August 3, 2006
"I have the worst possible news," said our friend Avram Bar-Shai, calling from LAX. "Zvika has been killed in a helicopter crash and we are on the way to his funeral."
She was referring to the death of Tzvi Luft, who died on July 24. He was 42. Esther and Avram Bar-Shai, Agoura Hills residents who have been our friends for more than four decades, had just returned from a very taxing trip to Israel to see their families. Two days later they were returning to Israel to bury their son-in-law.
My daughter Reeva and Zvika's wife, Ornah, have known each other since they were less than 1 year old. At that time, our families lived in the Pico-Robertson area, and Esther and I pushed our strollers to the playground together.
We had seen the Luft family at the Bar-Shai home on numerous occasions, the last being when they were here for a year-long "sabbatical," culminating in the celebration of their daughter Aya's bat mitzvah.
At that time Zvika gave a very moving speech about the fact that every milestone in Aya's short life was marked with a disastrous world occurrence. In her bat mitzvah year it was the war in Iraq. Zvika wondered what major event would take place when she married, little knowing that he would not be there.
When I asked him what he enjoyed the most about living in the United States for a year, his answer was swift and unequivocal: "Being able to have dinner with my family every night," he said.
A 42-year-old Apache pilot, Zvika rose to the rank of colonel in the Israeli Air Force. He was, according to his peers, "professional and talented," and he did his job with diligence and dedication. Since he had enlisted in the air force at the age of 18, he was due to retire in a year.
News reports said that the Luft house in Kfar Hogla was much too small to contain all of the people who poured in to offer condolences to the family. A mild- mannered fellow who was raised on a kibbutz, Zvika was dedicated family man. A loving husband to Ornah and a proud father of three daughters -- Aya, Mika and Yulie -- Zvika Luft represented the best Israel has to offer.
One can reach for many cliches in an all-too-common disaster like this one. But perhaps in the ongoing continuum of Jewish history, it is best to let his life and his death speak for themselves.
Dina Adler is a freelance writer living in Westlake Village