As one of the more than 17,000 viewers of Sandy Cash’s clever and compelling
“Egyptian Revolution Blues” on YouTube, I didn’t pay much attention to the
guitar, just how beautifully she played it. I was struck by the wittiness of the
lyrics and visuals, Cash’s opera-trained voice and Yale-developed acting talent.
In under three minutes, Cash voices our skepticism at the international
ebullience over Cairo’s demonstrations.
I learned that Cash lived in Beit
Shemesh. When Pessah took my family to nearby Moshav Yishi, Cash visited and, to
my surprise and delight, had a guitar slung over her shoulder. On the back porch
of the poultry farm turned magnificent Tuscan vacation villa, we enjoyed a
private sing-along, children on the grass, the honeysuckle- scented hills dotted
with pink and yellow flowers.
Then she played the one about her guitar:
First finger, second fret Listen to the sound you get
He loved me since the day we met I’m Gilad’s guitar He promised me when we were
young I’d be her gift to a cherished one Now you are here, his will be done I’m
Gilad’s guitar THE SONG, she explained, is an adaptation of American Jewish
songwriter Stuart Kabak’s “Mom’s Guitar,” written after the death of a musician
friend and honoring the passing of a guitar from generation to
Gilad Desheh, whose guitar Cash now owns, didn’t get the
chance to pass it on. He died in the Yom Kippur War.
Desheh was Cash’s
husband’s cousin. Their son is named for him.
Desheh began playing guitar
and piano at the age of six in Manhattan. He could play anything he heard
Just after his bar mitzva in 1965, he moved with his mother, Sue
Desheh, and a Steinway piano from a second- hand shop to Jerusalem. He studied
classical piano with teachers his mother found by recommendation.
his friends at the Rehavia Gymnasia High School and in the Scouts, Desheh played
Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, and Arik Einstein on his guitar. On a rare trip to
the US, he and his mother chipped in together on the purchase of a second
guitar, a prized Gibson.
Desheh was sociable and popular, with a wry
sense of humor, fierce loyalty to his friends and prodigious
Over the years in Israel, he kept up correspondence with
Henry, the American best friend he’d left behind. Just before he turned 18,
Desheh wrote: “... I frankly try to avoid philosophizing and thinking whenever
possible, because it brings me nearer to a bitter reality – one of death and
total uncertainty not only about the type of future ahead, but uncertainty about
the existence of a future. (Try to avoid the phrase ‘...Makes me think I may
never see you again’ – it only has one meaning here.) As we grow older the
funerals we attend are of people we knew closely – a scoutmaster, an older
friend, and the age difference is only two or three years, sometimes less.
Rationalizing with possible and maybe even imminent death, of self, and even
worse, of close friends, is hard and as I previously said I try to avoid
The amount of sick jokes we tell is remarkable, and they get better
every day; playing chess on previous graduating class pictures, the black spaces
being people who were killed, or class reunions in the local graveyard, so that
everyone can be present, etc. etc. etc. Anyway, I’m not so morose all the time,
but I figure that if I’m telling about myself, I may as well tell it
“Don’t be so sorry about writing so much about Israel – I love this
damn place so much, that I even enjoy listening to people tell about how they
like it. How about coming here for a year or so?” AS HIS mother’s only son,
Desheh could be exempted from serving in an IDF combat unit. With his musical
talent, he could serve in the army’s entertainment corps.
But Desheh was
determined to go into combat like his friends, one a pilot, another a frogman,
the third in an elite infantry unit. To volunteer for a combat unit, he would
need his mother to sign a waiver.
“I pleaded with him that he was an only
son. He said that was my problem, not his,” she remembered. “He said, ‘This is
something I have to do now. If anything happens to one of them, I couldn’t live
with myself. I’d get to be 35 and maybe be a bad husband, or a bad father, or a
bad driver. I don’t want to have problems because I didn’t do what I had to
do.’” She couldn’t sleep. She sought advice. A neighbor’s words resonated with
what she’d already realized: “If you raise a child by certain values, and he
wants to live by them, what can you say?” Desheh was designated outstanding
graduate of his drill sergeant’s course, and after officer training, he was
offered a place training future officers. He preferred working with raw
recruits. Stationed on the Bar-Lev line in Sinai with his men in Company 10,
Armored Battalion 79, he brought his older guitar and played through long nights
in the bunkers.
On October 6, 1973, in a surprise attack on Yom Kippur,
100,000 Egyptian soldiers crossed the Suez Canal.
Four hundred and fifty
Israeli soldiers strove in vain to stop them. Sue Desheh heard about the attack
in New York, where she’d gone for a family wedding. She took the first plane
back. In those days, parents could send radio messages to their soldier
children. “Gilad, your Mom is back from the States” was broadcast on air. But
there was no word from him.
Six weeks after the war began, three figures
appeared at the school where she was teaching: a doctor, a social worker and a
“They told me to sit down,” she said. “I told them I
couldn’t sit when they wanted to tell me something about my son.”
missing, they said.
A week later, the same threesome was
“Again they told me to sit down. I told them I wouldn’t sit when
they told me my son was dead.”
Lt. Gilad Desheh of Company 10, Armored
Battalion 79, was killed on the first day of the war. He was 21.
anyone says that time heals, it isn’t so,” said Sue Desheh the week before
Remembrance Day. “I didn’t get over it. I got used to it. When you lose your
child, you are operating in a cloud. You go on. You continue, because what did
he die for, but to let us live?” SUE DESHEH helped establish a music center for
soldiers in Beit Halohem in Afeka. The vintage Steinway is there.
gave Gilad’s guitar to his girlfriend, but she died young of leukemia and the
guitar came back. Desheh offered it to her nephew, for whom Gilad had been a
role model, but it was his wife Sandy who would cherish it.
wrote “Mom’s Guitar,” says he’s honored that “Gilad’s Guitar” has evolved from
it. He’s hoping to meet Gilad’s mom one day soon.
At this year’s annual
gathering of family, friends and fighters of Company 10, Armored Battalion 79,
Sandy Cash from Detroit and Beit Shemesh will be singing “Gilad’s
First finger, second string Leave the buzz out, make me ring I
know you have a song to sing I’m Gilad’s guitar And never mind the flaws they
made They come with all the dues he paid I sound better the more I’m played And
I hope someday before we’re gone You’ll have a child and pass me on You can
introduce me saying: This was Gilad’s guitar First finger, second fret Listen to
the sound you get I loved him since the day we met I’m Gilad’s guitar In your
hands now Oh, I’m Gilad’s guitar Make us proud.The author is a Jerusalem
writer who focuses on the wondrous stories of modern Israel. She serves as the
Israel Director of Public Relations for Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist
Organization of America. The views in her columns are her own.