There is a unique monument along the shores of Nachal Be’er Sheva along the “riverwalk” that I discovered recently. Nachal Be’er Sheva riverwalk is a unique blend of contrasts. From the riverwalk one looks down on the nachal. There is rarely much water there, really just a trickle, and, unfortunately, is dotted with bits of trash, old tires, along with the Egyptian plovers and pigeons. Along the banks, the foot path and bike path meander among green bushes, flowers, and inviting corners. Modern steel bridges alternate with stone bridges from the Ottoman era. The riverwalk is, like many things in Be’er Sheva, a portrait of contrasts.
Along the path is a pleasant place to sit and look out over the nachal, with benches and shade provided by a large pergola. This monument has 2 paths leading to it in honor of Be’er Sheva’s 2 sons who died in the Tzuk Eitan operation in Gaza in 2014. Like the surrounding scenery, these 2 soldiers, at first glance, could not be more different.
The first is Nadav Goldmacher. He was born in Be’er Sheva and lived in Be’er Sheva his whole life. His father is an engineer for Israel Chemicals at Rotem and his mother is a nurse, both receiving their masters from Ben Gurion University in Be’er Sheva. After serving in the army for his compulsory service, Nadav returned to Be’er Sheva to complete his high school matriculation at Kay College in the city. He continued to perform reserve duty, serving as a driver and pitching in to lend a hand whenever needed. He is a true son of the city and has deep roots here.
The second person remembered on the walk is Max Steinberg. I wrote about Max a few years ago here. He was born in Los Angeles and had almost no connection to his Jewish identity until he came on Birthright with his sister and brother. After Birthright, Max felt a connection to Israel and decided to come and serve in the Israeli army. Max made aliyah only a few months after his Birthright trip and moved to Be’er Sheva without knowing a soul in Israel except for the Israelis who were on his Birthright trip with him. Besides not knowing anyone or having any family here, Max also didn’t know Hebrew. In the army, Max made many friends and became a sharp shooter. Max is also a true son to Be’er Sheva, echoing a story which many immigrants in the city experience today.
The two paths converge at the end. Both men lost their lives in Tzuk Eitan operation in Gaza. They were killed one day apart – Max on July 20, 2014 and Nadav on July 21, 2014. Both were killed by RPGs fired by Hamas terrorists. Both were serving their country and paying the ultimate price. And both were sons of Be’er Sheva, and remembered together along the banks of Nachal Be’er Sheva.
It’s a message for us today in our fragmented society, where elections happen every few months and leaders can’t figure out with whom to sit in government. A message of two different men, with two different life stories, whose paths converged to protect us and allow us to live free.
May their memories be a blessing for us all.