A while ago I returned from the Memorial Day service honoring fallen Israeli soldiers and victims of terrorist acts, which was held at the 92nd Street YMHA in Manhattan.
Tonight and tomorrow, throughout the Day of Remembrance, Israel will somberly remember its fallen. Tomorrow night, at the end of the day, the country will begin to celebrate its 66th Day of Independence.
The moving ceremony I attended today, and those I have attended for the last forty-seven years, is very personal for me: My first husband Yigal was one among the 23,169 Israeli soldiers who fell while in military duty since the beginning of the struggle for Israel’s Independence. Close to 2,500 more were victims of terrorist acts.
Yigal was burnt beyond recognition on June 9th, 1967, when a Syrian missile hit his armored vehicle as his brigade began its ascendance to the Golan Heights, during the Six-Day war. He died thirty-six hours later at the age of twenty-eight. I was twenty-three and pregnant, but I lost our unborn child because of the shock I endured seeing him minutes before his death.
Nearly half a century later I still sobbed when the cantor sang the somber Jewish prayer for the dead “God Full of Mercy.” When a bereaved brother recited the “Kadish” prayer, I solemnly recalled the unbearably painful expression etched on Yigal’s father’s face whenever he recited that prayer for his dead son, by whose side he remained until Yigal stopped breathing his insufferable loud, choking breaths.
“Yigal will always be the most important man in your life,” Stephen, my husband of nearly forty years then, told me in the autumn of 2010, after reading in Lilith Magazine, my chapter “A Knock at the Door in the Darkness of Night,” which was excerpted from my memoir “No Laughter in Winter,” to be published this year or next.
“How can you say that?” I protested. “I am married to you for almost forty years, whereas I was married to Yigal for three years only. You are the man with whom I decided to share my life far away from my family and the country I loved. We have a daughter and two grand children, and a shared history that is unique to us.” Then I admitted that losing Yigal so abruptly, seeing his scorched body and face and hearing his last breaths, all against the advice of his doctor, who feared the effect the sight would have on my pregnancy, is the most important experience of my life, our marriage and the births of our daughter and our grandchildren notwithstanding.
The last time I saw Yigal before he went to war he hoped would not break out he looked attractive and composed. While a military truck was waiting for him we said our goodbyes. We hugged and kissed for a long time, and then he put his hand on my stomach and held it there as if to protect his child. I always try to remember him the way he looked. But I can’t help remembering me standing by his side, unable to recognize him, his beautiful face erased by fire as if it never existed; the man whose loveliness will remain only in the memory of those who loved him.
This morning I woke up with a nightmare. It was nothing compared to the reality of the early hours of June 11th, 1967, that will forever remain with me. Inexplicably part of the rich and rewarding life am able to live.
1. To comment, type your remarks in the comment box bellow (if the box is not visible, left click on "comment" or "no comment" bellow. It will open).
2. Select from the menu under the box how you want to sign. If you have an account with one of the names on the list use it, or use name/URL to just sign your name, with or without your website address in the URL. Use anonymous if you want anonymity.
3. Click “publish.”
4. You may sign into your account if you have one.