Remembering the Yom Kippur War at Temple Israel

November 21, 2013

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Last month, Temple Israel commemorated the 40th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War. During the ceremony, Eitan Mor, a member of Temple Israel and a native Israeli, offered his memories in a speech titled “Impressions and Departed Souls.”

These are excerpts from his remarks:

The Yom Kippur war found me walking alone between our community synagogue and my grandparents’ home. During the day, my father was called for the military, and the entire country was nervously volatile.

There was a feeling that something was wrong. Men gradually disappeared from the synagogue and, breaking from tradition, the roads were filled with cars. Shortly afterwards, the Rotman family—one of our neighbors—were told that their son-in-law, Udi, an officer in the Golani Battalion, was killed fighting on the Hermon Mountain. Udi got married three years before the war.

I can never forget the sight of Udi’s wife standing at the entrance to the building, holding her newborn baby, and wailing.

The days dragged on. Each day we children pretended not to notice the war outside our school, until the day my friends told me that Eitan, our teacher’s son, was killed protecting the Hermon Mountain from the Syrians.

That night, I received a phone call from my father, who was on the Egyptian front. When I gathered up the courage to ask how he was doing, he asked me to watch over my mom and my sisters. A few days after, we received a phone call from my uncle Eli who was in Sinai. For my sake, he airily said that they will be done soon.

Two days after that phone call, Eli was killed in Sinai. He was the younger brother of my mother—and my big brother.

When they ask me why I call him my big brother, I reply that he is the person from whom I learned the most: for example, how to behave in the synagogue, how to build a kite and fly it, how to ride a bicycle, how to build a sukka, how to listen to pop music, how to buy albums, and how to take care of the fruit trees of my grandparents.

After he was killed, my mother told me that she used to take care of both of us when I was a baby and he was a young boy. Eli was five years older than me— the same gap between my sons Ro’ee and Edo.

The chaos of war did not allow us to have a funeral. The military buried our loved ones in a temporary grave on Herzl Mountain in Jerusalem. After two months of bitter fighting, Eli’s coffin was moved to a military cemetery in Rehovot, our city.

Since then, every Memorial Day, I adopted the habit of visiting him there.

Forty years is a long time, but the picture of Eli, of blessed memory, is still hanging on the wall at my office next to my grandfather’s picture.

At the conclusion of the war, Israel emerged mortally wounded, yet victorious through the sacrifice of its military and their families. For months after the war, I saw my grandfather battling with demons in his mind.

He stopped working for months, and every day he went to the grave of his youngest son.

After some months, my bar mitzvah arrived. It was clear that the party would need to be somber, so we celebrated without any music and dancing, with my grandfather coming only for a few minutes and without my grandmother, who remained at home because she could not bear celebrating any event with her youngest child dead.

On a clear spring day, the soldiers who were captured by the Arabs were freed following a costly deal between the governments. I remember a crowd of us walking to a neighbor’s house, whose son was captured by the Egyptians.

Everyone waited anxiously to see the physical, and mental, condition of the prisoner.

After some time, a police escort and an ambulance came to the house, and a young, bony soldier came out. I stood there, relieved to see at least one of us return home, and welcomed him back with the rest of our people.

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