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Yizkor – I Remember

The death of his brother-in-law and so many other deaths on both sides obligate us to find another way

As a people, we stand silent and remember. As a family, we stand silent and remember my brother-in-law, Arele Katz, z”l, who died when his plane was shot down over the skies of Lebanon, 32 years ago this July.

Yizkor – I remember.

I remember – the tragedy that accompanies the gift which is Israel. Our return did not follow the prophetic script. God did not pave the highway, nor did God alone defeat our foes. The blood and heroism of our family members did. I do not merely owe a prayer of thanks but a debt which I can never repay. That debt forever haunts me and obligates me.

I remember – that the joy of victory is diluted by pain. War is at times necessary, but it always remains a necessary evil. Its end can at times justify its means, but can never erase its horrific price.

I remember – that if we are to be a free and sovereign people in our homeland we have to unfortunately at times be willing to offer the ultimate sacrifice. We, too, like Abraham, have to be willing to offer our children, not for a senseless and immoral test of loyalty, but rather as a consequence of living in an unredeemed world.

I remember – Arele, and am obligated to do everything in my power to ensure that no other death be an unnecessary one, that no war be an unjust one. Anyone who saves one life, has saved a whole world, and anyone who takes one, has destroyed a whole world.

I remember – Arele and the tens of thousands of Areles on both sides. Enough is enough. His and their deaths obligate us to find another way.

I remember – Arele. There are no “those who have died.” The dead don’t constitute a community. Each one is an individual who was ripped out of their families and away from their friends. Death is the most un-personalizing of events. In one’s grave, one is faceless. It is the living and in the living that one’s identity, who one was, and what one did, is preserved.

I remember – that it is hard to remember. As the years pass, memories fade, and it is easy to forget the tragedy. While part of us struggles to remember, part of us struggles to move on. Forgetfulness is a blessing but also a curse.

I remember – that some of us move on and some of us do not. For my sister, there are scars and pain and loneliness that are permanent. For Arele’s children, the consequences of his death will forever mark their lives. Some of us move on, but we must remember, that some cannot, and it is for us to stand at their side.

I remember – that Arele is still 32 years old. Time has passed, and as we have gotten older, he remains frozen in time. There are 32 years of life that he did not live, 32 years of experiences that he did not share. It’s hard to tell who has suffered more.

I remember – the importance of mourning. Noble circumstances may ennoble the dead, but in the end they don’t give it meaning. Mourning reminds us that death obligates sadness and silence. That it be allowed to be, a blackness without light, a hole that must be forever a part of our life.

I remember – Arele, but I am not alone. I am blessed to be in the midst of a people who even if they did not know him, are saddened by his death and mourn with me. Every year our family’s life comes to a stop. Every year, we re-experience the power and comfort of living in the midst of a people who do not forget.

I remember – Arele the Cohen, who loved to bless our people. May your memory be a blessing, and may our people and the whole world be blessed with peace.

About the Author
Rabbi Dr. Donniel Hartman is President of the Shalom Hartman Institute and author of Putting God Second: How to Save Religion from Itself. Donniel is the founder of some of the most extensive education, training and enrichment programs for scholars, educators, rabbis, and religious and lay leaders in Israel and North America. He is a prominent essayist, blogger and lecturer on issues of Israeli politics, policy, Judaism, and the Jewish community. He has a Ph.D. in Jewish philosophy from Hebrew University, an M.A in political philosophy from New York University, an M.A. in religion from Temple University, and Rabbinic ordination from the Shalom Hartman Institute.
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