A few hours ago, Jacque called me from London. He'd called two days ago, but I'd been unable to talk then. I was pleasantly surprised that he called again so soon. We chatted for about ten minutes, and then, just before we had to hang up, he suddenly changed the subject.
"Do you remember Mike? The soldier, Josh's friend?"
"Sure," I replied. We'd called him 'Spazzy Mike' as an affectionate nickname, because he was so full of life and energy. He'd laughed at the nickname.
"He passed away. It's what I called you to say a couple days ago."
For a moment, I was utterly speechless. Passed away? Mike? What could possibly have happened?
"Passed away?" I managed to get out. But I knew, before Jacque spoke again, what he would say.
"In Lebanon?" I asked. My eyes were already tearing up, and I could barely get the words out.
"Yeah." He didn't really need to say more. We both understood enough.
I guess, deep down, I knew that eventually this war would get personal for me. It just wasn't possible that everyone I know would come out of this unscathed. But I'd hoped and prayed. And now I'm grieving for a boy younger than I am.
Spazzy Mike, also known as Michael Levin, had been in the ulpan on Kvutzat Yavne about two years before I was. He'd made aliyah and joined Tzahal, and still visited the kibbutz. One of his fellow ulpan friends and fellow soldiers, Josh, was very close with Jacque. As a result, whenever Mike came to the kibbutz, we would end up hanging out. Just chilling on the steps, or in the moadon, or around the nargila.
I can't say that I knew him very well. But I knew him. He was a sweet boy, a few years younger than me, with enough energy for six 12-year-old boys put together. He was easygoing, with a quick sense of humor. One of the only people who could keep up with my sarcasm and send it right back to me. No, I can't say I knew him very well. But I liked him.
Baruch dayan emet. May his memory be a blessing for us all.