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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

A Hero Remembered

(Source: Jerusalem Diaries: In Tense Times)
The concept of sanctity of life is another one of those little things "invented" by the Jews. Before us and monotheism, tribes used to pray to the gods by sacrificing their children by throwing them into fire, alive. Today, at funerals, even then, the sanctity of life is emboldened. We do NOT fire weapons into the air and scream about revenge, murder, and lust for blood. We do NOT march around the dead like some prized trophy that gets thrown around and occasionally falls to the ground. You want to know what a Jewish funeral looks and sounds like? Think of everything you've ever heard and seen about an Arab funeral, and it's the complete opposite.

Here is what was said about Benjy Hillman's funeral, zt"l. Benjy, 27, was killed last Thursday during heavy fighting between Hezbollah and the IDF. He was a Major in the Golani Brigade's special unit. I urge you to read the whole thing. It is extremely moving and epitomizes what can only be classified as a Kiddush Hasem; a sanctification of G-d's name:
.... Just three weeks ago, 600 of us celebrated as Benjy and his long-time girlfriend, Ayala Burger, finally got married after going together for many years. The pure joy of the two families who had 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 home town 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 wooden 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 immigrated from Argentina around the same time as the Hillmans made aliya from England, when Benjy was four years old.
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 Golani brigade led the way to his grave as hundreds of other soldiers and 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 strong 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"tl, who was killed fighting terrorists. Benjy wrote that Ari had died as a hero and would always be remembered that way. Benjy promised that he would carry on the struggle for Israel's safety and security.

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 mid-day 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.

From now on, when you sing the "Bo-ee Kallah" verse of the Lecha Dodi prayer that welcomes the Shabbat bride, think of Benjy and Ayala and the price they and their families have paid for their commitment to the land of Israel.

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.

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