It is the custom among religious Jews in Israel to light bonfires, particularly in Meron, on the 33rd day of the counting of the omer, Lag B’Omer, from Pesach until Shavuot. Today is that day.
But while bonfires may be burning today, the only fire is the fire burning in my heart. Today I have learned of two deaths, one of the wife of my dearest cousin in Ramat HaSharon and the other for a stranger whom I never met nor knew, a brave soldier in the Golani brigade.
I last saw Shula, wife of my beloved cousin Binyamin for 54 years, on 7 March 2020. The occasion was my family’s surprise birthday for me when I began my 87th year. Shula was smiling her bright smile as she always did, hugging and kissing me, our face masks temporarily removed.
She was the most adored wife of Binyamin and the beloved mother of Eitan, Tammy and Hava, the three children whose lives revolved around their mother and father. Seven young grandchildren have lost their wonderful loving savta.
I mourn for Shula and I am concerned for Binyamin. He and I are the same age and while his marvelous loving children will care for him, he now will have to eat and sleep alone. Hashem has taken away from him his greatest treasure. Shula did not die from the coronavirus but rather from severe pneumonia which affected her breathing and caused her beautiful heart to stop beating. She was 83 years old and married to Binyamin for 54 years.
I am, at this moment, out of the country and there are no flights from here to Tel-Aviv. It would be necessary for me to fly to Moscow and take a plane from there to Tel-Aviv. Upon arrival I would be subjected to a 14 day quarantine instead of being allowed to return to and remain in my home in Rishon Letziyon.
It burns a fire in my heart that I am unable to be at Shula’s funeral and unable to visit my family in Ramat HaSharon to bring my tanchumim, my heartfelt painful condolences to them while sitting shiva.
I must mourn alone and remain in daily contact with Binyamin and his children only by telephone.
The burning flames of Lag B’Omer burn in my heart. There is no water to quench them.
A second fire with its very intense flames burned my entire body. It was the tragic death of a 21 year old soldier in the IDF, a staff seargent who was murdered in the West Bank village of Yabed while on a mission to make an arrest. An Arab member of the hostile village threw a cement block from a roof top which struck Amit Ben-Yigal on the head and which caused his death.
I never met him, Never knew him, Never heard his name… until the tragedy of his death today.
I grieve for his beloved and adored father Baruch who has now lost his only son. His only child. The most precious treasure of his life. Baruch is now alone, grieving and mourning for the death of his beloved Amit. It has left a hole in his heart as it has in mine. The hole can never be filled.
Amit was one of the bravest soldiers in the IDF. Against his father’s wishes, he signed up for one of the most dangerous brigades, the Golani. He wanted to be a member of that brigade in which he served bravely and devotedly together with his comrades.
In his last letter to his father Amit shares his sentiments and emotions which touch the heart of all and any who read it. He wrote:
“Every year since I can remember, on the eve of Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers, something grabs hold of my heart. I cannot remember one occasion on which I have not been moved to tears. Something grabs my heart and squeezes it tight”.
As I write these lines I cannot withhold my own tears. I weep for a grieving father. I weep for a hero of Israel. I weep for someone who I would have been deeply proud to have known. Baruch Dayan HaEmet.
HaMakom yenachem et ha abba Baruch Ben-Yigal b’toch sh’ar avalai Tsiyon v’Yerushalayim. Amen.
Yehi zichro shel Amit baruch l’olam va-ed. May Amit’s memory be for a blessing forever. And may Almighty God bring solace and comfort to the bereaved father, Baruch Ben-Yigal.
P.S. If any of my readers know a telephone number or an e-mail address for Amit’s father please contact me in order that I may offer him tanchumim
(condolences). I would also like to contribute to a keren Amit.