Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Myths, Sacrifices & Heroes

The eulogies for Ahikam Amihai and David Rubin - two off-duty soldiers murdered last Friday - focused on their love of the land and tiyulim. Every park supervisor knew Ahikam according to his brother, while David was described as intimately familiar with the Land of Israel, including parts of Jordan.

One friend described the difference between the boys and the youth of the 'lowland state' who care more about draft dodging and pop star Ninet's hairstyle than anything else. Another stated that "This is not just any funeral. And these aren't just any people. They are myths. We have stopped believing in myths and heroes, but they were just that."

Another mythic figure also known for his love of hiking (in both Israel and Jordan) is Meir Har Tzion. Described by Moshe Dayan as the bravest Jewish warrior since Bar Kochba, Har Tzion recently criticized the army for its fear of casualties in the Second Lebanon War, berating the commanders for failing to stick to the goal.

His words are recorded in a documentary film called
'May Every Mother Know' in which the authors interview an army unit (including Har Zion's son) who fought in the war, focusing on the same tension (if not the same dichotomy) described at the Amichai / Ruben funeral; between the values of collectivism and solidarity instilled in them by their fathers, and the culture of capitalism and hedonism that holds individual success as supreme and has grown weary of call-ups and wars.

One who never grew weary of such call ups was Ehud Efrati, a 34 year old combat reserve soldier, killed during a firefight with Hamas on October 29th.

An agronomist by profession who worked in his family's orchards in Zichron Yaacov, Efrati's death has largely been forgotten coming as it did on the same day a more famous Ehud announced he was suffering from prostrate cancer, news that relegated Efrati's death to the back pages.
"Just Plain Ehud" is survived by his wife Miri, their five-year-old son Tomer, three-year-old daughter Shai and four-month-old baby Raz.

When the children were told of their father's death, Tomer asked if he was an angel and whether angels could speak on the phone while later suggesting they buy a spaceship to fly to the sky and bring Daddy back. When Miri explained that Ehud was not in the sky but in their hearts, Shai suggested opening up their hearts to take him out.

It's probably true that Israel enters 2008 as an increasingly post ideological, de-mystified State in which the individual often trumps the collective. Aliya is on the wane and the upcoming Winograd report casts a shadow over public trust in our leadership.

Yet perhaps because of that, it's even more inspiring to come across those who reject the ideology of the 'lowland state', and still believe in the idea of self-sacrifice for the collective good.

So as we (justifiably) celebrate the 'record low' number of Israeli fatalities from Palestinian violence since 2000, let's hope the memory of those not here to usher in the new year with us will serve to renew our beliefs - not only in the myths and ideas that make this country's raison-d'etre so powerful, but in the many heroes whose sacrifice continues to secure our existence here.

Happy 2008


Yehudi said...

Very nice post...may the memory of our brothers and sisters who have sacrificed their lives for Israel be blessed, and may those who shed their blood come under the judgement of G-d.

Great post as always...
Shabbat Shalom, Yehudi

Anonymous said...

Thank you for a very beautiful dobre hallel for a man whom I'd call anything but "just plain Ehud."