Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Yom HaZikaron 2017

I've told the story of my brother, Yehudah (Julian) Pakula, who fell on Yom Kippur 1973, at the Mezach, an outpost on the Suez, part of the 'impregnable' Bar Lev line of defense. He was a kibbutznik doing his reserve duty and he was one of the first casualties of the Yom Kippur War. Wrong place, wrong time, balls-up of a war. 
I just remembered another story. Because every time I visit Israel, there is another story; everyone knows everyone. 
My family - my husband's family actually- different surname- had donated money to build a small park in Chevron (Hebron). If you've ever been to Chevron you would know that there's not much joy there for the Jews who live there- almost without exception, for ideological reasons- and the kids don't have any green area to play in. 
So in 2012 the time came to 'unveil' the park. There was a wooden plaque set up, dedicating the park and thanking the donors. It is called Gan Dagan, named after a commanding officer of the garrison in Chevron, Dagan Vertman, who had fallen  in 2005 in Gaza. He was well-liked by the community, and was in fact related to Rabbi Danny Cohen, the Chabad rabbi of Chevron who was the main fundraiser, who basically noodged us to donate to this cause, among others. 
Anyway, my husband and I and my parents-in- law came, along with most of my husband's family. It was Channuka time, quite cool, but the night air was clear and pleasant, and the little park was pretty, and nicely lit. There was a table laid with piles of sufganiyot, Channuka donuts. There was a menorah lighting. 
Dagan's parents, Eli and Debbie Vertman, were in attendance. Eli spoke of his son, and it was very moving. My mother-in-law was asked to speak, and she made a short speech in which she mentioned how sad it was that Dagan had died, and gave condolences, and I can't recall what else she said. 
Eli became quite agitated and quietly but firmly corrected my MIL, saying the Dagan didn't 'die'; he was killed, and there is a difference. 
I was at the donut table, I regret to say, and didn't know what was taking place a few meters away; but my husband was talking to Eli, and calming him. He apologized, told him that we meant no offense, we were no strangers to bereavement; his father was a Holocaust survivor.  'In fact', he said,'my wife lost her brother in the Yom Kippur War.'
At that, Eli raised his head and said, 'Point her out to me.'
My husband beckoned me over and introduced me. 
Eli looked at me hard; then he called his wife Debbie over, and said:
'Hinei haachot shel Yehuda Pakula.'
'This is the sister of Yehuda Pakula.'
Just like that. I nearly fainted. 
Turns out that Debbie had been in the same Garin -group of young kibbutzniks, sent out to start new kibbutzim- as my brother. She befriended Yehudah. And he was Australian. And we are from Australia. And how many Australians were killed in the Yom Kippur War? One. My brother. 
I still get goosebumps when I think of that encounter. And there have been others, similar. 
We are all one family. We are all limbs of the one body. What happens to one of us, happens to all of us. 
May the memory of the fallen be blessed. 
Yehi zichram baruch.  
Am Yisrael Chai.