Yom Hazikaron 2014 (Memorial Day)

It’s our routine; Ziggy lifts his wet arms to be lifted out of the tub. I must always use the pink towel and I must always make sure the special velcro part of the children’s towel is tied around my neck. I wrap him tightly and we hold our cheeks against one another. This is one of the moments in the day we give each other an excuse to cuddle. About a month ago, we did this routine and as I let him down to stand and knelt down beside him to scrub the towel against his hair, he grabbed my necklace. I became serious and sternly held his hand in place. “Be very careful with this, this is very important to me, ok?”

Ziggy looked me in the eyes with his head cocked to the side.

“Why?”

This is the first conversation I have had with my son about this. Before I ever had children, I knew there would be a time where I would have to explain to them who I was, what happened, why I became who I am now, and explain it in a way so that he knows this is also his story.

“You know your Sabba Moshe and Safta Tirtze?” I start out slowly,  “And Doda Anat and Oren?”.

He put the pieces of the puzzle together in his brain and became quiet and attentive.

“They also have another son.” I hold my breath, carefully choosing my words, unsure of myself and what I should exactly be saying. How to approach the sensitive subject of death. “This is the necklace he gave to me, I wear it so I don’t forget him.”

“Where is he moma?” Ziggy asks innocently, wondering how could there be someone I know that he’s never met.

“He died, and it made us all very sad”. I reply. My stomach clenched, my back began to ache.

Ziggy looks at me. “What was his name?”

“Tsiki.”

Ziggy pauses, then his face lights up with a eureka moment. “Tsiki sounds like my name!!!”. He concludes.  And ran into his bedroom to jump on his bed.

Ella standing next to Tsiki's memorial by artist David Gerstein

I walked into the darkness of my own bedroom, facing a blank wall- feeling my heart through my chest, hands shaking and then the deep sadness of loss opens up, enveloping me and holding me there. I breath. I breath deeper, but that evening, the tears wouldn’t stop until bedtime. That night, my little family held me and let me grieve because I needed to, because although it’s been nine years, and the next chapter of my children growing and learning about Tsiki Eyal has begun. That innocent moment reminded me that this was my life and my experience and it struck me deep into my soul.  Now it is my responsibility how I approach this narrative, because it will be part of their identity.

From 2009, reflecting on my 2007 conversion when I sat before Rabbi Shmaryahu Yosef Nissim Karelitz , the chairman of the beis din tzede in Bnei Brak:

“I’m only a day and a half away from my two year old birthday. As a Jew of course. Two years ago I sat in front of 9 Rabbi’s in a sparsely decorated conference room in in Bnei Brak and swam though questions about Judaism for 2.5 hours. I knew when the horn blew for the Soldier’s remembrance day the Rabbi’s would not stand up. They will not stand up because they don’t believe in the State of Israel, and since they do not believe in the State of Israel, they will not remember Her fallen soldiers. The night before- I had a small conversation with my fallen soldier. I asked him to come with me to this meeting and stand by me- and to forgive me when I don’t stand up for a horn that blows for him. I explained how I will not stand up because I am so close to my goal and when in Rome we must act like Romans. I felt he understood and I understood this would be the only time in my life I would not stand up but would not need to because he was there in spirit.

One thing that never ceases to amaze me is my differing experiences every year with Yom Hazikkaron. Like the Torah, each year I interpret the holiday differently and go through a unique sense of emotions. In the first few years after Tsiki was killed,  I found comfort in the feeling of Tsiki’s presence around me. Leading me into the world of Israel and all of her challenges that I was about to join. I didn’t know how I was going to recover and find myself again, but somehow it all made sense- being here in Israel.  It was as if something greater than myself brought me here and I just had to begin the journey of figuring out my place in this confusing country.

But it is 9 years later and I am no longer the Peace Corps volunteer in Thailand who didn’t wear sunblock. And Tsiki is no longer the fiancée who left without saying goodbye. I no longer pour over his photos confused and with longing of what could have been. As of late, the nightmares of losing him are few and far between and I no longer read the pile of letters I have from him in a folder in a drawer.

Maechan Thailand

Tsiki has become much more than that to me now. Tsiki has become the reason I fell in love with Israel and when I fall back in love with her every spring I feel his spirit next to me. Tsiki has become the serendipitous occasions that I find in Israel. The random people I meet, the new fruit in the market with the changing seasons. He has become the feeling I have when I take my  morning walks through the olive trees before the dew evaporates.  He is somewhere when a bird sits on the window sill on a calm Thursday morning for a still moment before it flies away. I hear him in the music that pours out of the windows when I walk the dog in the cool evening in our sleepy neighborhood in the heart of Jerusalem.

When the flowers bloom, I think of Tsiki. When I see the silhouette of a young Israeli with bronzed skin in the distance, walking with confidence- I am reminded of my youth and of him. But even more than that, what Tsiki has become to me in my heart is my family. He became a promise that I am fulfilling. He is the love I have for his family. He is the way his mother packs up her Moroccan cooking for me to take home. Or when his father chides me for not calling sooner. He is my children running to his sister Anat and the way she scoops them up like they are her own.

Sabba Moshe with Ella

Tsiki Eyal has become a big part of our own family narrative and his love is still very much alive through his family. My family.

The moment he came into my life, it changed forever. And that is how we have become part of Tsiki Eyal’s legacy.

 

Ziggy and Safta Tirtze

 

 

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Germapino with a Jewish Twist. Twist. Collective Thoughts of a Ginrod are the musings of a Texas born,half German, half Filipina girl who who went on a trip to Bangkok and found herself in the Holy Land , as a jew, married to an Englishman, with 3 kids and a pup named Henck.

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