I created a new file today for the file cabinet. It says “Army Stuff” on it. And as I filed it away, with the first of my first son’s army papers in it, I just couldn’t believe that we had come to this stage.
Tonight, I stood in the Neve Daniel hall with hundreds of my community members and watched the Yom HaShoa (Holocaust Memorial Day) ceremony.
I couldn’t help but marvel, with the typical tears meeting beneath my chin to drop and pool on my sweater, at the juxtaposition.
Today, this son who will be the first of my many to enter the army, stood in as a substitute basketball coach for his younger brothers. They played and laughed on the court in Neve Daniel, in the mountains of Judea, here in Israel.
Tonight, I watched as the kids putting on the event came on stage dressed in clothes from the 1940s, with stars ablaze on their garments. They posed, as if they were part of a picture from long ago; and it hit me that the six million people that we think about in a massive, unimaginable number, were each someone’s friends. They were Arbel and Stav, Yehuda and Amichai. The faces of the faceless, nameless 6 million became real to me as I saw them on stage. And of course we all know that they were real people, but they are so hard to conceptualize and to fathom. Here, standing in front of me, were 8 teenagers who I know and love – and I could suddenly visualize the horror, the terror and the reality.
Today, my children burst in the door, making arrangements to gather wood to get ready for Lag B’Omer.
Tonight, I listened as one of our yishuv members recreated the last Seder in the Warsaw Ghetto. He sang a piercing melody of longing, of fear and of hope at their dining room table, sitting across from his eight year old who wondered who would sing “Ma Nishtana” next year, and who would remember.
Today, my children sat at the dining room table doing their math homework and their science homework in Hebrew; in the language in which they are most comfortable; the language of their people, their nation and their country. They sat at the dining room table where just last week my six year old belted out “Ma Nishtana” and my eight year old shared a Dvar Torah about our escape from Egypt.
Tonight, we stood for Kaddish, and then we sang Hatikva as the same teenagers who had been dressed as Holocaust victims changed into blue and white and waved the Israeli flag.
And I thought about that new file sitting in my file cabinet. I can’t bring back the six million who died; I can’t make up for the pain of those who lived and remembered and carried on.
But I can create this file.
And I can sign the papers that allow my son to try out for the units of his dreams, and to envision himself as part of the future.
That file is our future.
It’s a future where a Jewish child, wearing a green uniform and not a yellow star, will strap a gun over his shoulder and not a sack with his worldly belongings, and defend his people. In his Homeland.
We can’t bring them back. But we can use our minds to remember, and we can use our bodies firmly planted here in Israel, or supporting the country from wherever we may be, to declare Never Again.
We can watch our children, our confident, bold, Zionistic children take up the torch of our future with their files.
This post first appeared last night on the Times of Israel blog.