web analytics
May 25, 2015 / 7 Sivan, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


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.

Current Top Story
Future guard? Arab child with Hamas headband aims toy rifle on the Temple Mount after prayers in the Al Aqsa mosque.
Hamas Declares Jerusalem ‘Eternal Capital’ of Islamic World
Latest Indepth Stories
israeli-american flags

Pentecost, derived from the Greek word for 50, is celebrated 50 days after Easter.

Israeli-flag

U.S and European demands for the creation of a Palestinian State in the West Bank is world hypocrisy.

Harris-052215

We take a whole person approach, giving our people assistance with whatever they need.

Shalev and Rabbi Levinger

During my spiritual journey I discovered G-d spoke to man only once, to the Jewish people at Sinai

20 years after the great Ethiopian aliyah, we must treat them like everyone else; no better or worse

Connecting Bamidbar&Shavuot is simple-A world without Torah is midbar; with Torah a blessed paradise

Many Black protesters compared Baltimore’s unrest to the Palestinian penchant of terrorism & rioting

She credited success to “mini” decisions-Small choices building on each other leading to big changes

Shavuot 1915, 200000 Jews were expelled; amongst the largest single expulsions since Roman times

Realizing there was no US military threat, Iran resumed, expanded & accelerated its nuclear program

“Enlightened Jews” who refuse to show chareidim the tolerance they insist we give to Arabs sicken me

Somewhat surprisingly, the Vatican’s unwelcome gesture was diametrically at odds with what President Obama signaled in an interview with the news outlet Al Arabiya.

The recent solid victory of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party produced something very different.

The reaction is so strong that nine times out of ten, parents engage in some form of coping mechanism before arriving at a level of acceptance of a special-needs diagnosis.

“…his neshamah reached out to us to have the zechus of Torah learning to take with him on his final journey.”

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: