We visited Ze’ev this morning. He rests in an immaculate grave in the meticulously maintained Herzliya Cemetery. This day commemorates the fifth anniversary of his death Those who miss him most convened in this place to remember a man who lived his life well.
The cheery springlike weather belied the sadness we all felt. With birds chirping and a brilliant sun gleaming, flowers picked up their heads to ask, is spring here already?
It should have been gray and cloudy with a touch of rain and wind. But it wasn’t. The beautiful cemetery, final resting place for so many who came so far to be here, was almost like a park. Green. Calm. But, those who had been youngsters when they died, lying now in row upon row of military graves, don’t romp and play in these playgrounds.
Ze’ev was a man of peace. He liked nothing more than making a grill for his adored family, basking in the compliments which always followed. But, his was a warrior’s life. Not by choice. Definitely not by choice.
He was called upon over and over to don the uniform of
Tzahal, from his arrival from the Cypriot DP camp in 1948 through the shocking Yom Kippur War, when he shared the battlefields with his eldest son.
A typical story in this atypical land. A land where soldiers yearn for peace. A land where peace is often missing in action.
Ze’ev earned the right to be buried in this blessed place, with its wide pathways adorned with plants and flowers and all sorts of memorabilia. A babel of languages adorn the graves. Its like a roll call of the Jewish people. Russian. Arabic. English. Polish. German. And of course, Hebrew, the glue that holds all together. All swirled together. Am Yisrael.
I contrast this to the cemeteries I know in America. My Zayda lies restlessly in his North Arlington NJ grave since 1957. His gravestone is twisted and the friends he lies buried with, the kehilah of his fellow congregants at Newark’s Rodfei Shalom, are scattered, despite their plans to be together. Some graves are completely turned over, looking more like a vandalized cemetery in Poland. In one horrific grave it is possible to see the remains of the casket. One does not linger there. There is no maintenance. No visitors.
There are many cemeteries like that. Jewish communities left for greener pastures and they often left their dead behind. No dignity. No love. Perhaps Zayda will one day lie under a shopping center or parking lot.
Other cemeteries are better maintained but the oxymoron perpetual care belies the abundant weeds and true lack of perpetual care.
Many of the American Jewsh cemeteries are impersonal cities of the dead with tacky street names of our matriarchs and patriarchs so that one’s grave might be at the corner of Ruth and Abraham.
In Herzliya there are no street names. Lot and block numbers to help locate the spot. This is a cemetery to make the transition integrated into life; not like the uncomfortable disposition of Zayda’s eternal home.
Ze’ev is sorely missed. His grandchildren grow tall and strong. Never in his childhood in Romania did he think for a moment that his blood would course through the veins of children with Hebrew names, proud Jews,.comfortable in their Israeliness. It sounds trite to say he lives on through them but, in fact, he does!
May Ze’ev rest in peace.