Appreciation: A hero falling to heaven

Efrat's community came to a stop on Friday after Yosef Goodman's funeral.

yosef goodman 88.298 (photo credit: )
yosef goodman 88.298
(photo credit: )
Perhaps I met Yosef Goodman once or twice, I'm not sure. Maybe he served me and my children at the pizza shop his parents own, which is every bit a family business. People who knew Yosef describe him as an enormously kind young man - athletic, a leader, with a golden heart. He was proud of serving in one of Israel's most elite paratroop units. Yosef died earlier this month in a training accident. His parachute became entwined with another's; he cut the ropes, but the emergency parachute did not open. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Yosef's parents are pillars of the community. They were among the first residents in Efrat and opened a thriving business. Last year, our six-year-old sons were in kindergarten together. We got to know Ann Goodman during drop-off and pick-up times and occasional play dates. She always seemed interested in how we were adjusting as new immigrants, offering the advice and experience of a veteran. I can only imagine the pride of having a son serve in one of the IDF's elite units. At the funeral a friend described Yosef's induction as his proudest day. This is something not to be taken for granted these days, when internal conflicts have led some away from serving in these units. At the funeral I looked at my sons and thought how proud I'd be if they served in such a unit. I hope they will grow up with the pride of being an Israeli, and aspire to serve their country. Yet I hesitated for a moment, knowing that just as I might be privileged to share the pride Yosef's parents felt in his IDF service, there was always the possibility that one day I could share the sorrow they now feel. And as that pride is unparalleled, so must the grief seem many times greater. After the funeral we wondered aloud if this is what we raise our children for, to risk their lives by serving in the army. But we made aliya and raise our children here so they might love and build this land. Serving in the army is just one of the many sacrifices we make in order to have that privilege. FRIDAY IS a day off in most of the country. In Efrat, as elsewhere, people run around getting ready for Shabbat. But the feeling on the Friday after the funeral was that our community had come to a stop. Thousands attended the services and accompanied Yosef's body for burial at Jerusalem's Mt. Herzl military cemetery. Another friend commented that though the sorrow was profound, we come together as a community like this both in grief and in times of joy, and that this underscores the special nature of being in Israel. We mourn our losses as a family, and celebrate together. A loss like this, at this young age and in such an accident, pains all of Israel. News reports mentioned that it was the first death in a military training accident in 2006. But for Israelis, even the millions who never knew Yosef or do not live in his community, the loss is very personal. As our children woke up to the news of Yosef's death and our going to the funeral, I reminded my seven-year-old that his friend from school lost his brother last year. I didn't need to say anything more. Later that morning he said to my wife, "Don't worry Ima, I won't jump out of airplanes." Perhaps. Though the pride in having a son who would aspire to be in such a unit would be extraordinary. Every parent who sends a son off to an elite combat unit and feels the pride that the Goodmans did with Yosef must also feel concern. It may not be articulated, but the fear of being in the Goodmans' place is always just below the surface. May the family be comforted by the love of their community, and by the awareness that Yosef died as a hero and inspired others in his short life. May they know no more sorrow and celebrate many happy occasions as a family - and together with the extended Jewish family. The writer is a non-profit PR, management and fund-raising consultant who made aliya in 2004 from Teaneck, New Jersey.