To the Survivors, Thank You

Outstretched Hand from the Past (courtesy)

It was October 7th and we were hiding in the shelter.  It isn’t really a mamad (bomb shelter) but two walls are dug out of stone and it’s the safest place to run. We sit there, huddled some on the sofa bed and some on the floor waiting in anticipation and finally feel the walls shake with the  launch of the iron dome interceptor fire.  My son cries a little and I hold his small hand in my own as if to say everything will be ok.  It’s good that I don’t have to say those words because I really am not convinced that is true and I don’t want to lie.

Would things ever go back to normal?  What destruction lay ahead? Will we leave this room or will a rocket decide to land on our house?

It was in that moment that I had a vision or perhaps a dream.  I saw an arm reach down from the sky stretching out a hand to me as if to pick me up from the floor of my shelter.  I saw the rough wrinkled fingers, scarred with experience, hard work, and faith.  As the hand got closer I saw the muscular wrist holding the outstretched hand steady pushing through the turmoil all around.  Above the wrist I saw the arm with its graying hair and slightly up the arm I saw the numbers etched in greenish black ink and I knew.  

That arm was familiar.  

That arm was the arm of the Holocaust Survivors who spoke in my school every year.  

That arm was the arm of the Survivor who needed to tell every detail of what happened to them because they were all important.  

That arm was the arm of the Survivor who gave me a small pink glass bowl and told me that I should use it in good health.   

That arm was the arm of the survivor who founded a world class museum. 

That arm was the arm of the Survivor who immigrated to America and built a beautiful family and couldn’t stop showing me pictures.

That arm was the arm of people who retold their stories and reminded me that the future can be better than the past.

In that moment I wanted to talk to a Holocaust Survivor.  In that moment I wanted to hug a Holocaust Survivor.  I wanted to ask them how they did it.  How did they maintain faith in the future when all seemed so dark?  I wanted to seek their advice and without answers or explanations I reached out to the arm that descended in my direction.  

Six months later I still have moments when I ask myself difficult questions.  Will the hostages return safely?  Will the thousands of evacuees go back to their homes?  Will our part of the world find peace? How can I go on with normal life when there is so much pain all around? Can I wholeheartedly celebrate a child’s birthday despite so much suffering?  Can I have enough faith in tomorrow to live life today?

I don’t have answers to these questions but on this day I want to say thank you to the Survivors who shared their stories.  Thank you for entrusting the next generation with your memories and thank you for giving us strength in moments of darkness.  

As I recall your lectures, testimonies, and prayers I know that you would tell us today Uvacharta Bachayim.  Choose Life. 

About the Author
Originally from NJ Avi Tilonsky enjoys experiencing the ever changing Jewish life in Jerusalem. Prior to moving to Israel Avi worked as a communal rabbi and educator. Today, he is privileged to work for a Jewish organization helping Jewish communities around the world. In his free time Avi likes to go exploring on his bike, trying new recipes, and attempting to solve the world's problems one small step at a time.
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