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August 3, 2015 / 18 Av, 5775
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Eighteen…

One of the mass graves at Chelmno.

One of the mass graves at Chelmno.

And they want Davidi to come with the names of relatives who died in the Holocaust…it’s such a long list. It will break his heart to read them – name after name after name. He would have to say the names of both his brothers…because they carry the names of uncles who died in the Holocaust. He’ll have to say the names of his aunts and uncles as well.

I’ll have to make him a list…so many names to include and I have to find the strength to tell him about each one…what little I know, so that they won’t only be names.

Binyamin Elimelech – Elie carries his name…he was newly married with the Germans came to their village just after the Passover holiday and took him away. He and his young wife never returned. An uncle he would never know was lost to my husband. And now, Elie’s daughter carries the name Gavriella – who was Binyamin Elimelech’s sister – she was murdered in Auschwitz by the Nazis – an aunt my husband would never have a chance to meet. She was only 12 years old when they killed her.

And my great grandmother, Raizel…my sister carries her name. She sent her son, my grandfather,  to America so that he wouldn’t end up in the Polish army…and saved him from the German army as well.

And Shmuel…who fell in the forest and told his cousin to go on without him…my Shmulik carries his name.

And Shaye, my husband’s grandfather, who sold shoes and kept a Gemara, part of the Talmud, under the counter so that when there were no customers, he could take out the book and learn.The Germans murdered Shaye…and today, there is one in Canada, several in Israel and in New York including Davidi’s uncle, my husband’s brother. And on and on it goes…so many names.

Eighteen is such a strange age. He’s so tall, my Davidi, so beautiful. He has the most amazing blue eyes – like Elie. He is the tallest of my boys. I know that what he will see in Poland will cripple him, change him, and ultimately make him stronger. “You won’t recognize your son,” said the principal of his school as he explained more about the upcoming trip.

It’s right that he goes to Poland because when he returns, he will know the great secret of Israel – we have fought for our survival across battlefields and ghettos. We rose from the gas chambers; walked across deserts to get here. Here in the land no one will take us from; here in the place God intended us to be.

To fight for Israel is to understand our history and our destiny. Our connection to this land, our right to be here, didn’t start with the Holocaust – that is just one of many absurd claims that the Palestinians make. But the need to be here and nowhere else crystallized post-Holocaust. If they can do that there…than we cannot live there…and there can be defined as all of Europe, the Arab lands where the Jews were driven out in 1948 and the early 1950s. And it can include America too.

The army is a journey, a life-altering experience. But Davidi is about to embark on another journey. Compared to Poland, the army is, in many ways, easy. It makes sense; it is tangible, and for a young man, it is physical as much, if not more, than emotional. Poland is all emotion – there is no one left to save; no one to bring home. No matter how strong you are, the past cannot be changed. You can’t run faster, fight harder. For all the times Israelis have flown around the world to save others, we couldn’t save our own. That is the ultimate truth of the Holocaust.

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