Four years ago, I encountered the grave of Zehara Levitov, a pilot who lost two fiances one after another and then left in the middle of her course to fight in the Independence Day war. I didn’t know four years ago what this woman would mean to me today. Every year there is new development and every year it has become a tradition for me to write another article. Last year, for the first time since I had been, there was a pilot standing by the grave. I told him my story and he told me he had been assigned to her family and to her grave on Yom Hazikaron. He then gave me the family’s number and I was able to speak with them and tell them my story.
This year, I went to her grave and brought two of my students with me so they could experience what it was like on the older side of Har Herzl. To be with those who may not have any family to come. As I approach I see none other than the same pilot from the year before. Though I was not wearing uniform this time, he smiled and said “Hey, I know you.” We caught up for a few minutes and then stood together until way past the end of the ceremony and others had left. In perfect silence. Both thinking our own thoughts, but together. I chose to pray and he chose to watch me pray, giving me a nod that said “you do you”. When he left, he turned and said, “Until next year.”
Yes. Next year. Because there will be a next year and year after and so on, because we never forget. We don’t forget who and where and how and why we are here and on whose merit. We don’t forget each other as we meet up again and again on this day. The pilot and I have now become a constant in each other’s lives, though from opposite worlds. Through changes in each year: getting released from the army, missions he has done, accomplishments we both have made; we will continue to meet again and again. In this, there is comfort. That nice Israeli comfort we feel mostly around these holidays where unity is tangible. We reunite to give respect to someone who allowed us to both serve in the way we do. That acknowledging, to me, is Yom Hazikaron.
Before I was released, I went one last time to Har Herzl in uniform. I came to Zahara and I thanked her and Gd for allowing me to be a part of something great and meaningful. For allowing me to live and grow here. I saw Alex Singer, an American who lived on the kibbutz where I made Aliyah to, and who serves as a symbol for my garin to this day. I visited then, and yesterday, two boys from my unit who were killed in an accident, very similar to something that happened to my team and I just months later. Who I could not visit, but who remained in my thoughts was Gal Kaiden, another boy from my unit who was stabbed at a junction near Ariel just a couple months ago. So, during the ceremony, next to the grave of Zehara, my inspiration, and surrounded by the memories of Am Yisrael, I reflected on each of those who has made my life just that much easier by paving the way so that I could exist here. It was then with tears in my eyes and so much joy I though my heart would rip out of my chest, did I sing שנה הבאה בירושלים, next year in Jerusalem. It is true. I will be here next year in Jerusalem on the merit of those who fought for it. We don’t forget, we won’t forget, and we owe it to our people to continue remembering our home.
May our whole nation be blessed with seeing miracles daily as we continue to live and find meaning in our lives here and our connection to the land forever. Amen.