It's been an emotionally challenging day - and I don't even know anyone who died, at least not personally.
Last night, we attended the local Yom Hazikaron commemoration. All the things that you'd expect: yizkor, candle lighting, a choir. This morning we heard the siren. This afternoon we met the Klausner family at Latrun, where guards stood by the memorial for the fallen soldiers from the tank corps.
Then, the Klausners told us that their shul was going on a tiyyul - at least that's what they called it, and did we want to join? Sure. We traveled to a yishuv called Gimzu, where we climbed to the top of the hill from which the view was fantastic. You could see Modiin to the west and Tel Aviv to the northeast, and atop the hill sat a small gazebo-like structure. It had a few picnic tables and some great breeze, and was called "Mitzpeh Yehonatan V'hashnayim" - "the lookout of Yehonatan and the Two".
Soon David Einhorn came into the hut, and he began to speak. He spoke briefly about the history of Gamzu and the hill overlooking it upon which we were standing, and the two Israeli soldiers who fell when Israeli forces captured the hill in 1948. (That's why it was called "Mitzpeh Hashnayim" - the lookout of the "two".) Then he began speaking about his son Yehonatan Einhorn, who gave his life during a battle with Hizballah during the Second Lebanon War. I won't share all the details, but you can learn more about Yehonatan here. He told a the very moving story of his son's bravery, poise and leadership, both in the battle that took his life and at other times. He spoke lovingly, proudly of his son. But it was clear that these talks, and he's obviously told the stories many, many times, serve as a form of therapy, a healing of sorts. They renamed the hilltop after his son's death, for it had been a favorite place of his during his childhood.
During his talk he said something startling. The night after his son's death, before the burial, he and his wife sat on their porch. And he suddenly turned to his wife and said to her, "You know, I've made a decision. Our children just lost their brother. They cannot also lose their father. I will not allow myself to fall into a pit of despair." And he didn't.
At that moment, I realized that there's an entire group of heroes who we don't always recognize on Yom Hazikoron. On this day we remember the soldiers and their sacrifice. But we forget about the poise and stature of the parents who sent their sons to battle. We forget their suffering, and the sacrifices they made on our behalf.
This year, the prospect of parenting a soldier somehow seems closer. I don't view the prospect of sending my sons to the army with dread. It's a privilege that generations of Jews dreamed about. But this year, I felt a greater sense of appreciation for the sacrifice that the parents of our soldiers make.
Their strength gives me strength.
May Yehonatan Einhorn's memory be blessed. יהי זכרו ברוך.