Dov Goldstein

Live for others and you will live again

My internal monologue from Max Steinberg’s funeral.


What should I wear? What is considered appropriate military funeral attire? It’s Israel, so I guess anything goes. Still, the family is American, so I should be respectful. I guess dress shorts and a polo is okay, especially given them the oppressive heat. Which reminds me, should I bring water? Will I manage schlepping the bottle on the bus with my cast? Maybe just pre-hydrate, and buy water if I need.

[Leaving the house.]

Shoot, just missed the bus! Whatever, they come all of the time. Cross the street? The light is still red, but there are no cars coming, just go for it…

What the hell did I just do?!
Do I realize that in the past 8 seconds I put myself in more danger than I had been at any point in the past three weeks? And for what? It’s not like the next bus even came! It’s a funny thing, when we feel invincible and when we feel afraid. It has little to do with the actual risk at hand and more to do with our perception of the risk at hand.

[On the way.]

What was he like? The news mentioned him being from LA. Lakers or Clippers? What was his take on the Donald Sterling controversy? Did he even follow sports? How about music? What were his hobbies? Interests? Goals? Dreams? What brought him to Israel? To Beer Sheva? To the army? Where would he be now if he stayed in the States? What if… it’s not healthy to think that way… is it?

Iron Dome featured on an ad for a TV station, are you serious? Exploiting the situation is supposed to make me want to support that channel? Then again, it is weirdly funny. Humor is considered a mature ego defense, so maybe it’s a good thing.

Who’s texting me? Never mind, just a Red Alert. And another one. Wait, there have been FIVE of them since I left the house? When did I become so numb? What is wrong with me?

Why are we stopped? Here comes the driver on the loudspeaker. Pushing? Shoving? Doors jamming? NOW? Don’t they realize that we are all going to the same place? Oh Israel, can you ever just take a break from being so – Israeli – just for a moment?

[Arriving at the cemetery.]

Are you serious? Security is actually distributing leaflets with instructions in case of a rocket attack? Is security expecting something? Could they? Would they? Who would ever stoop so – know your enemy.

That tour group looks familiar. Some of those kids are from the old neighborhood. Should I say hello? Not now, don’t disrupt the program. Neighborhood kid is nodding hello. Nod back, but appear strong and resolute. Don’t let him see your tears. Thank Gd for sunglasses.

[Mom and Dad give a joint eulogy.]

Where do they get their strength and composure? How are they actually thanking people?
Cool, he played baseball and football  – I guess he did follow sports after all.

There go mom’s tears… and mine.

“Mission Accomplished:” What a perfect ending from a grieving American Mom to celebrate a life well lived.

“עם ישראל חי:” Dad does not speak a word of Hebrew. Never before has a guttural butchering of the letter ‘khet’ sounded so beautiful.

[Max’s sister and brother, Paige and Jake Steinberg, give back to back eulogies.]

Is she really leading off with a quote from Bob Marley? Probably a Har Herzl first.
Speaking of firsts, it’s their parents’ first time in Israel? Wow, the things I take for granted. As if the past few days weren’t overwhelming enough!
So moving to hear Paige reflect on a role model, a big brother, and their special memories. Here come the tears.

Now Jake’s quoting Marley too? I’m seeing a pattern here.

“Live for yourself and you will live in vain. Live for others and you will live again.”  Great quote from Bob Marley and beautifully woven into a heartfelt eulogy of someone who was truly salt of the earth. So heartbreaking to hear Jake yearning for the days when they were “just brothers.”

What a family! They have barely set foot on this land, yet they already have left their imprint among those have built it.

[Army friends and dignitaries continue with eulogies.]

Fourth straight person mentioned Bob Marley. Who would I want quoted at my funeral? Eddie Vedder? Not anymore! Jeff Mangum or Neil Young maybe.

Did (US ambassador to Israel) Dan Shapiro just mention “fear of oppressive rockets?” I wonder how his bosses will react. Still, Kol HaKavod for taking a stand!

Really classy of MK Dov Lipman to yield some of his time to read letters from friends back in California. Really considerate of him to be a voice for those who could not make it. The references to baseball and (you guessed it) Bob Marley show that he did his homework. Really special to see the skills that made him a successful educator at Yeshva High Schools back in America shine on this stage. Proud to have him represent our community in the Knesset.

[Conclusion of eulogies, followed by traditional prayers, military salute, and procession of dignitaries. Much of the crowd begins to spill out]

What do I do when I see friends? What’s the appropriate protocol? She said hello, I guess the appropriate thing is to respond, right? Thanks for asking about my hand. It’s an easy conversation piece, and a welcome distraction from the intensity of everything around us.

Wait until the crowd disperses and try and get closer. Almost there. Whoa. Brand new grave. Those flowers are fresh. That sign is new. I read about him. From Efrat. Unreal. It only lists the Hebrew date- wait when was the Fast again? That would make it – two days ago. Unreal.

Still crowds around the family. I can wait.

[Public Address announcer overhead: We kindly ask that the public vacate the area.]

They don’t really mean it, do they? Perfect, a water fountain. Might as well re-hydrate as I wait. There’s no telling what the combination of summer heat and tears have done to my water supply.

[PA announcer: We ask the public in the politest possible terms to vacate the premises.]

No one’s listening. No one’s budging. Classic Israel.

[PA announcer: Please vacate the premises so that we can prepare for the next one.]

The next one. This is too much already. How many more? Time to go home.

[On the way home.]

Thank Gd for air-conditioned trains. Why is my phone going crazy? Makes sense, I guess I didn’t really have cell service for the past two hours. What’s that, Red Alert? ANOTHER five rocket attacks? I need a break.

Siri, please play Bob Marley.

About the Author
Dov Goldstein arrived in 2009 to study medicine at Technion with the intention of returning to North America after med school. He fell in love with the country and its people (especially the one he married), and decided to stay here for good.
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