A few days ago I came back to the States, having spent a month in Israel.
My wife and I have an apartment in Zichron Ya’akov. I stayed there but headed out every day to visit my daughters and my son.
I started my day early with a workout at the local “Country Zichron” gym and after breakfast I would drive to wherever that day’s plan would take me.
My grandmother Miriam is buried in an old, beautiful cemetery in Kfar Saba. At her gravesite I spent some time telling her all about how our family had grown. I thanked her for keeping us all safe, all these years. I told her that I would come back to see her again.
I drove south to Yad Mordechai. My mom, who died much too young is buried there. I took my time to pay my respects to so many of the people I had known…so many years ago, for so many years.
On a beautiful weekday I drove north to the Golani Intersection. I pulled into the Golani Memorial and walked about for a while, visiting all of the various memorial sites there. I found some old friends with whom I had served, and who died fighting for our Israel during the Yom Kippur War. I got pretty emotional reading some of their very brief biographies. Many of my friends had written testimonials in some of the memorial books. The visit ended some hours later, and I was still the only person there.
On my way back to Zichron I noticed how much construction was going on. Highways were being widened, existing roads were being repaved. Israel is a nation busy improving itself, or maybe just trying to cope with the great number of vehicles clogging its arteries.
My good friend Itzik and his wife Daliah came up from Ashkelon to visit with me. Itzik and I served in the same tank unit. We were together in the same tank. After Golani Brigade I had to undergo training as a tank commander. I knew why. During the Yom Kippur War so many of our brothers-in-arms who died fighting were in tank units.
Itzik saved my life. Even if he hadn’t, we would still be brothers forever. The best, and I mean the BEST driver ever! We remembered one time when Teddy asked if anyone had coffee. Tooling along at around 40 kph, I slid off the narrow gunner’s seat, opened my coffee kit, lit the camping gas, poured water into the little pot, boiled the water, added the coffee, the HAWAJJ, the HEL, the sugar, poured the coffee into small glasses, and served Teddy, and Yaakov and Itzik and myself, without spilling a single drop. Itzik was that good a driver. It takes skill to hold a tank rolling along at that speed steady, especially when coffee is at stake.
My leg had gotten caught between the body of the tank and the turret. If Itzik had not extricated me from my predicament, I would have lost my leg below the knee and bled out. As it turned out I have small indentations in my leg, just below the knee to bear witness to that story.
The very day I landed in Israel I attended my grandson Aviv’s Brit Milah.
Another grandson was born about a month after Aviv. My second daughter gave birth to Kfir. I now have eight grandchildren, ranging in age from 14 years to a few weeks.
Israel turned 70 years old today. As I write these words, and as I reflect on my own story in helping Israel reach this important birthday, I cannot help but wonder what kind of a future lies ahead for my grandchildren. I hope that they will love Israel as I do. I hope that they will appreciate its natural beauty and its special light.
Sitting in front of a huge window in the home of my wife’s relatives in Moshav HaBonim, the sunsets never cease to amaze me and fill me with awe. Yet there in the distance, near the horizon, that entire coastline may be affected by the offshore rigs destined to bring economic prosperity to Israel.
Sitting in this cafe or that restaurant, it was perfectly normal to see Israeli Arabs enjoying a meal or a coffee along with Israeli Jews. Many of the pharmacists, cashiers, restaurant workers, customer service personnel, truck drivers, construction workers and more come from the Arab villages near Zichron. Because this is something that happens daily, and naturally, it will not make the news. Ever.
One morning I decided to drive to the Druze village of Daliat El Carmel. It rained, on and off, during my drive there. In fact this was one of the very few days that it rained during my month there. More than the walk in town itself, the drive there and back charged my spiritual battery to overflowing. So many different shades of green, and so many different hues of blue above.
I spent Erev Pessach, Passover Eve, in the home of my daughter’s relative. A beautiful home, with a beautiful seder table set for the holiday, my grandson Nitzan sang the perfect rendition of the Mah Nishtanah. Not bad for a four-year old.
And so I continue to straddle two worlds, the one in Israel and the other near Princeton. My wife did not accompany me on this visit. I told her that this won’t happen again. I missed her so much, even though through the wonders of modern communication we spoke several times every day, often seeing each other on our small hand held smart phones. Israeli technology did that. Israeli innovations, medical, technological, environmental, continue to lead the world to a better way of life.
That sort of thing doesn’t make headlines either.
Happy birthday, Israel. On Friday, “Hey B’Iyar” according to the Hebrew Lunar Calendar, you celebrate your 70th Birthday. I wish you a strong future that will have room for my children and eight grandchildren to flourish and live the dream.