Photo Credit: Ari Fuld
Yehoshua Friedberg z"l

Every year it comes back again and I want everyone to feel and know who Yehoshua Friedberg was.

When the siren screams across Israel on Yom Hazikaron (Israel IDF memorial day), many people are left confused what should be done during the two minutes of silence. People stand as the awkward silence reenacts the deep hole those who are no longer with us left in our hearts. Should we stand and think of one soldier? Should we think of all the soldiers? Should we focus on the number 23,544?

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For others, the siren is like a knife that cuts open a wound that never really healed and will never heal. There is no question as to what should be done during the siren, we are too focused on the flashbacks. The funeral, the state of disbelief, the hope that he isn’t dead, the disappointment, the shock! The what now feeling…

You re-live the second the commander walked into your tent to tell you that your friend, your platoon mate, the guy who volunteered to become an IDF soldier at the age of 24, the guy who just got engaged and is planning on getting married when he finishes his service is missing. They tell you they found his teffilin on the side of the road and because you are too naive not to understand what they are saying, they tell you, Yehoshua has been kidnapped!

You re-live the pouring rain and the 3 days your unit and tens of thousand others searched in knee high mud for him. You re-live that hopeful felling that you will find him, alive and well and taking a break from the drilling IDF regimen and then you re-live the worst disappointment of your life. You re-live that horrific nightmare of finding your friend facedown in the mud, lifeless and treated like an animal. You re-live jumping on him and trying to revive someone who has been dead for days in the belief that somehow, some way…he can be saved. You re-live the gently lifting of his body on to the truck while calling out and hoping he will wake up. You re-live the disbelief…it can’t be! HOW COULD THIS HAPPEN!!

Why? What does God want?! You re-live over and over the sight of your friend lifeless…..peaceful yet …violated.

The anger…at everyone and everything. The anger at the IDF for not searching for him for 5 days because of some IDF policy that suspected he went AWOL even though he volunteered for the IDF and was volunteering for officer’s course. You don’t have to re-live the tears because they stream down now like they did 24 years ago.

The funeral…you don’t re-live the funeral because it is a blur. You remember not willing to lower the coffin believing that if you don’t bury him, he is still alive. You certainly remember the tens of thousands of people lining the streets of Jerusalem to pay their last respects.

HE WOULD HAVE NEVER ASKED FOR SUCH HONOR, BUT HE CERTAINLY DESERVED IT!

You remember the fact that your friend volunteered at other funerals of fallen soldiers and like a cursed prophecy he wrote in his diary that he does not want gun fire at his funeral. You re-live the point when you first met his family…crushed, destroyed, thrown into a downward never ending spiral of pain and sadness. You remember breaking down but not sure if it is because of your own loss of a friend and a platoon mate or the sight of a family who was just struck with their own personal holocaust.

You remember recalling how the year before you were at Har Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem as a tourist and now you stand there in uniform, burying your own. Last year you felt sad for “them” and this year I am destroyed because I understand there is no them…there is only us! This was my brother and they all are! They are your brothers and sisters as well!

My friend was one of the 23,544 heroes who fell while protecting and defending this country. His name was Yehoshua Friedberg Hy”d Z”l. Yehoshua volunteered for the IDF and was one of the best and strongest (internally as well as externally) soldiers in the unit. He never made excuses and the words “I can’t” simply did not exist in his vocabulary. He made Aliyah during the first Gulf war in 1991. While people were leaving Israel in hysteria, Yehoshua was flying the other way. When asked why he was coming to Israel when there is danger of war, he looked at the show host with an expression that said, “What in God’s name are you talking about” and without hesitating or missing a beat he answered, “This is my home! When your home is on fire you don’t run away, you stay and you put out the fire!” Yehoshua was not a number and neither are the others who have fallen while defending Israel. They were our brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers and children. Each one left a hole that is impossible to refill. Each one’s death left a cut deeper than the sharpest knife can cut. Each one should leave a scare in our memory. The scar is a painful one but like all scars it is there to remind us. Those who are no longer with us are the painful price. It is their families and friends who remember 24 hours a day 365 days a year. The pain for them never goes away and today it is multiplied. Friends and family members are shot back in time to the most horrible nightmare that they never woke up from. They are still living it every day.

The deeper the pain and the longer the tear streak marks on our cheeks, the more we will remember NEVER to take this country for granted. We should remember that those who died did not die because we went out to fight others, but rather because our enemies came to fight us with the goal of total destruction.
WE ARE NOT AT FAULT AND WE OWE THOSE WHO MURDERED THE 23,544 Yehoshuas, NOTHING!

Yehoshua’s murderers were all captured and eventually let out of jail to murder again…..does it make sense?

Yehoshua is gone forever but as long as his family, his unit mates, his friends and I am around and as long as there are students who are receiving scholarships in his name to study in Israel and as long as IDF support projects are run in his name, his legacy will live on forever.

Yehoshua, we don’t need a day to remember you, but twice a year, we will cry and tell the world about the man, the leader and the hero you were. With your death, you have given life to so many. Tomorrow, we stand silent for two minutes but in that silence we will here the voices of 23,544 heroes screaming from the ground…AM YISRAEL CHAI!
נצח ישראל לא ישקר. והעיקר לא לפחד כלל!

May Yehoshua’s memory along with the tens of thousands of others whose lives were taken be a shining light to the rest of us and may they all rest in peace and may God avenge their blood.

Memorial Page for Yehoshua Friedberg z”l

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