Two Readings for Yom HaZikaron – by Yair Lapid

(The following column appeared in the Israeli newspaper Ma’ariv on August 22,1993, 5 Elul, 5753 during a week in which 9 Israeli soldiers were killed in action.  Among the fallen soldiers was 22-year old Avi (Avraham Abba) Fisher z”l, my wife’s cousin and friend who was killed in Lebanon on August 19.)

The Missed Chance

They’ll never make it to the big concert – that concert of love – for which they learned all the lyrics and melodies, listening to worn-out tapes played over and over again on weary cassette players. When the band takes the stage and they hit the lights, and the young girls with their soft hair and slender necks raise their heads like white doves, they won’t be there.

They’ll never tell her, “I love you” — words practiced over and over under night’s immunity, against the broken mirrors of military showers reeking of Lysol. They’ll have picked out the right shirt, dusted off their jeans, placed her yearbook photo under their pillow.  But someone else will have to say those words to her.  They won’t be there.

They’ll never marry. They’ll never have children. When the cries of a baby’s new life are first heard, they won’t be there.

They’ll never set off on that long trek to the yellow desert. Their rappelling ropes, supple as snakes, will never unravel in the baggage compartment. The campfire won’t be lit. The acoustic guitar, it’s case adorned by stickers, won’t be taken out and no one will forget the second verse. And when a flash flood winds its way through a narrow desert gully, they won’t be there.

They’ll never “work over” a payphone, and never call to announce that they’re coming home or that they won’t be able to make it. They’ll never lie that everything’s fine, that they don’t need a thing, that they have enough cash, thanks Mom.  On the weekends, out of habit, the car keys will be left out for them.  But they won’t be there. They won’t be discharged from the army. They’ll forever wear their stone, square uniforms.  They’ll forever remain Sergeant Assaf, Sergeant Nir, Sergeant Golan, Lieutenant Eyal, Sergeant Tzachi, Sergeant Avni, Sergeant Ari, Sergeant-Major Rakh’l, and Lieutenant Avi.

Their battalion will return to base, return their equipment, get their release papers and a pat on the back.  They won’t be there.

They’ll never study. Not in the school of Life, nor in the yeshiva, nor in the university. One Hundred Years of Solitude will forever remain opened to page 120.  Beitar Jerusalem will forever remain champions of the soccer league.  Yehuda Polliker’s next record won’t be released until the end of all generations. There are so many things that they still need to learn, chiefly about themselves, but they won’t be there.

When they die, we always write about who they were.
But the pain, the real pain
is because of who they’ll never be.

Life Does Not Go On

It’s not true that life goes on.  
They always throw that phrase around and it’s never, ever true. When you lose someone that close, your life — as you’ve known it — has ended. Your family may still be yours, but it’s a different family. Your parents are different, the way you sit around the table, the way you remember that vacation to Greece and that album of ridiculous photos that has since become a tome of memory.

It’s not true that life goes on.  
People ask you simple questions, like “How are you?” but you understand what they really mean is, “We know” or “We’re here for you.” Anytime you’re feeling sad everyone runs to your side, and you just don’t have the wherewithal to tell them that you don’t want a support group, just an hour of quiet under the covers.

It’s not true that life goes on.  
Even you can’t remain the same person you were. Now you’re a bereaved person. You’re the person who watches The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly on TV and all you can think of is who you saw it with the first time, back in the old Esther Cinema before it was torn down. You’re the person who, when you laugh, people will say you’re getting over it. If you keep busy, they’ll say you’re recovering. If you go away for more than two weeks, they’ll say you’re escaping.

It’s not true that life goes on. 
Even your past undergoes rewrites. Each time you tell the story of how you took the bus together to Bloomfield Stadium to catch the big soccer derby, you debate whether to call him “my brother” or “my departed brother” or “my brother of blessed memory.”  Sometimes you leave him out of the story entirely in order to spare everyone the moment of silent embarrassment.  Every now and then you run into somebody who’s been abroad a long time, and they ask you how your brother is, and you answer that he isn’t, at least — he isn’t here with us anymore. And you end up having to console them, to settle them down, and you’ll remark that life goes on. Except it doesn’t.

It’s not true that life goes on.  It ends, and it begins again. Differently.

החיים אינם נמשכים / יאיר לפיד

זה לא נכון שהחיים נמשכים. תמיד אומרים את המשפט הזה והוא אף פעם לא נכון. כשמת לך מישהו, החיים שלך, כמו שהכרת אותם, הסתיימו. המשפחה שלך עדיין שלך, אבל היא אחרת. ההורים שלך אחרים, הסדר שבו אתם יושבים סביב השולחן, הדרך שבה אתם זוכרים את הטיול ליוון, עם האלבום של התמונות המצחיקות שהפך לאלבום זיכרון.

זה לא נכון שהחיים נמשכים. אנשים שואלים אותך שאלה פשוטה כמו “מה שלומך”, ואתה יודע שהם מתכוונים לומר “אנחנו יודעים” או “אנחנו כאן בשבילך”. בכל פעם שאתה עצוב כולם קופצים כדי לעודד אותך, ואין לך איך לומר להם שאתה לא רוצה קבוצת תמיכה, אלא להיות שעה בשקט מתחת לשמיכה.

זה לא נכון שהחיים נמשכים. אפילו אתה לא ממשיך להיות כמו שהיית. אתה ההוא שמתו לו. אתה ההוא שרואה בטלוויזיה את “הטוב הרע והמכוער” וזוכר רק עם מי ראית אותו בפעם הראשונה, אז, בקולנוע אסתר הישן שכבר נהרס בינתיים. אתה ההוא שאם אתה צוחק, אומרים שהתגברת. אם אתה עסוק, אומרים שהתבגרת. אם אתה נוסע ליותר משבועיים אומרים שברחת.

זה לא נכון שהחיים נמשכים. אפילו העבר שלך עובר עריכה, בכל פעם שאתה מספר איך לקחתם אוטובוס לבלומפילד לראות את הדרבי, אתה מתלבט אם לקרוא לו אחי, או אחי המנוח, או אחי זכרונו לברכה. לפעמים אתה פשוט מוציא אותו מהסיפור, כדי למנוע מכולם מבוכה. פה ושם פוגשים מישהו שלא היה בארץ הרבה זמן, והוא שואל מה שלומו, ואתה אומר לו ששלומו כבר לא איתנו, ובסוף כמובן אתה צריך להרגיע אותו, אז אתה אומר לו שהחיים נמשכים. אבל הם לא.

זה לא נכון שהחיים נמשכים. הם נפסקים, ומתחילים מחדש. אחרת.


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