In Israel, a tiny country where everyone knows everyone, almost every person you encounter knows someone who perished in a terrorist attack.
I’m grateful that I’m not part of that statistic and I hope I never will be.
But on Tuesday, on the way to a wedding of a colleague, I was notified that the IDF had located and identified David Gordon, my cousin, who was missing for the past 48 hours.
My family opened its home and hearts to David – a lone soldier whose bravery and love of Israel brought him from Detroit, Michigan, to Jerusalem.
“I just want to do something. I want to be useful. I want to be strong,” I recall him telling me when I asked him why he wanted not only to enlist, but to be part of the Givati Brigade’s elite Shaked Battalion. The chances of going into battle are high, I warned him.
He was undeterred.
By all accounts, his commanding officer had only high praise for David’s conduct as a soldier.
The IDF seemed to offer a panacea of sorts for him, a place where he could channel his kinetic energy, zest for life and infinite curiosity.
When David entered my parents’ home, he seemed calm and confident. Just this past weekend, he visited my family and seemed rattled by what he saw in Gaza, but stable.
He spoke of a harrowing incident where a split-second decision he made could have cost the life of a reservist. Luckily, David was the kind of soldier able to think outside of the box, follow his gut and not blindly follow orders.
Thanks to him, that reservist’s life is spared.
While at our home, he watched movies. He slept. He ate like a horse. When we asked him what he wanted to eat, we offered sushi or steak.
He said, “Both?” But we never know what inner demons are within others, what he carried with him from Gaza, or even what kind of unspeakable violence he stoically witnessed.
The IDF is investigating what exactly happened to David. But for now, while I mourn, I think it’s best to focus on everything this talented young man had to offer and what we’ve lost now that he’s no longer with us.
“It is not wise to think too much about the unknown,” David wrote in his blog, Sparks of David. So, with that in mind, I will spend my energy remembering David the aspiring writer, David the music lover, David the fearless warrior, David the friend.
“Unbelievably overwhelmed, not from this mission [in Gaza] but from the support and messages of encouragement from family, friends and strangers. I am OK and I’ve never felt more loved,” he wrote a month before his death.
I am glad David was able to recognize the love his family, friends and fellow soldiers had for him and I hope he is at peace.
David will be buried on Thursday at the Mount Herzl Cemetery, in the military section.