live around the corner from Mount Herzl. In Hebrew, Har Herzl, is a high hill-top in Jerusalem, that is named for, and is the final resting place of, Theodor Herzl.

It is also the burial place of three of Israel's prime ministers:

Levi Eshkol who led Israel during its Six Day War victory in 1967
Israel's only woman prime minister Golda Meir
Israel's only assassinated prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.

Israel's deceased presidents are also buried at this place, as are other prominent leaders such as Zeev Jabotinsky.

As the bus approaches Har Herzl, I rarely pay attention. I guess it's like living in Niagara Falls. You know it's there, but you don't go WOW every time it comes into view.

The only time I really sit up and pay notice is when there is any activity there. See, Israel's main military cemetery is located in the area around Mount Herzl, and Jerusalem's fallen soldiers often get buried there.

I have been to funerals on Har Herzl. Awful. Young men and women cut off in the prime of their life while serving their country. Aside from the grieving family, the area is overrun with other young people, in and out of uniform. Friends. Children going to the funeral of another child.

Today as the bus stopped, the young people began getting off. I looked up and the area was filled with cars, civilians and soldiers.

Oh no! A military funeral, I thought and shuddered.

When I got home a few minutes later, I was surprised to see my husband, daughter and youngest son plus my babies who were asleep on the couch, sitting around the living room.

My oldest and his wife are religious and were fasting and asked for a little help with the kids. Sure!

As we played with the children, the television was on. Seven civilians dead. Three soldiers killed. I don't know how many wounded. Blurbs telling us what to do, where to go and how to act if the siren goes off.

I called my sister-in-law. She hasn't heard from her son who was called up a week or so ago and is someplace way up north.

I am back listening to the news.

It is now after nine...the fast is over. Another Tisha B'Av behind us.

We are not going to Babylon. We are not going to be pushed into the sea. But we are sad.

Yesterday I received an email that said. 'If the Arabs put down their weapons, they will have peace. If the Jews put down their weapons, they will be dead.'

Sad. So I guess we are going to have to hang on to our weapons a little while longer.

I pray for our brave heroes up north, in and out of uniform.

And I thank you for your prayers. They are like an umbrella over us. It means a lot. Bless you.

Have a great day...stay safe...and thanks for dropping in.


At 12:10 AM, Anonymous the guv said...

On a gorgeous, sunny day, in March 1977, I visited your Military Cemetery for the first time. An Israeli friend of mine, who had served in the Tank Corps not that many years before, accompanied me.

By tacit agreement, as soon as we passed through the main gate, my friend moved forward into the cemetery without me. For days before this, as we toured his beloved country, he had been my eager, arrogant, talkative, proud guide. Now, by his very action, I knew that this particular site would be mine to experience alone.

I wandered reverently in between row after row of identical graves, and then, arbitrarily stopped in one small section. The headstones were flat, raised about three feet off the ground. Their inscriptions, of course, were in Hebrew, but, in the lower right-hand corner of each stone, was a number. The age of the deceased. 19, 19, 19, 20, 20... An "old" person laid to rest in that neatly-tended area, if I remember correctly, was 33 ! Imagine, a senior statesman at the age of thirty-three! I don't remember exactly when I started to weep silently.

Leaving that one area, I wove, crying, further and further into this sanctified place. The cemetery was so large, that my friend had successfully disappeared from my sight. Frankly, I gave him no thought. I was awash with emotion and, yes, awe. And then I saw them. Two mothers, sitting on their children's contiguous gravestones. They wore hats to protect them from the unrelenting sun and each had one hand covered with a gardening glove. Without saying a word, they shared their gardening tools... a watering can, a spade and two pairs of shears..... and tended to their children's final resting places. The pain in my heart was so fierce that I had to leave them, that section, that cemetery.

My friend and I didn't talk for a full hour after we returned to our car. I didn't stop crying for that entire time. I didn't see him shed a tear. But then, he had probably run clean out of them. It wasn't until the next day that he told me that while I was visiting strangers, he had visited some old high school friends of his, and three-quarters of his tank corps.

The Guv

At 6:52 AM, Anonymous Ricky said...

I too visited the Military Cemetery 10 years ago. My mother died at the very young age of 46 (in 1958 in Toronto) far too soon. Yet, there I was looking at headstones of 'elderly' 19 & 20 year olds...they would have lived more than double their ages to reach my poor mother's 46 years!Now, I have a daughter that is 46 and cannot even imagine (nor do I want to) the horror of losing her for any reason!
I spent the entire 12 days of that visit shedding tears at the wonder of being in Eretz Yisroel but that visit to that Cemetery, was beyond description.
One mother we passed, was sobbing uncontrollably over her, what we later found to be, son's grave - he had died in the 1967 war. And tho' there aren't enough years, in a lifetime, to allow the pain of the loss of a child to diminish...we were somewhat surprised at her anguish. Our Tour Guide stopped to speak with her then came and told us that she'd lost her husband in another battle, a few years after losing her son. And, most recently, earlier that year, her brother. None of us could speak! What kind of world is this, that whole families are annihilated for love and protection of their Country, then are vilified for it. My heart bleeds...there's no end! I don't cry silently...I rail!! G-d help us...we sure can use it! Stay strong and safe!!!


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