Thursday, May 12, 2005

#118 Memorial Day

Musings #118
May 11, 2005
2nd of Iyyar

Memorial Day

When we moved to Shiloh almost twenty-four years ago, there was no cemetery here. We joined the few dozen families living on the hills where over three thousand years ago good Jews came on pilgrimages to worship G-d. Ancient pottery chards were found in the soil of the hills that sloped to the Tel, the Biblical city of Shiloh. We were all young, enthusiastic and innocent.

In those days we were able to walk freely all over Judea and Samaria, enjoy the beauty of the spring’s wild flowers and wander safely through neighboring Arab villages. School trips were to Biblical sites and unrestricted. Every year we took our second grade classes to re-enact the battles of the Macabees on the same mountains where the Chanukah story took place, in between Eli and Ma’ale Levona.

On rare occasions, the Arabs attacked vehicles by throwing stones. It was more annoying than dangerous. And we always knew that the later at night, the safer it was for us. There wasn’t electricity in the Arab villages. The generators were turned off at night, and the people slept. Neither during the British Mandate nor under Jordanian rule was the area developed with modern necessities such as and electric grid and piped, purified water. It was Israel that cared enough about the ordinary Arab resident to provide these services.

Yes, life was rather idyllic, though not always easy.

Everything changed that night, less than a year after the Gulf War, when three buses left Shiloh traveling to Tel Aviv, to the demonstration urging, encouraging then Prime Minister Yitzchak Shamir to be strong and not to give in to pressure while at the Madrid Conference. I was in the first bus. It was very crowded, over-filled with children and some adults. I sat with my two young sons. I was terrified that if, G-d forbid, the bus would roll off the narrow road down the mountains, we’d all be killed.

Suddenly, when we were approaching the “Tapuach Junction” north of Shiloh, the driver got a message. The bus behind of had been attacked, shot at. Bullets entered the bus, injuring and murdering. The driver was dead and my friend and neighbor Rachella Druk was dying. Ambulances and helicopters were sent to take the injured to the hospital, and we all waited at the scene of the terror attack. Then, somehow, we proceeded, reeling in shock, to demonstrate in Tel Aviv.

Yitzchak Shamir wasn’t strong, steadfast, and didn’t defend his country. Two wonderful people were sacrificed for nothing. I’ve always felt that if my friend had been murdered for a reason, it was to give Shamir the message to leave. He could have easily told the world: “Ain im mi l’daber.” “There’s nobody to talk to. They’re terrorists.” The world would have understood. But he didn’t; he tried to “negotiate.”

Meanwhile, back in Shiloh we dug Rachella’s grave and inaugurated our cemetery. And for the living, we established a new neighborhood, Shvut Rachel. Unfortunately Rachella isn’t alone in the cemetery. She has been joined by quite a few others. Some lived full, long lives and died natural deaths, but not only isn’t she the only terror victim, we also have a “military section.”

Today we had a memorial ceremony at the cemetery. The main “speakers” were sisters of some of the young dead heroes. I wasn’t involved in the planning, so I can’t tell you the official reason for such a program. But remember; we’re in Shiloh.

It was in Shiloh, thousands of years ago, that Chana composed her prayer to G-d, the same prayer still said today. Chana prayed, beseeched G-d for a son. She didn’t want the son for her own selfish reasons. She wanted a son who would serve G-d. And a few years later when Chana brought her son to Shiloh, she told Eli, the Priest, “This is the son I asked for.” And she left Shmuel (Samuel) with him to learn how to serve G-d.

The Biblical Chana knew what her role was. She was just impatient to get going; that’s why she came to Shiloh to pray. Most of us are just ordinary people and we don’t know what G-d wants from us. May we learn to understand G-d’s instructions and have the strength to follow them, even when they appear difficult.

Chag Ha’atzma’ut Same’ach,

Batya Medad, Shiloh
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