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October 22, 2014 / 28 Tishri, 5775
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Not Home For The Holidays


What else could I do? This past summer, former Israeli chief rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu instructed Jews around the world to recite Psalm 102 for the release of captured Israeli soldiers Gilad Shalit, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev. So every day, rain or shine, tired or not, with time to spare or in a big rush, I read Psalm 102 without fail.

And then one day, week before last, I forgot. In the morning I couldn’t find my book of Psalms, and then my baby started crying for a rice cake, and then my neighbor rang the doorbell, and then 1,001 other things happened, and before I knew it, the soldiers’ Psalm was totally erased from my memory.

Later that afternoon, right before sunset, I attended a party for a friend getting married the following week. One woman had brought along “Divided Psalms,” the 150 chapters of the book of Psalms divided into small booklets of about five Psalms each.

When I opened the booklet I’d been handed, I found Psalm 102, my forgotten Psalm, staring right at me.

What are the chances of that happening? Was it just a coincidence? Possibly. But it shook me up. It was as though I could hear the soldiers screaming to me from the edge of the abyss, “Don’t forget about us! The Israeli army went to war to bring us home and returned home empty-handed. But don’t you forget about us! The moment you forget about us, we are lost.”

So, today I am sitting down to write about our soldiers captured this past summer. I am doing this so that I won’t forget, and so that you won’t forget either.

Ehud (Udi) Goldwasser 

“I was in the kitchen preparing Udi his favorite meal in honor of his return from reserve duty that night,” Karnit Goldwasser, wife of 31-year-old Ehud (Udi) Goldwasser told an audience last week. “And then I heard the news.”

The audience at Washington’s National Synagogue was hushed as this young woman with a quiet voice spoke with great emotion about her missing husband who, like her, is a graduate student in environmental engineering at Haifa’s Technion Institute.

Karnit Goldwasser described her husband as a person who is passionate about protecting the environment and all its creatures, a person who, though he suffers from allergies, is the devoted owner of two cats and a dog named “Somebody” whom he adopted without thinking twice after finding it lying injured in the street.

Karnit described Udi as a person who is always there to lend a helping hand, a loving, caring person who has many friends and has a special love for children. Udi and Karnit, who will mark their first anniversary on October 14, were hoping to soon start a family.

Udi Goldwasser is also a great lover of Israel who, on the couple’s recent three-month honeymoon to the Far East, sought out non-Israelis in order to share a picture of “the true face of Israel.” He and Karnit encouraged the people they met to come visit them in Israel so that they could experience the wonderful sides of Israel they never see on the news.

Karnit explained to the audience, “People ask me where I get my strength from. I get my strength from Udi. He’s thinking of me, and gets strength from me. He knows I’m worried, but I will bring him back.”

“Udi is a husband, a brother, a son. This is my husband. He is my soulmate. I miss him a lot.” She then took a long drink of water as she choked back tears.

Gilad Shalit

Gilad Shalit, taken hostage in July, is already famous in Israel for his shy but persistent smile. This past August 28, on the occasion of Gilad’s twentieth birthday, a busload of Gilad’s friends and family members came to the place where he was kidnapped.

His father, Noam, spoke to the gathered crowd: “Gilad, we have come here to mark your birthday. We will not be able to celebrate this year.”

As he spoke, Gilad’s mother, Aviva, stood between her two other children, her head bent in silence.

At the end of the ceremony every guest wrote a wish on a pink slip of paper and then attached it to a balloon that was released up into the sky in the direction of Egypt, where Gilad is being held by his captors.

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Ten years ago I was newly married, newly immigrated to Israel, and newly enrolled as a Masters student at an Israeli University. In most of my classes I was the only Orthodox student, and at least once a semester every pro-fessor could be counted on to make a derogatory comment or two about Jews like me. We were hypocritical, primi-tive, etc.

What else could I do? This past summer, former Israeli chief rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu instructed Jews around the world to recite Psalm 102 for the release of captured Israeli soldiers Gilad Shalit, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev. So every day, rain or shine, tired or not, with time to spare or in a big rush, I read Psalm 102 without fail.

One night last week I heard a bloodcurdling scream coming from upstairs. “Mommy!” Cries at that level of urgency, panic, and volume can mean only one thing: My children had seen a cockroach that had wandered out of a newly-formed hole hidden behind the bathtub.

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