This morning I noticed a cup which I hardly ever use on my kitchen counter. There is nothing outwardly special about this cup. It is one of those large cups sold at amusement parks and filled with enough soda to make anyone bouncy and happy all day long. But I didn’t get it from an amusement park. In fact, the circumstances which surround how this cup came into my possession are far from amusing. I began telling my kids the story of the cup, the story of events over 17 years ago. I know, the experts would tell me that a more than 17 year old plastic cup has way out-lived its lifespan, but it is part of my Israel experience and I won’t give it up.
My good friends moved to Israel only a few months after my own family did. After living in the city of Jerusalem for a year, they decided to move out to the “suburbs” for all the reasons that people move to suburbs – more green, a feeling of community, beautiful scenery, less crowding. But that summer, something happened which drove home the fact that living in suburban Jerusalem has little in common with Teaneck, NJ or Silver Spring, MD.
During the night of September 9, 1995, a terrorist from a neighboring Arab village broke into the home of my friend’s neighbor, killing the husband, stabbing the wife and fleeing. The wife was 5 months pregnant and after battling for her life, lost the life of her unborn child.
It was the era of the Oslo accords and Israel stood between hoping for peace and fearing for her life. Less than 2 months after the attack in my friend’s community, Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzchak Rabin would be murdered in a Tel Aviv square for his part in signing these same accords.
In the small suburban community where everyone knows everyone, my friend could not imagine not accompanying her neighbor on his last journey to the grave. Funerals in Jerusalem are not scheduled at the convenience of the mourners, but as soon as the body can be prepared for burial. Tradition holds that burial should take place as soon as possible, even if that time may be the middle of the night. My friend couldn’t take her two small children with her to the cemetery and was nervous to leave them home with a teenaged babysitter only one night after a terror attack. So, she called me to sleep over. I drove an hour to arrive at her home with my one-year old son, Naftali. I have to admit, I was scared. I trusted the Israeli army would watch over the community on a night when a large portion of the adults would be absent, but I was scared. Thank G-d, the night passed and all were fine.
Before my drive home early the next morning, I wanted to have my morning iced tea to wake up. I had remembered to bring the jar of instant tea, but didn’t have a cup to make it in – so my friend gave me this cup from the amusement park. “Just keep it,” she said as she thanked me for coming. And so the cup remains a symbol of one of my Israel experiences.
This last summer, during one of my Birthright trips, we had a speaker about modern Israel. He asked all the Israelis in the room (staff and soldiers) to stand up. He then asked us to sit down if we DID NOT personally know someone who was killed or injured in a war or by a terrorist attack.
No one sat down. NO ONE.
If you want to get inside the Israeli head-space, you need to understand that this is the reality of Israel. We know what the costs are, not just in some sort of nebulous way, but in a very real sense. Yom HaZikaron, Remembrance day takes on a whole new meaning in light of this reality. It is not a day for bargain-hunting, cook outs, and vacation. On this day, no one “sits down” – as almost everyone sadly knows someone who needs to be remembered. It is a day where people, whose lives were taken by those who would rather not see us here, can even be remembered in a simple glass of iced tea.
MAY THE MEMORY OF DANNY FRIE, Z”L BE BLESSED.