We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
For certain events there should not be a first time. Today, it happened, my first military burial. A twenty-seven year old boy from Ra’anana, killed yesterday in Lebanon, Major Benjy Hillman, married three weeks ago, is buried by 1245 pm.
Jewish burials are fast: within 24 hours, unless Shabbat intervenes. Benjy was of Egoz unit, “Walnut,” perhaps a variation of the idea of Sabra: tough on the outside, sweet and tender within. Some years ago, the Egoz boys were considered knuckle-draggers: tough and not too bright. Now, they are tough and bright. We crossed into Southern Lebanon, finding hidden bunkers filled with munitions that cannot be seen by air. After several thousand rockets shot into Israel, some 30 dead and many more injured in the last week, after aerial bombings preceded by leaflets warning civilians to leave certain areas, after minimal let-up in rockets, we sent in troops. Benjy led his men. After his wedding, he was given two months leave with his bride. But his unit was called up, he said he had to go with his men. The Pirke Avot (I believe) says that a newly wedded man should not be called up for military duty --- unless it is for the sake fo the people of Israel. When the Biblical General Barak was selecting men to fight against the charioteers of Sysra, he asked anyone who had any reason not to fight, to step back. Benjy Hillman stepped forward.
Here is what I saw and heard. The military cemetary of Ra’anana is on the main back road, abutting the neighboring moshav. It is not evident at first. Today, the train of people and cars made it evident. At 9 am my neighbor, whose son is in another crack unit, Nachshon, told me that he had heard the funeral was set; the family had just been told; the announcement would soon be public. I asked if this were someonne I knew -- I felt an internal tug against going. Ira simply suggested I should go if I had never seen a military burial.
Thousands were there on a day brilliantly clear, with birds singing (their form of territorial battle). On this hot day, two breezes came through, the first warm, the second refreshing and noisome; trees are moved. 1230 it was to start and by 1235 the cemetary was packed, the flag-draped simple casket being pulled out of the military jeep by buddies from Egoz, brown-bereted, a red emblem on its brim; a walnut tree epaulet.
How do people speak at such times? Two rabbis broke into tears, as did Benjy’s commander. His brother’s words were difficult to understand. His father described a boy who was a blessing to them. One rabbi, the one who married him, said that suddenly the sun was covered by Benjy’s death. This rabbi described how before Benjy’s wedding, when he came fro speiail study with the rabbi, it turned midnight as they finished. The rabbi invited Benjy to spend the night; no, his men needed him and he left to drive through the night. Someone read Benjy’s words. Words of consolation that Benjy wrote to Avi’s parents and family; Avi, who was killed four years ago. Benjy promised to live out Avi’s life.
One word kept returning to describe Benjy -- charming (khosen). I expected parents to cry, the brother, the sister. I was not prepared for choked-up officers. Soldier wearing wrap-around sunglasses, had tears pouring down their cheeks. These could not be hidden.
I went on strike against this god this day, this god who Moloch-like, eats his young. The father is asked to recite kaddish, this ironic prayer praising god, recited after the dead, which mentions nothing about the dead, written in Aramaic. Two rabbis said this boy went “al kiddush hashem,” “for the blessing (“sanctification,” the dictionary says -- a two fancy word) of god.” I realized as I walked to the cemetary, that I had forgotten my kippah, my skullcap. Then I realized after I arrived, I realized as the rabbis praised god, why I had made this parapaxis: I was on strike against a god who would take boys like this. Praise him? Not I.
This is a tough nation. An odd one, in which the best and the brightest also become the toughest soldiers. But they don’t want to be soldiers. They want to be fathers, and husbands; they want to be writers and musicians; perhaps doctors and teachers. For sure, not dead. Reluctant warriors I call them in my book. The gun salutes, three blasts, I could not prepare for. I am startled, even as I see them raise guns, muzzles to shoulder, then stocks to shoulder, aiming skyward. I see them cock thrice, ejecting shells. My palms sweat
Then, done. We leave. No rush. Despite the crowds, the narrow, stone collonaded exit, no pushing, no rushing. Security is there, as usual in Israel, looking for whomever might be looking for a crowd to bomb. Security is young boys, usually in short sleeved shirts, to keep the arms and hands free of tangles should they need to subdue someone.
Today was a first time that shouldn’t have happened.
I that thank G-d for every breath of mine and every breathing leaf..I am thankful to G-d for all the Good He reaps upon us.
G-d has created us in His image, and therefore we have an inkling of what Good is...and so we are commanded to walk in his ways and do Good ourselves.
Unlike us, G-d is Perfect Good..By giving us the inkling of Good, by making us aware he is the source of Good..he opens our desire to see Perfect Good flow from Him into our world..
Alas, we are not witness to the PerfectGood...as chaos prevails, as innocents go into the forefront to do Good..yet they fall.
Like Biblical Job, we cry out demanding Good of G-d. We protest. Sure, the theologians (like Jobs friends) will enter and make their claims about our weaknesses and imperfections..our haughty attitude to think that we can make claims of G-d.
But G-d spoke to Job and told him that HE--JOB--speaks truth and the theolgian friends speak empty words, false words.
May friend Nathan may not always believe in G-d ..but when he protested against G-d it was a moment of belief!