About a week ago, a side story was published about Jonathan Avrech, who served as a paratrooper on the Golan Heights in the Yom Kippur War. During a respite after an exhausting week of fighting, Jonathan’s eyes caught those of an Italian photographer. The image became one of the symbols of the war. Jonathan died last week from cancer at the age of 82. About a month before his death, the IDF Chief of Staff, Aviv Kochavi, visited the hospital to award Jonathan’s son, Jaeger, the rank of Reserve Colonel for 27 years of service in the armored corps.
This story, which may seem minor and insignificant, reveals in my opinion a blessed change that is taking place in Israeli society, one which I will express in the words: “it is good to live for our country”. In the early days of the state, our heroes, like Alik – the protagonist of Moshe Shamir’s book – were born out of the sea. The Israeli sabra had no spiritual parents.
He wanted to be reborn, cut off from the Jewish exile that he despised, so that he would have the courage to establish a state. But this courage had a price – the Israeli sabra was lonely, and was killed in battle, as a young man. Because he was born without parents or tradition, he was unable to raise children of his own. His name was Alik, Uri or Tulik.
The story of Jonathan Avrech is a new Israeli story, that of the country’s third generation. The heroes of the Yom Kippur War, Lebanon and countless intifadas are returning home after the battle. They have childhood stories, songs, and loving parents. They were born into an existing state and dream of its future. They dare to be disappointed that their children will also be forced to continue serving in the army. Their children – us – recognize that their parents promised and tried and, in the words of the well-known Israeli song: “These children will hopefully not have to go to the army. And your faces in the old picture prove that you said it from the bottom of your hearts when you promised to do everything for us to turn an enemy into a loved one”.
The State of Israel is entering its 75th year with a new generation of heroes. One that dares to live, with the trauma and pain, with prayer, and with a tradition of parents and grandparents. The old age of the living Zionist hero versus the death of the young hero enables us, the current generation, to exist alongside the heroes and examine which of their deeds we wish to adopt and the domains that were perhaps necessary in the past while today, we must choose otherwise. This emotional endeavor is impossible in the presence of young dead heroes. They bear the glory of “the elegant and the handsome”. Jonathan Avrech’s eyes are the eyes that connect past and present, thereby enabling us to create a future.