Seven-year-old Shoshana ran from the kitchen, the glass of orange juice shaking wildly as big globs of the liquid splashed on the floor. Through the living room she ran, and then made her way up the stairs to her older brother’s bedroom.
“Yonatan! Quick. Listen. I hear it again!”
The 18-year-old scooped his younger sister in his strong arms and quickly walked to the open window. The blue-and-white flag hanging from a branch on the apple tree fluttered in the early evening breeze as the setting sun colored the skies a fiery red. Far above, a majestic eagle, his wings spread wide, soared across the valley, his eyes seeking a passing prey. Serenity reigned supreme as the siblings stood still, eyes searching the hills, ears alert for the sound Shoshana said she’d been hearing.
“I hear it toward nightfall, when the sun begins to set.”
Yonatan smiled and shushed her to be still. They listened. And then…
“There! You hear it?” she yelled excitedly.
Yonatan smiled. “Yes, Shoshana, I hear it.”
The sorrowful tune was unmistakable; someone was playing taps in a slow yet steady tune. So sad. So haunting.
“What is it, Yonatan?” the little girl whispered.
“Yes. Taps. It’s the melody that signals an end. A farewell. It puts things to rest, buries the past. A tune that signals finality.”
The little girl looked confused.
“Yonatan, I don’t understand a word you are saying!”
“Here. Sit here on my bed and I’ll explain. Whenever there is a war, soldiers fight gallantly against the enemy. They do all they can to prevent the enemy from succeeding. The enemy’s soldiers fight for their country’s cause. Soldiers on both sides get hurt. Some pay the ultimate price in defense of their nation – the ones who do not return.”
“You mean like Uncle Chaim?”
“Yes. Just like Uncle Chaim…who didn’t return.”
Her big brown eyes widened with sudden understanding. She placed her head against her brother’s shoulder.
“And those who don’t return are laid to rest. The words of Kaddish are the last things said on the fresh grave. In other nations, when a soldier’s coffin is lowered into the ground, taps are played by a lone bugle boy. The haunting, somber melody signals a closure, an end.”
“I think I understand. But…why is someone playing that melody here? Who died?”
“An idea died, Shosh, an idea.”
“An idea? What do you mean?”
“Not so many years ago, Jews throughout the world experienced a horrible calamity. Six million of us – men, women and children – were murdered by the Nazis…”
“You mean like Mommy’s grandparents?”
“Yes. Just like them. And the remnants, the survivors of that horrible Holocaust established a land of refuge. A place they could all their own. The State of Israel rose from the ashes that engulfed world Jewry. There were many debates and arguments (they still go on) as to whether they should have established the state or not.”
“Because the state was not established according to the Torah. But that’s a discussion for another time. The fact is that millions of Jews came to these shores, were welcomed, and reestablished and rebuilt their shattered lives. The Arabs tried, and are still trying, to destroy Israel. But Hashem never abandons His children, even if they betray Him. For 56 years, unrelentingly, the Jews here fought to survive. ‘Never Again!’ they vowed. Never again would Jews be persecuted, expelled, slaughtered, the way they were in the past. But the world, never very fond of living Jews, continues to tighten the noose meant to strangle the State of Israel.”