yonatan nataniel 248.88.
(photo credit: IDF)
They buried Yonatan on Tuesday. He was only 27 years old and married for just over a year. Just a couple of months ago, when I was at his house on Shabbat, I watched as he covered his firstborn baby with her blanket as she lay in her cradle.
I hadn't listened to the news all day. As I drive home at 11 p.m., I turn on the radio. The announcer reads out the names of soldiers who had died the day before in Gaza. At moments like these I always say a little prayer that I won't recognize any of the names - that it won't be my problem, that it will be someone anonymous far away so I can get on with my life and forget the pain of the others. The first three names were blanks, but the fourth name, the fourth name - Netanel - rings a bell. Isn't that the last name of my neighbor? Don't they have a son who is a high-ranking officer in an elite unit?
I pray it's just a coincidence, but to be safe I drive by the street where they live. If it is him, they would have notices on the street. And as I slowly drive by I look at the houses as they pass, but I see nothing - no notices here, nor here, nor here, and I am already at the end of the street. And then I see it, all over the Jerusalem stone wall, mourning announcements, and the unthinkable has happened - Yonatan is gone.
THE FAMILY is gathered at the next door neighbor's house, standing around their plasma screen rewinding the video to find the story about Yonatan on the news. I expect to find everyone in tears, but while the atmosphere is subdued, no one is crying. Instead, they seem to exude a different feeling entirely - strength. A family like this cannot be understood in conventional terms. A family where faith is not a belief, but the very reality in which they live, guiding their every movement.
The eyes of Yonatan's mother, Malchi, are bloodshot, but she too is not crying. And his young wife, holding their infant baby, turns and looks at me. I can't say anything, so I just look away. Yonatan studied at the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva High School, the same school targeted by terrorists a year ago - when eight young boys were murdered. Since the terrorists have discovered the place from which the Jewish people derive their strength, they seek to destroy it, not realizing that our true strength lies in the unbeatable souls of those who learn there.
The number of secret missions Yonatan went on we will never know. He took them in stride, knowing full well he was putting himself in harm's way and doing it anyway. I only saw him on a few of the Shabbats he was on leave, and even then he never talked about what he did. What a simple, simple soul. And so fragile. So fragile are those who wear their hearts on their sleeves. Who are we, the living, if those who die are so much better? What are we doing here on this planet when all the good ones are in heaven?
AFTER WATCHING the rosh yeshiva of the high school being interviewed about their son, the Netanels go into their house. I am left standing outside alone with Yonatan's father, Rabbi Amos, and what am I going to say? Anything I can think of is just going to demean the worth of their beautiful child. But thank God the tears come and I break down and he holds me. So instead of me comforting him, he comforts me.
"God does not give us trials we cannot withstand. The ways of the Redemption are hidden from us, but it's still the Redemption."
Some call them simpletons, but those who know them can only thank God that people like these exist in our world.
Why should such a good, humble family pay the ultimate sacrifice, while our corrupt leaders send our boys to die putting out the fire they themselves created by surrendering Gaza to the terrorists? But just as the prime minister and his cronies do not ask what right they have to steal and lie, the Netanels do not ask what obligation requires them to sacrifice their dearest to fix that which has been broken by others.
WHILE I am bitter, the Netanels are not. They ask only one thing. Where can they help? Where can they give to others? This is their reward - knowing they have helped the Jewish people. They know this world is but a test, and that the end of those who celebrate death is death and those who celebrate life - life. God grant us that we realize our nation is not a gift, that it exists through the price of the blood of our children.
What is a hero? Just an ordinary person who does the right thing. When you see a person like this up close, when you see how normal they are, how they are just like us, you can't help but be surprised. Ordinary people who have chosen the path of courage.
They buried Yonatan on Tuesday. God grant us we should be worthy of his sacrifice.
The writer is a marketing writer living in Jerusalem. Donations in Yonatan's memory can be sent to the pre-military yeshiva academy in Eli.