Monday, July 21, 2008

Funeral and Wedding- - Sorrow and Joy

Prior to the outbreak of the second Lebanese war in 2006 Udi and Eldad, two reserve soldiers, who were also childhood friends, had been kidnapped by Hisbolla while on patrol on the Lebanese Border.
The fate of them had been unknown for over two years. Their family and the whole nation with them, pleaded for their return.
Lengthy negotiations with Hisbolla over a prisoner exchange was finalized, but to everybody’s sorrow in exchange for the return of the Lebanese prisoners two black coffins with Udi and Eldad remains were handed over at the Lebanese/Israel border-post of Rosh Hanikra. Everybodies face fell. All the television stations broadcast it.
The funerals, one after the other took place the following day.
This was last Thursday afternoon, I was glued to the television and cried as I sat and watched the crowds at the funeral.
Family, friends, neighbors, soldiers, members of the Knesset, everybody was heartbroken and so was I.
Then it was time to pull myself together. In spite of it all, life carries on.
I had an invitation to attend the wedding of the first granddaughter of very good friends, distant relations of mine and had to catch a special bus that would pick up some of the many invited guests to take them to Ancient Sussia in the hills of Hebron. Leaving Jerusalem and passing the checkpoint, it was well over an hours ride through beautiful peaceful looking scenery of vinejards, fruit trees, a patchwork of fields, passing smaller and bigger Arab villages where life has a different pace, villagers walking or riding on a donkey, fruit and vegetable laid out by the roadside, for passerby to purchase.
The bus swayed on the many curves, uphill and down again, just as my own thought swayed back and forth.
There must have been several hundred people making their way to greet the bride who sat in among the excavations of an ancient Jewish town dating back to the Talmudic time, 2nd to 4th century. For the Chupa -the actual wedding ceremony- young and old with many small children running around, everybody walked up to a high point of the hillock, where two giant pillars of a once gigantic looking Synagogue still stand upright. I was passed on from hand to hand, helping me walk uphill, pulling me up high steps, just so that I should not miss out on the joyous occasion of a beautiful and tasteful arranged wedding ceremony.
But my thoughts were elsewhere. The funerals had brought back to my mind the funeral of my grandson who fell in action 5 years ago, but also the birth of my great-grandson just a week ago. I am totally confused. Should I enjoy life or should I mourn for lives lost. It is difficult for me to keep up with the speed at which one occasion takes over from the previous one.
If that was not all, the very next day my son brought me boxes of books from my late brothers library to look through, including also the transcription the recordings of his life story. Among them there were some letters he had received more then 70 years ago from our parents, begging him to help them find a way to get permission to enter Palestine. But to no avail, they perished in the Shoa.
Reading those, by my parents handwritten now yellowing pages, brought tears to my eyes.
Death, birth, wedding, memories, sorrow and joy, all got mixed up within a short span of time. Historical past, recent past, present day-to-day life and future all melt into one.
Nobody can see the turmoil that is going on in my mind. Thoughts and feelings that keep cropping up are difficult to convey to another person.
I have to pull myself together and make the most of it. My involvement in different activities requires me to stay ahead of what expected of me.
A meeting here, a meeting there, e.mail to be answered, a powerpoint presentation to be prepared for talks that I will give together with my grandson in schools in Berlin in September, all that needs to be attended too. Life carries on.

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