I don’t remember the first time I met Moshe. I assume it was when I was 10. It was 2007 and our first year in Israel. We, as a family, met him thanks to my father who was flying to North America quite regularly. My dad connected with Moshe randomly one day and asked Moshe to be his regular cab driver on his many trips back and forth to Ben-Gurion Airport.
Naturally, Moshe became our driver, too. When my sisters were young and my parents were worried about sending them somewhere with a random cabbie, Moshe was there. When my parents were stuck and couldn’t take my brother and me to baseball practice, Moshe was there.
I most vividly remember when the whole family would fly abroad. There we were, six of us with a countless number of bags and there was Moshe. Sometimes, he arranged for a second cab. Sometimes, he arranged for a van driver but came to our house anyway to instruct the new guy to take special care of us because we were mishelo (one of his).
As we grew older, each of us developed our own special connection with Moshe. As an oleh, I didn’t have any relatives who connected us to the “real Israel,” the classic Israel now wrapped in nostalgia: the Israel of wars, army hijinks, time in Lebanon, serving in the reserves, etc. I always enjoyed entering his cab and entering his world, just listening to all his stories.
Our connection ran deeper than his colorful tales. Moshe truly loved us. As strange as that sounds, he loved us. When we bought a trampoline, he was the one who warned us, “Dir Balak – don’t you dare fool around and God forbid get injured.” He cared about us. Deeply.
Part of the family
While Moshe may have been my father’s driver and then a friend, for me, Moshe was an uncle and part of the family. He was that colorful relative whom you love, you are happy to see and to get an update about whatever is going on at the moment. I remember his pride the first time he saw me in uniform. Here I was, the shrimpy Ashkenazi kid from Canada, growning up into a soldier.
Attending his funeral, last month, made me sad. A dear man passed on after suffering too much at the end. Standing there by his grave made me realize just how much we all lost that day. Even more than a driver, Moshe was a symbol for me. He was the ultimate Israeli, the tough guy with the soft heart, the Golanchik who fought in the 1967 Six Day War, in the 1973 Yom Kippur War and in the 1982 Lebanon War, nobly defending our state. And now, in the blink of an eye, he was gone and that heroic saga has ended.
As far as I know, Moshe never got any medals or military commendations. He never had any fancy ceremonies honoring him and his service. But that was the beauty of him. He never expected honors and never sought glory no matter how much he deserved it. That he was expected to be an active participant in making us survive and thrive in Israel was obvious to him. It’s mind-blowing to think about this unsung hero so deserving of praise, who sacrificed so much yet never asked for anything. He just put one foot in front of the other, day by day. He took care of his family, modestly and honorably.
Standing by his grave made me think about all the Israelis like Moshe. We’ll never hear about them or read about them in papers even though their lives were so important to us. Beyond my personal loss of missing Moshe, with the passage of time, we are losing this special generation, one death at a time.
To my great regret, I didn’t have a chance to thank Moshe personally before his death so I wish to make up for that publicly now.
Thank you Moshe. Thanks for the love and the loyalty, for the pride and the patriotism. Thank you for serving our young state whenever you were called upon and thanks to you and so many others like you, I can live in this democratic Jewish state of Israel in quiet and comfort, enjoying this amazing state that your generation did indeed pass on to us on a silver platter.
The writer is an education student at Herzog College. He works with youth at risk and is a frequent contributor to the LA Jewish Journal’s “Table for 5,” weekly Torah portion feature.