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Make space for the pain, make space for the joy

When Amir was killed in combat on October 7, his parents knew they had to celebrate their talented son and his zest for life
Amir's art. (courtesy)
Amir's art. (courtesy)

The transition from Yom HaZikaron (Memorial Day) to Yom HaAtzmaut (Independence Day) is always jarring, but this year it will be especially challenging. How can we celebrate independence with an ongoing war, hostages stuck in Gaza, refugees who can’t return to their homes in the north and the south, and families who have just lost their loved ones?

Amir Lavi Z”l

There are no easy answers, but I choose to learn from the example of Elad and Racheli Lavi. On October 7th their 19-year-old son Amir was killed in combat while serving in the Nahal Brigade on the Gaza Border. Two months later, together with Dr. Danny Brom, founder of the Metiv Israel Psychotrauma Center, I sat in the living room of the Lavi family in Ein Kerem, Jerusalem. Elad and Racheli told me about Amir, their modest and ambitious son, a poet and artist, a sensitive soul, who lived life to the fullest in his 19 short years.

Elad and Racheli were determined to mark Amir’s 20th birthday in a meaningful way, reflecting his spirit. And so, on Friday April 19th, over 2,500 people came together near Beit Shemesh for Festival Amir. Featuring some of Israel’s top performers, including HaDag Nahash, Avraham Tal, Yoni Bloch with Efrat Gosh, and Yagel Oshri, the festival highlighted both joy and freedom, along with a recognition of what we have lost. As Elad said, “My dear son, your zest for life hasn’t disappeared from the world, your friends continue to come, your art is on display, and your music is still playing.”

Amir’s art

Racheli and Elad spoke about how during his military service Amir would always look out for others, how he had a special sensitivity which allowed him to discern who needed help and support. Inspired by Amir’s example, Elad and Racheli chose to donate all the proceeds from Festival Amir, through the Amutat Amir charity, to Metiv’s Peace of Mind program.

According to Metiv’s research, around 80% of combat veterans suffer from some level of post-traumatic stress. Peace of Mind, a therapeutic intervention in which IDF veterans receive time and space to process their combat experiences, strengthens their emotional and mental wellbeing, allowing for a healthier transition from military to civilian life. Time and again, as Director of Partnerships for Peace of Mind, I have heard from program alumni about how the program has improved their relationships with their spouses or significant other, children, parents and those around them.

And so, in contemplating how best to mark Yom HaZikaron and Yom HaAtzmaut this year, these are my takeaways from Racheli and Elad:

  1. Make space for the pain.
  2. Surround yourself with friends, family and loved ones.
  3. Play music and dance, make space for joy, and recognize the good in one’s life.
  4. Create meaning out of the chaos, and choose a cause where you can make a meaningful difference.

Thank you Racheli and Elad for showing so many of us the way. May Amir’s memory serve as a blessing, and may we all learn and be inspired from your example.

About the Author
Chaim Landau is Director of Partnerships for the Peace of Mind Program for IDF Combat Veterans at Metiv | The Israel Psychotrauma Center. He lives in Jerusalem.
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