Today, the eve of Remembrance Day, I mourn my son. Yesterday, I mourned my son. My guess is that tomorrow – unless the Messiah comes and Ari comes running back into my arms – I will still be mourning my son.
As the world changes around us at such an alarming pace, with events that constantly change the way we think, the way we play and travel, and the way we live our daily lives, Remembrance Day and Independence Day remain a constant.
We will always have these days when we become One People, to mourn together and then (attempt to) celebrate together. But as I stare at the miniature Israeli flags atop every young person’s grave, watching the crowds of people gather at the military cemetery to honor the fallen and their families, as I hear the rifle shots blast forth from the honor guard, sending shivers through every fiber of my being, I’ll be ticked off.
I can’t help it.
Our world is rapidly becoming one huge war zone. Villages and towns, states, countries and continents are slowly being infested by a demonic cancer that is spreading completely out of control. We live in a world where not only are barbaric beheadings of innocents taking place again and again, but being brazenly and arrogantly filmed for the whole world to see.
Mass kidnappings have become commonplace, with barely a “tsk” in reaction. Murder is becoming the new fad, in schoolyards, museums and supermarkets. And, as always, Jews and Israel play a central role in the drama.
As the Islamization of Europe accelerates at a staggering pace, we try ever so hard to view each and every anti-Semitic crime not as a directed assault against us, but as an “isolated incident,” not necessarily supported by either the local government or its citizens.
Each time there is a terrorist attack, we are grief-stricken as Jewish victims are brought to their final resting place – usually here in Israel. We commiserate with their families and we provide whatever help we can, including government security and financial assistance, welcoming them with a love and hospitality that only family can bring.
And then, the “unthinkable” happens: our prime minister has the gall to tell that country’s Jews to pack up and come home. While tragic events such as these dot our history in the Diaspora, now, for the first time in centuries, we have a permanent address. And so our elected leader shouts to all who will listen: “You out there – you have a home with us here in Israel! Come now – before you are carried here in a box.”
I am completely flabbergasted and appalled at the adverse reaction of our Jewish leaders and brethren around the world, who are outraged and insulted by such an “outlandish” notion. First of all, as prime minister of the only Jewish homeland on earth, calling Jews home is part of his job; I pay my taxes precisely so that he’ll do just that.
But what is truly a theater of the absurd is when our own leaders here in Israel “pooh-pooh” the prime minister and do not themselves encourage our brothers and sisters to come home. Home to a land where it is we who shape our own destiny, rather than depending upon the good graces of host nations – whose policies can change in an instant.
As all this international turmoil swirls around us, making headlines on all the three-letter news stations, Israel continues. We rally together and fight the whole world to simply be able to build homes for our children, so they might raise their families and live their lives. The UN Security Council may condemn us, the world press may castigate us for our “sins,” but we move forward. Our kindergartens are overflowing, our technology is changing the world, our economy is booming. Yes, the army does take each one of our precious flowers and turn them into motivated, disciplined and trained soldiers, ready to defend our borders and our lives anywhere, anytime – but this is a price we are prepared to pay.
I cannot help but be frustrated by the fact that we must tread very gingerly among Diaspora Jewry. We must be careful not to encourage them to come to Israel, for they consider themselves part of their host nations, who include them willingly in all walks of life, as indicated by the French president’s chic remark, “France would not be France if the Jews left.” Aw, how sweet. Their lives are good; for some, very good. Until it’s not so good. And then, planeloads of Jews, who will be lucky if they can leave with all – or any – of their possessions, will finally, finally have to come home. To the home that we’ve been building, cultivating, protecting and sacrificing our sons for during all these years.
We’re doing what needs to be done here, so that they will have a place to put down their luggage and proclaim, “Thank God, I’m finally home.”
We’re “keeping the light on for ya” with our very lives, and those of our children, until they finally succumb and join those of us who came to fulfill the dream of centuries because we wanted to, not because we had to.
And, as long-lost cousins returning home, you will be welcomed with fanfare, love, a new start in life – and a whole new set of problems.
For 13 years, I have come to the military cemetery in Ra’anana and stood by Ari’s grave. It is not the last grave in his row; other soldiers, sadly, have become his neighbors. Israel, certainly, is no walk in the park.
We exist by the grace of God, a stubborn people with a truckload of challenges, quick tempers and serious issues. But it’s still my park, and no one is going to take it away from me.
And if anyone tries, I have a whole army full of beautiful young men and women who are willing to lay down their lives to say, “Oh no you don’t!” Like mine did.
The writer’s son, Staff Sgt. Ari Weiss, fell in battle in a raid on Hamas’s headquarters in Nablus in September 2002.