My mother’s little sister, Chava, followed her big brother Dave to Israel in 1950. Dave came in 1947 just after having served with the U.S. Army in WWII.
Davey fought in the 1948 war as the Intelligence Officer in the Israeli Air Force) and happily came home to raise the most wonderful family. Davey met and married the daughter of a Minneapolis family that was also moving to what had yet to become Israel. My aunt Sarah was perhaps the nicest, kindest and warmest person I have ever known – having lived in the Twin Cities for the past few years and now knowing her family, I understand where it comes from. Davey and Sarah’s two sons and a daughter each have several children who all follow the path set by their parents.
My Aunt Chava was not as fortunate. The mother of three sons, she lived in a suburb of Tel Aviv and was married to a man who had emigrated from Pittsburgh. Struggling with depression most of her life, the light of her life was her oldest son Meir.
I came to know Meir when I traveled to Israel when the war broke out in 1967. Israel needed young men to fill in jobs for the guys called to fight not knowing how long the war would last. I arrived on the 7th day of a six-day war, so the remainder of my summer was to enjoy the euphoric spirit of the country.
Meir was only a teenager that summer and became my good buddy. With his older college-student cousin coming from the States, he and I hung out a lot. With his perfect English and my negligible Hebrew, he was much more than my interpreter. He taught me Israel and all the hope for him, his family and friends that the successful war would bring. He was a great guy and brilliant.
Meir entered the Armored Division and served in a Tank when he became of age. It was three years later that I came to visit my parents’ house to find a picture of Meir displayed on the mantle. Meir had been killed in a skirmish with his tank. It appeared in the papers as a brief battle with one or two soldiers falling. They call it the War of Attrition.
To this day, when I hear of an incident where one or two have fallen in Israel, I remember him. They are our brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces and cousins, sons and daughters. Our families reach across the globe. For each soldier who died defending our homeland, we all mourn. Israel is a place dear to every Jew and we all appreciate the men and women who stand up to protect what we hold dearest.
Meir’s name is listed on the wall at Latrun along with many others from the armored Division. All these many years later I miss him and only wonder what could have been. I, along with every Jew who loves Israel, mourn for all those who have fallen.