Two peaceful young men, born many decades apart, settled in the Land of Israel to fight bravely for the survival of our people in our Land. We owe them, and their many thousands of brothers and sisters, eternal thanks. They called out Hineni, and transformed themselves into modern day Maccabees.
My brother-in-law became a warrior, a great source of pride for our family and people. He was my sister’s beloved and adored husband. Together they would walk hand in hand through Herzliya, living their lives with love and gentleness, as they raised two beautiful, kind, and adored children. He was a man of peace who learned to walk in the paths of war. He fought with nobility from Israel’s War of Independence in 1948 until the shattered holiness of Yom Kippur in 1973. He now lies at peace in the Herzliya Cemetery, a soldier no more.
He was certainly not a macho man. Housework and gardening, even sewing and ironing, and performing feats at the grill, using his own special techniques like rubbing an onion dipped in olive oil along the hot grates, were his forte. He knew domesticity and valued hard work, but often spent Shabbat afternoons peacefully asleep on a cozy hammock.
But when it was necessary, when he was called upon, he could become a fierce fighter for his adopted homeland. I think of him as a Clark Kent-like figure, soft and gentle until he was called upon to wear the uniform of his other persona, that of the Israel Defense Forces, with the word TZAHAL proudly displayed.
He was born Zigu Gorfinkel in Romania, son of a rabbinic family. When he finally arrived on the shores of Haifa he had never held a weapon in his 18 years of life. He was among the crop of Zionists who cast aside their past torturous lives in Hitler’s Europe, and after spending two years in a refugee camp in Cyprus, arrived in time to become fighters in the Haganah.
He was enthusiastically reborn, as Zeev Goren, Israeli.
This newly named person, Zeev Goren, quickly learned the tools of the military, and fought with great skill and bravery in each of Israel’s wars, up to and including the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the most incredibly difficult war for Zeev. His adored son Ronnie served in another battalion, in another part of the country. While he was in battle, and often watching his brothers-in-arms fall, he knew that Ronnie was similarly endangered. At war’s end both father and son arrived safely home. Zeev’s fighting days were now complete, 25 years after they had begun. Such are the lives of Israelis.
Yet we all know that war has many names and manifestations. Terrorism has always been an adjunct to war in Israel. It is always unexpected. And the targets of the terrorists, who are called mechablim, are always civilians, people at home or out living their normal lives. A pigua, a terrorist attack, typically is an enormous shock. People learn they must prepare for war, but there is very little any individual can do when terrorists remove the benign and routine from daily living. Cognizant of this, some thought carrying a gun was the ultimate answer. Zeev’s answer was always emphatically not. He had been trained in using weapons, but he had also seen the devastation that weapons, particularly guns, could bring, how innocents, sometimes even children, could injure or kill themselves or others, and how the weapons could be used improperly. Zeev clearly was not a cowardly man, but he was a wise and prudent one. His children would not grow up in fear. His children would not grow up with guns in their home. And so it was.
In the spirit of his great-uncle Zeev, our family now has another proud chayal, soldier, defending the Holy Land. He is from New Jersey, also a son of a rabbinic family. When he made aliyah to Israel, he had never held a weapon in his 18 years of life. He is our deeply loved grandson.
His name is Aaron and he, like Zeev, is a dove of peace. He is no tough guy. He loves travel and museums and good meals. He is among a huge cohort of graduates of the Frisch school in Paramus who are now fighting on behalf of Israel. He attends a yeshiva in the north of Israel; from there he willingly and voluntarily enlisted into the army as a paratrooper. He seeks no glory, but his love for his people compels him to be a fighter, to shatter the grotesque plans of Chamas and see our land become an isle of tranquility, rising, yet again, from a crazed nightmare, an uncivilized battlefield of blood and horror. He is no bloodthirsty combatant, but he will fight his vicious enemies with strength and courage. And only then will he put away his weapons and return to his learning.
We are completely proud of the man he has become, and our love is profound, but deep with worry. We can no longer protect him as we could when he was a child. He is now his own man.
At this stage of this war, as predicted, other-side-ism is now widespread. It was inevitable from the first Israeli salvo. This war started with Israel garnering nearly universal sympathy. Of course that couldn’t last. The Chamas acts of brutality were unique and unbearable, but they are now largely forgotten by the not-so-esteemed United Nations and the world community at large. Our people have few friends. Thank you, President Biden, for standing tallest among them!
But the sympathy of Jewish victimhood quickly subsided. After all, how many murdered Jewish babies can make the front page of a daily newspaper or incessant online updates? The news must be new. And it shouldn’t be too graphic. Bombed buildings pass the smell test. Headless babies, or those ripped from the womb, or baked in the oven, do not. The brief world sympathy for our people has now been quelled. Jew-hatred has resumed its typical frenetic, hateful position. What did any of us expect anyway?
Yet we too feel the suffering of innocent civilians. It is painful and no one can be immune from feeling the devastation. Chamas should be widely detested for inflicting it. Their incessant war crimes cannot be ignored or remain unpunished.
On behalf of Zeev, z”l, and Aaron and all those hundreds of thousands of others who interrupt their lives, who commit themselves to guaranteeing the sanctity, the holiness of our blessed Eretz Yisrael, no matter how high the price, may we finally see their safe return home. And may this truly be the last of all the wars.
You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Rosanne Skopp of West Orange is a wife, mother of four, grandmother of 14, and great-grandmother of four. She is a graduate of Rutgers University and a dual citizen of the United States and Israel. She is a lifelong blogger, writing blogs before anyone knew what a blog was!