It was a beautiful night in Jerusalem. Too beautiful to be burying a 20-year-old soldier who died a brave warrior’s death.
And yet there we were, hundreds of us at 2:00 a.m. on Saturday night, hearing of Ronen Lubarsky’s determination and achievements. He was an elite force of nature, albeit a modest one.
And it was sad. And it hurt to watch his peers, my daughter and other friends of hers among them, try to make sense of their momentary reality. And it was tragically inspiring, understanding that each one of them would have made the same sacrifice. And I left there numb and the fog lingers even though life goes on.
I went to class after a few hours’ sleep; I had my scheduled meeting and put dinner on the table that night. And I celebrated a friends’ daughter’s wedding the next night, understanding that the darkest moments require us to live the brighter moments even brighter.
And then I went to my art class this morning to lose myself in acrylics for a blessed few hours. It is an open studio where I find myself the youngest and most American participant. But it is a warm environment, full of colorful characters, original talent and music that ranges from French love songs to American Hard Rock. These artists are of the generation of Israelis who appreciate the beauty of the Hebrew language, utilize biblical expressions and have an endless capacity to play on words with intelligence and humor.
So I picked up where I left off, in the sunlight and shadows of the Lion’s Gate of Jerusalem’s Old City. My canvas is an abandoned wooden cabinet door, my paint colors a mixture of blues and Jerusalem stone. And I was struggling with the relief lions above the gate on the right.
I thought about prefacing what happened next with the modern intro: “That Awkward Moment When…” and it would have gone like this: “That awkward moment when you’re painting a scene and your classmate is like, I was there…” Except that the moment wasn’t awkward, it was Epic.
The Lion’s Gate is the iconic passageway through which the paratroopers entered the old city on their way to recapture the Temple Mount in the Six day war. And my painter classmate, David, says to me: “I was there. I saw the paratroopers go in. Our tanks made it possible for them to infiltrate the old city because before, they were worried about what would be waiting on the other side of the gate.”
A lively discussion ensued between the other classmates as I stood there dumbstruck at his matter of fact announcement. It happens so often, but it doesn’t get old. The revelation that the guy next door is a war hero. That our Shabbat guest thwarted a terrorist attack. That Miriam Peretz is dancing at our daughter’s friend’s wedding as if it is her own. There is no ordinary here and in these times.
Extra-ordinary is the only way to describe what goes on in our daily life of late. It’s there if you choose to see it, and I choose to. The news headlines are laced with the miraculous and the utterly unbelievable. How Israel won Eurovision with a song entitled “I’m Not your Toy” the same week the US Embassy moved to Jerusalem. The personal message of the singer notwithstanding, a global message can be inferred as well, and its timing only marveled at.
And what we don’t read about is even more miraculous. The brave IDF warriors of every rank and unit who do what they do day and night to ensure our safety and security. May Hashem continue to watch over and protect them all.
As we stood together at the sink washing our brushes, I told David how touched I was that he shared his story with me. He seemed surprised, and then gave me the epilogue: From Jerusalem their tanks were sent up to the Golan where the fighting continued for a few more days. They drove by way of Yericho, where they gave water to some of the hundreds of Jordanian refugees fleeing East.
In the North, David sustained severe injuries to his head- his left jaw and eye were crushed- and he spent several weeks in the hospital undergoing painful reparative and reconstructive surgeries. When I asked him, “So when did you go to the Kotel for the first time after the war?” he answered: “After I was transferred to Hadassah in Jerusalem for further treatment, they released me, still bandaged, to walk to the Kotel. They were able to uncover my right eye so that I could see where I was going, though I had to wear a hat for shade from the bright sun. I found my way to the Kotel and thanked God for the privilege of fighting this war so that my four-year-old son will not have to.”
David and I were wistful that that had been the case, even as he told me his grandson is enlisting soon.
And I am transported back to Har Herzl where, in a sea of red berets, through a river of tears, the wellsprings of hope carried forth the prayer that this will be the last of our soldiers that we bury on a beautiful Jerusalem night.