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JewishJournal.com

August 24, 2006

Our Uri

http://www.jewishjournal.com/articles/item/our_uri_20060825

Hours before the cease-fire between Israel and Hezbollah went into effect, Israel Defense Forces tank commander Uri Grossman, the son of acclaimed Israeli novelist David Grossman, was killed by an Hezbollah anti-tank missile. This is an excerpt of the eulogy David Grossman delivered at his son's funeral:
At 20 minutes to three in the morning, between Saturday and Sunday, our doorbell rang. Over the intercom, they said they were from the army. For three days, every thought began with a negative: He won't come. We won't speak. We won't laugh. He won't be that kid with the ironic look in his eyes and the amazing sense of humor. He won't be that young person with understanding beyond his years. There won't be that warm smile and healthy appetite. There will no longer be that rare combination of determination and refinement. There won't be his common sense and wisdom. We won't sit down together to watch "The Simpsons" and "Seinfeld," and we won't listen to Johnny Cash, and we won't feel the strong embrace. We won't see you going to talk to your brother, Yonatan, with excited hand movements, and we won't see you hugging your sister, Ruthie, the love of your life.

Uri, my beloved. For your entire brief life, we have all learned from you. We learned from the strength and determination to go your own way. To go your own way even if there is no way you could succeed. We followed with amazement your struggle to get into the tank commanders' course. How you never compromised with your commanders, because you knew you would be a great commander. You were not satisfied to give less than you thought you could. And when you succeeded, I thought, "Here's a man who knows his own abilities in such a sober and simple way. Here's a man who has no pretensions or arrogance, who isn't influenced by what others say about him, whose source of strength is internal."

From childhood, you were like that. A child who live in harmony with himself and those around him. A child who knew his place and knew that he was loved, who recognized his limitations and strengths. And truly, from the moment you forced the army to make you a commander, it was clear what kind of commander and person you were. We hear today from your comrades and your subordinates about the commander and friend. About the person who got up before everyone else in order to organize everything and who went to sleep only after everyone else had. And yesterday, at midnight, I looked at our house, which was quite a mess after the visits of hundreds of people who came to console us and I said to myself: "Nu, now we need Uri, to help us get everything together."

You were the leftie of your unit, and you were respected for it, because you stood your ground without giving up even one of your military assignments.... You were a son and a friend to me and to Ema. Our soul is tied to yours. You felt good in yourself, and you were a good person to live with. I cannot even say out loud how much you were "Someone to Run With." Every furlough you would say: "Dad, let's talk," and we would go, usually to a restaurant, and talk. You told me so much, Uri, and I felt proud that I was your confidante.

I won't say anything now about the war you were killed in. We, our family, have already lost in this war. The state of Israel will have its own reckoning.... Uri was such a quintessential Israeli boy; even his name was very Israeli and so very Hebraic. He was the essence of Israeli-ness as I would want it to be. An Israeli-ness that has almost been forgotten, that is something of a curiosity.

And he was a person so full of values. That word has been so eroded and has become ridiculed in recent years. In our crazy, cruel and cynical world, it's not 'cool' to have values, or to be a humanist, or to be truly sensitive to the suffering of the other, even if that other is your enemy on the battlefield.

However, I learned from Uri that it is both possible and necessary to be all that. We have to guard ourselves, by defending ourselves both physically and morally. We have to guard ourselves from might and simplistic thinking, from the corruption that is in cynicism, from the pollution of the heart and the ill-treatment of humans, which are the biggest curse of those living in a disastrous region like ours. Uri simply had the courage to be himself, always and in all situations -- to find his exact voice in every thing he said and did. That's what guarded him from the pollution and corruption and the diminishing of the soul.

In the night between Saturday and Sunday, at 20 to 3 a.m., our doorbell rang. The person said through the intercom that he was from the army, and I went down to open the door, and I thought to myself -- that's it, life's over. But five hours later, when Michal and I went into Ruthie's room to wake her and tell her the terrible news, Ruthie, after first crying, said: "But we will live, right? We will live and trek like before, and I want to continue singing in a choir, and we will continue to laugh like always, and I want to learn to play guitar."

And we hugged her and told her that we will live.

We will derive our strength from Uri; he had enough for many years to come. Vitality, warmth and love radiated from him strongly, and that will shine on us even if the star that made it has been extinguished. Our love, we had a great honor to live with you. Thank you for every moment that you were ours.

-- Father and Mother, Yonatan and Ruthie.

Translated from the original Hebrew by professor William Cutter, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.

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