The world has changed so much since you left us when I was 16 years old. I think of you often; wish I had more pictures of you. A Facebook question a few days ago has been on my mind.
If you could sit with one person who is no longer with us on a bench and talk…who would it be?
I’ve seen this a number of times – that’s what happens when you’re on Facebook too much but this time it was different. This time, I thought of you rather than great historical figures recent and long gone. I’d give up all of them combined to have a few minutes with you.
I’d ask you if in death, you can still see the living. Can you see my children, so big now, and my grandchildren? Can you believe it? I’m a grandmother twice over.
Were you there, as we believed you to be, as Amira married Haim? Did you watch over Elie when he was stationed near Gaza in the middle of the war and missiles were coming in constantly? And when he married Lauren? Did you see Amira’s amazing son in the moments after he was born and have you seen how little Yosef comes home and talks about what he has learned in gan? Did you see Shmulik take his beautiful bride? And have you seen the way he looks at her? And David, can you believe how tall he has gotten? And little Aliza…who isn’t really little anymore?
Do you know that one of your children, my mother, came to live here in Israel to be with her two daughters and her 8 grandchildren? And do you know, at this very moment, three of your children are here. The other two landed this morning to visit their sister and we are going to get together tonight for a family barbecue. Most of us, anyway. Yoav is in the army, so he can’t come; Shmulik is working tonight, and so on. That’s how it goes with grown children.
You probably know that 4 or your 9 grandchildren married non-Jews – it seems we are living the Pew report. I know what that would do to you. I can’t tell you much of Norman, Lisa, and Marlene – they are out of my life – mostly their choice, but a bit of mine as well. I don’t know how many children they have, what religion they practice, if at all.
I lost Norman and Lisa thirty years ago when I married. Marlene and I split ways for the final time when I was informed that Obama was good for Israel by someone who, I think, has never even been here. Gennifer, their sister married a Jew, making the intermarriage rate only 75% and not 100% for Joey’s kids. I don’t know any more about Gennifer other than that she lives in Florida. The last time I saw her was when she was 5 or 6 years old.
To make it a little bit better, let me tell you about your remaining grandchildren.
Though they live in the States, Meri and Eric each have three children and are raising them as proud Jews – two boys for Meri; three for Elie…reminds me of you with your three sons and one daughter. Meri’s daughter Lexi is stunning. She’s 13 now and landed in Israel this morning with her grandfather and I can’t wait to see her tonight. And Jared and his wife are expecting a baby soon and knowing how he was raised, I know that his child (and hopefully children) will be strong in the ways you wanted them to be too.
Leeanne has been here for 30 years, beating my 20th living-in-Israel anniversary I passed this summer. You have 8 great-grandchildren, including my 5, living in Israel. Four of them are married already, and you have two great-great grandchildren.
Just listen to their names…Amira, Sivan, Elie, Yair, Shmuel, Yoav, David, and Aliza. Such proud Jewish names they have…Shmuel has your name – he is Shmuel Meir. Amira is named after Grandma. Five of them have served in the Israeli army, doing what you could never do in Poland. They defend the Jewish state ensuring that what was done to your mother and sisters can never happen again.
And I would tell you that in a few days, David is going to Poland. He’ll go with a group of 70 boys from his religious high school and when he gets to Auschwitz, he will say the names of your mother and your sisters. He will walk the streets you once walked; maybe he will pass the house where you lived. He won’t know it; that is all gone. A world that ended decades ago. He will go to see what was and then return to what is.
He will walk the frozen ground of Poland and a bit over a week later, he will fly home to the warmth and sunshine of this amazing land we have created.
I know you loved it here and promised you’d take me with you to visit Israel. Neither one of us knew you’d be gone long before the summer months would come – but my parents sent me here that summer when I was 16 and missing you so much.
And with three small children and the most amazing man for a husband, I came home permanently 20 years ago. You always cared that we learned about our Jewish history; today my children live it.
I wish you could see Israel – the tall buildings with the most modern conveniences. The homes we have built, the acres and acres and acres of land we have cultivated. The desert is really blooming. I work in hi-tech – you would not believe the things that come out of Israel and how we laugh that those who would boycott us…as they use things we created to do it. They launch websites using php coding developed in Israel; they use laptops and cellphones – with technology and parts created here.
What hypocrites they are – using our technology to care for their sick and accepting our help when disaster strikes them. For all that the world has changed since you left us, it is still so much the same. Jews aren’t safe in France; they are attacked in England, Russia, and even in Germany still.
No, the world hasn’t changed much since the day you boarded a ship to flee Europe and live in the States. What has changed, I think, is the Jew. If only you could see my sons and nephews, my daughters and niece. They would take your breath away – they do that to me. They are so tall, so strong, so proud.
They speak Hebrew, Grandpa, it is their native language. Their mother tongue. They walk so straight; they do not bow to others as you were forced to do and most of all, they do not understand a world in which Jews are expected to bow. I’m afraid for them, sometimes, and they laugh at me. I still have that tiny bit of the ghetto Jew in me that I have to work hard to overcome it. They have nothing of it.
If you attack, they will attack back. If you challenge, they will answer the challenge. They know that they live here by right, but they’ll live here by might if they have to. They are so good and help others so readily.
If we could sit on a bench and talk, I would want it to be on the bench overlooking the Western Wall, so you could see how freely we can come and pray all hours of the day and night. Or maybe by the shores of the Mediterranean Sea on the beaches of Tel Aviv. Or maybe high above on the Golan, so like Moshe, you could look over the land of Israel.
If you had a dream for your children and grandchildren and great grandchildren, Grandpa, I think it would be that we have the very life I live. From your earliest roots….to the tree that grew from them, we are living the dream you once had. It was my dream on my 16th birthday to come here to live forever…you died two weeks later.
And in two days, my 18-year-old son will leave Israel for only the second time in his life. Once was to go to a wedding in America, the country that took you in and gave you the chance to have a long and happy life. This time, it will be to go to Poland, the country of your birth, from which you were hounded. The country where your mother and sisters were murdered simply because they were Jews.
David will stand in Auschwitz and say their names into the bitter cold winds but when he returns, he will bring them back in his heart and they will live here with us, as you do.
שבו בנים לגבולם – And your sons will return to their borders.