A Sixteenth Birthday Party with Emotional Heroes

It’s not often I’ve cried hearing “HaYom Yom Huledet”, the Israeli Happy Birthday song.  Truth be told, my worst-mother-in-the-world side often shows itself when hearing this tune – enough cheesiness, already – especially when the guest of honor is sixteen years old, not six.

So why were tears streaming down my cheeks as this was sung by a couple hundred boys, very loudly, to my son last Thursday night?  Because those boys are some of the big stars on my list of Emotional Heroes Who Can Change the World. My son is in tenth grade and this song was sung in the dining hall of the Makor Chaim Yeshivah High School on the day after Unity Day.

Only a year ago, we put the birthday cake on hold and headed to Makor Chaim for our son’s fifteenth birthday, hoping and praying that a good news text message would warrant a supermarket stop on the way. As all of Israel hoped, prayed and waited, so did we, as we drove south. We so wanted to buy celebratory ice cream in lieu of that cake-on-hold.  It wasn’t to be so.  We were only a few of the many, many families streaming in to Kfar Etzion to take up lawn space to spend some quiet time with our sons, grandsons and brothers. We had a very raw need to bring some cookies from home and another hug… and more cookies and more hugs.  Words don’t exist to describe the pain.

What a long path we’ve been through, all of us, students and parents alike, guided by the Makor Chaim staff at all levels.  From madrichim to the Rosh Yeshivah and every single person between, I couldn’t possibly fathom any way of dealing with situation any better than they did.
It’s been a rough year – a veritable emotional roller coaster, in fact, for the staff, the parents and mostly, for these boys.

In correspondence with Jews still in the Diaspora, I’ve often explained that in Israel, we live intensely. Life in Israel is intense and grief is intense, necessitating joy to be just as intense.

I sat on the sidelines as my son’s nightly phone calls started consisting of explanations as to what would be happening on Unity Day, to be held marking the full year that had gone by since The Boys disappeared.  “It’s important, Mom.  What will YOU be doing?” This wasn’t a request; it was a plea – a must. I was once again the mommy who needed to put a bandage on a bleeding sore.

The event was carefully planned and orchestrated.  The boys of Makor Chaim made it to 170 classrooms.  They discussed, ran activities, sang, hugged and danced with students that may have once been thought of as “other”.  Unity wasn’t a classroom discussion on home turf. It wasn’t a film, it wasn’t theory.  Unity on that day was, is and must continue to be real.  We must, must, must start to see the “other” as a brother.  The activities the Makor Chaim students designed and presented point out in bold terms that we have more in common than the details that divide us.

A birthday.  A celebration of life.  A look to the future. Before the song that playfully demands cake is the little ditty where the birthday child is raised into the air, once for each year of his life, “… and may you merit the next year, until 120…And may this new generation of up-and-coming leaders continue to translate grief and sorrow into exponential unity and triumph for the entire Nation of Israel.

With thanks to Mrs. Frankel, Mrs. Shaer and Mrs. Yifrach who despite their own pain, have lifted up an entire nation.

About the Author
Aviela is a multi-tasking, public-speaking, work-at-home mother of six decently-adjusted, mostly happy children. A life-long Wisconsinite, Aviela lives in Migron with her British husband, Israeli kids and Peruvian guinea pigs.
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