web analytics
October 24, 2014 / 30 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Meir Panim with Soldiers 5774 Roundup: Year of Relief and Service for Israel’s Needy

Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

From Chupa To Kever: A Soldier’s Journey


July 21 – Five Israeli soldiers were buried today. Among them was Benjy Hillman, 27, the son of one of my oldest friends. Benjy, z”l, was a commander in the elite Egoz unit, who was killed fighting Hizbullah terrorists in southern Lebanon last night.

Just three weeks ago, 600 of us celebrated as Benjy and his long-time girlfriend, Ayala Berger, finally got married after going together for many years. The pure joy of the two families, who’d become good friends over the long on-off courtship, was palpable. Ayala, accompanied by her happy parents and radiant in her beautiful wedding dress, walked down the path toward Benjy, who waited for her under the chupa with his trademark shy smile.

Today, in the military cemetery of his hometown of Raanana, Ayala walked toward Benjy again. This time, however, she was supported by Benjy’s younger brother Shimon and her father, her young face contorted in pain and grief. Instead of approaching the chupa as she did three short weeks ago, she drew close to the simple wood coffin draped with an Israeli flag that held the remains of her new husband.

Benjy and Ayala’s story is a story of the ingathering of the exiles. Ayala’s family emigrated from Argentina around the same time as the Hillmans made aliyah from England, when Benjy was four years old.

Benjy’s mother, Judy, and I were best friends from the time we met when we were 11 years old. We were part of a small group of girls who sat in Kingsbury shul together during the late 1960′s, giggling over the boys, or complaining about our old-fashioned parents. We went to the same youth movement events and parties, and shared the agonies of teenage dating. We spent countless sleepovers in each other’s homes, talking most of the night as we dreamed of our futures.

Even though we belonged to a religious Zionist youth movement, I honestly don’t remember if we ever seriously discussed living in Israel. Those decisions came later.

At Benjy’s wedding a few weeks ago, we huddled with Michelle, a third member of our Kingsbury group, and marveled at the fact that here we all were, almost 40 years later, with all of our kids (except for one of mine) in Israel, celebrating each other’s simchas. We danced like mad at the joy of our continuing connection. Today, just before the funeral, we all fell upon each other in grief, as we tried to assimilate the grim reality.

Thousands turned out to escort Benjy on his last journey. His coffin arrived at the cemetery in an olive green army vehicle. An honor guard of soldiers from his beloved Egoz brigade led the way to his grave as hundreds of his friends hugged each other and wiped their eyes.

The eulogies were exquisitely painful. Each one reflected on Benjy’s modest but strong character and his firm Zionist convictions. Judy winced as one of the rabbis read a paragraph of a letter Benjy had written four years ago to the parents of his friend, Ari Weiss, z”l, who was killed fighting terrorists. Benjy wrote that Ari had died as a hero and would always be remembered that way.

Benjy’s father, Danny, thanked Benjy for bringing so much honor to the family. Benjy’s best friend told Ayala and the Hillmans that he and his friends would make sure they would never be alone, and an Egoz commander told them that they would always be part of the Egoz family.

During the hour-long funeral service, the honor guard stood motionless at attention in the midday sun. Every ten minutes or so, their commander came up behind each one of them with a squeeze of the shoulder, a whispered word of concern, offering a bottle of water.

It took hours for the huge crowd to pass in front of Benjy’s grave and offer their condolences to Benjy’s family.

This Friday evening, please think of Benjy and Ayala when you sing the “bo-ee kallah” verse of the Lecha Dodi prayer that welcomes the Shabbat bride.

And keep in mind all our soldiers who are on the front lines of the fight against terror as they defend the people of Israel.

About the Author:


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “From Chupa To Kever: A Soldier’s Journey”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Do you know where your vegetables grow?
Not So Kosher Shemittah L’Mehadrin
Latest Indepth Stories
Eller-102414-Cart

I had to hire a babysitter so that I could go shopping or have someone come with me to push Caroline in her wheelchair.

Bills to restore the balance of power in Israel will be fought by the not-so-judicial left.

Widespread agreement in Israel opposing Palestinian diplomatic warfare, commonly called “lawfare.”

Chaye Zisel Braun

Arab terrorism against Jews and the State of Israel is not something we should be “calm” about.

Peace Now Chairman Yariv Oppenheimer

The Israeli left, led by tenured academics, endorses pretty much anything harmful to its own country

We were devastated: The exploitation of our father’s murder as a vehicle for political commentary.

Judea and Samaria (Yesha) have been governed by the IDF and not officially under Israeli sovereignty

While not all criticism of Israel stemmed from anti-Semitism, Podhoretz contends the level of animosity towards Israel rises exponentially the farther left one moved along the spectrum.

n past decades, Oman has struck a diplomatic balance between Saudi Arabia, the West, and Iran.

The Torah scroll which my family donated will ride aboard the USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier

The Jewish Press endorses the reelection of Gov. Andrew Cuomo. His record as governor these past four years offers eloquent testimony to the experience and vision he has to lead the Empire State for the next four years.

I think Seth Lipsky is amazing, but it just drives home the point that newspapers have a lot of moving parts.

Myth #1: It is easy to be a B’nai Noach. It is extraordinarily hard to be a B’nai Noach.

The question of anti-Semitism in Europe today is truly tied to the issue of immigration.

Polls indicate that the Palestinians are much more against a two state solution than the Israelis.

More Articles from Judy Lash Balint
A volunteer at last year's Meir Panim Purim celebration in Israel. 
(Credit: Meir Panim)

According to Maimonides, the great medieval Jewish scholar, “Gifts for the poor [matanot l’evyonim] deserve more attention than the seudah and mishloach manot because there is no greater, richer happiness than bringing joy to the hearts of needy people, orphans, widows and proselytes.”

Israelis have a reputation for being frank and direct – dugri, in local parlance. But when it comes to death and dying or dealing with chronic illness, many Israelis have as much trouble dealing with it as do people in any other part of the world.

July 21 – Five Israeli soldiers were buried today. Among them was Benjy Hillman, 27, the son of one of my oldest friends. Benjy, z”l, was a commander in the elite Egoz unit, who was killed fighting Hizbullah terrorists in southern Lebanon last night.

June 29: This afternoon, Eliyahu Pinchas Asheri – son, brother, grandson, yeshiva student, friend – was buried on the Mount of Olives, the oldest Jewish cemetery in the world.

The IDF noted: “It is important to keep in mind the danger posed by the illegal, irresponsible, and dangerous behavior of the ISM group that led to the tragic death and sad results.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/from-chupa-to-kever-a-soldiers-journey/2006/07/26/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: