|courtesy of inn.co.il|
I was saddened by the headline that appeared Thursday
knowing that the soldier was someone’s son, probably a brother, perhaps a
husband, sweetheart, or father, certainly a friend. Somewhere in Israel there
were people in pain, hoping and praying for his recovery. Those were my
thoughts and then I went on with my day.
Later in the afternoon, though, I received an email on the Shilo list urging all of us to pray for this soldier, Ronen Ben Elna. The tragedy was coming a little closer. One of my neighbors had some connection to the young man.
Then in the evening I understood the connection somewhat better. My daughter asked to borrow our car. Her car was with one of her husband’s close friends, Moshe, who, it seemed, was in turn a close friend of the soldier. Moshe used my children’s car in his rush to get to the hospital. It was Moshe’s mother, Bella, who’d sent out the email. Now I understood why.
Only I hadn’t truly understood. The next day my daughter set me straight. The injured soldier wasn’t a friend. He was a cousin, Bella’s nephew. Bella and her husband came to Shilo two dozen years ago. Originally immigrants from Russia they quickly became the unofficial liaisons for the elderly Russians who settled in our village.
I like Bella. She’s pragmatic and generous. Eight years ago my husband was stranded in England for ten days following the volcano in Iceland. I was alone for Shabbat, the Shabbat of Bella’s third son’s Bar Mitzvah. She discovered my situation following Friday night services and without hesitation invited me to join her family for their meals.
Thankfully, I’d already received invitations but I appreciated her willingness to include me in her happiness. Had I accepted her invitation I probably would have met Ronen, hy”d. As it is, I’m sure I’d seen him at the various happy occasions his aunt and uncle celebrated in Shilo. Knowing him or not, the tragedy felt more personal.
As I lit candles Friday night I said a prayer for Ronen. An optimistic person I reminded myself of the soldier who’d had a boulder dropped on his head years ago. After seven months in the hospital he returned to a normal life. I remained hopeful throughout Shabbat but once it ended I received the bitter news. Ronen Lubarsky had died.
The funeral was scheduled for two in the morning. The following day as I looked at the news pictures it pained me to see Bella and her family at the cemetery. There was a clip of Ronen’s brother eulogizing him and Sivan Rahav Meir translated his touching words.
My dear brother, you always fought. They say that free choice is the strongest point in a human being, and you chose - you did it all your life. Through all the closed doors - you entered. Wherever they told you 'no', you said 'yes'. At school, in soccer, in Krav Maga, in the academic realm at school where you experienced challenges but in the end excelled. You were always stubborn, always fighting with everything you had.
"To my deep sorrow, the IDF soldiers deal with the threats you experienced every day, every night. Wild beasts await them on the roofs. The Duvdevan soldiers and the entire IDF have to face washing machines thrown down at them, as well as bricks, like the one you got. I pray to G-d that our leaders, whom I love, will do something about it.
"I turn to the People of Israel: More than these beasts should find their deaths, it is important that you all should live your lives with joy, love and faith. Build glorious families with many children. Take upon yourselves something good to do, something small. And slowly, in the merit of our good deeds, there will be less and less funerals. Even in these painful days I am happy, because the People of Israel have given my family a huge hug, which I never believed could exist. Our big victory is to live a full life.
"Ronik, I love you".
With his few words Arik gave me hope, hope that we as a people can truly make a change. Hope that we can end the cruel and senseless hate. Hope that we can indeed make a better world.