Friday, August 11, 2006

A Few (Inadequate) Words

I can't stop thinking about Mike. My thoughts and emotions are all over the place right now, so coming out with a coherent description of them will be hard. But my last post is just so inadequate. It neither does justice to who Mike was, or how hard his death has hit me.

On one hand, it seems a little strange to be hit so hard by the death of someone I didn't have a chance to get to know all that well. On the other hand, it makes this war- which was already emotional for me- incredibly personal. My shul has already sent out two emails about Mike's death. The American Jewish community, and even the secular one, has been struck by the loss of a young American whose passion and dreams took him to Israel. Such stories are not uncommon. But this one is not just a story for me. This time, I knew that boy. I'd laughed with him, talked with him, chilled with him. I used to tease one of my ulpan friends about having a crush on him.

Since coming back to America, I've struggled with the idea of not knowing when I'll be able to return to Israel. The more I get settled into this life here in Chicago, the more precious my memories of this past year have become. Spazzy Mike is a part of those memories. Maybe this is hitting me so hard because those memories are still so shiny and new. I met Mike less than a year ago. I always thought that he was the kind of person in my life that I would just run into the next time I was in Yerushalayim. The person you see in a bar, and join for a drink. Or stop to chat in Kikar Zion. That will never happen now. Those shiny, new memories that include Mike now take on a different hue. Now there's grief mixed in. My precious memories of Israel are not supposed to be tinged with grief. Nostalgia, yes. Longing, of course. But not grief.

And yet, I'm proud of him, as strange as that sounds. I didn't know Mike very well, but I knew how passionate he was about Israel, and about Israel being home to Jews of all types. That is the Israel that he left America to become a part of, and the Israel that he joined Tzahal to defend. The Israel that he died defending. He was given a hero's burial on Har Hertzl, a funeral attended by thousands who didn't even know him. There's a kind of comfort in that, at least for me. There's comfort knowing that he will not be forgotten, that he has become a hero to the country and people he loved so much. Even in the midst of this grief over a boy who died far too young, I'm proud of him, and proud to be able to say that I knew him, even for so short a time.

I said it before, but I'll say it again. May his memory forever be a blessing to all of us. There's a lot we can all learn from Mike, even though he's gone.

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