Every year at this time, as people are getting their costumes ready for Purim, I remember a time 24 years ago, when I had no Purim. I remember when time stopped and emotions reached a place I did not know existed. I remember a time when I buried my friend, Yehoshua Friedberg Hy”d Zt”l. He was brutally murdered by Islamic terrorists.
I feel a great responsibility writing this as I share my feelings and try to describe the pain of friends and family who remember and live the pain every single day. Are there any words that can possibly describe who Yehoshua was? Are there any words that can possibly describe the pain his family feels 24 years later? Will people understand? Are my words enough to honor him? Let’s just say, it never gets easier!
Please take the time to read this and may we honor his memory; Yehoshua Friedberg Hy”d Zt”l.
24 years ago today, an IDF platoon mate, a friend and a future leader of the Jewish nation was taken from us (maybe stolen is a better word). For some reason, by the decree of God (not that that makes it easier or understandable) and by the murderous and violent claws of our enemies a young man who was engaged to be married and would have certainly made a difference in this world, had his life cut short and was brutally murdered by Islamic terrorists. There was no Purim celebration that year…
Yehoshua Friedberg was born in Montreal and did just about everything right in his life. Besides being a basketball legend, he excelled scholastically and was a proud and observant Jew who always left an impression on anyone he spoke to.
Yehoshua was a born leader. A quiet and peaceful, but tremendously strong willed and warrior for justice and Israel.
Yehoshua had every reason to stay put in Montreal, but Yehoshua was not one to run away from responsibility and what was simply, the right thing to do.
In 1991, when Jews were running away from Israel due to the missiles Sadam Hussein was firing on Israel, THAT is when Yehoshua made Aliyah and connected his fate with Israel.
Yehoshua was interviewed on Israeli TV and the host asked him why he made Aliyah. Yehoshua stared back at the host with a look that said, “I don’t even understand your question”. The host then changed the question and asked, ‘why would you make Aliyah when Israel is being bombarded with missiles?’. Yehoshua did not change his expression of not understanding the question and without missing a beat said, ‘when your house is burning, you don’t run away, you run towards your home and help save it.’
This is who Yehoshua was.
So we were drafted together in 1992 and while Yehoshua was the modest and quiet type he was known as one of the best soldiers in our team.
Their was no job too big and no weight he would not carry. It was exactly due to his strong and modest traits that he was chosen to be sent to IDF officer training.
No matter how many times we, his friends tried to convince him not to go, Yehoshua would not hear of it. We tried to tell him that he did his duty and contributed enough. He was 24 when he drafted and engaged! Some tried to tell him that he does not have to go to officers course and suggested he get married and start his life. Yehoshua put on that “I on’t get the question” expression again and could not fathom the idea of not becoming an officer in the IDF.
So, Yehoshua left the base and that was the last time we saw him….alive. Several days went by and the officer walked into our tent to inquire if we knew where Yehoshua was. We thought he was on his way to take tests for officers school….wasn’t he?
Never in our worse nightmares could we possibly have imagined the events that transpired in the following days. After telling us that there is a serious suspicion that Yehoshua was kidnapped, we all went out on search parties. As we arrived in Jerusalem, we found tens of thousands of people who were joining our efforts and our hopes were high but out fears were stronger. We searched for three days in the pouring rain. We walked through mud, we crawled through thorn bushes and we were soaked to the bone, but nothing seemed to faze us…..we were looking for Yehoshua and we fooled ourselves that we would find him and everything would be ok….it wasn’t! It wasn’t even close to ok!
The search for Yehoshua went on for almost a week and then in the middle of the day, we heard our medic scream that he had found him. We ran over expecting him to be alive. Maybe dehydrated and weak but alive. We could almost imagine the funny lines we would say to him, “If you wanted a vacation, you could of just asked for one” or “there are better ways to get some time off” It would have been such a good laugh and a story that we would be able to tell our children with laughter when we have reunions.
There was no laughter, there were no funny jokes. We found our friend, our platoon mate, our Yehoshua…but he was lifeless.
He was murdered by terrorists and thrown off the side of the road like a… WHY? So many questions…so much shock, so much anger, so much sadness…where do we go from now?
The funeral is a big blur for me as I am sure it was for the rest of Yehoshua’s friends and certainly for his family.
We met Yehoshua’s parents and family and instantly we became their new sons. We can never fit into Yehoshua’s shoes, but who can? Tens of thousands of people lined the streets of Jerusalem as we laid our Yehoshua to rest…
BUT IT’S NOT TIME FOR HIM TO REST DAMMIT!
People from all walks of life were there and they came to pay respect to our Yehoshua.
HE SHIED AWAY FROM THIS KIND OF ATTENTION!
HOW ABOUT WE SKIP THE ATTENTION AND BRING HIM BACK TO LIFE! WHY? WHY? WHY?
Our anger and our sadness would not change reality.
Yehoshua was gone…forever…we will continue to remember…
May his memory be a beacon of light for all of us and may his legacy continue to teach thousands the importance of who we are, where we are and what we are doing here.