I have such mixed feelings," my friend Karen whispered as she watched her oldest son add a distinctive pin to his uniform on the stage below. Shai, a ”-year-old gem of a young man, had just completed 15 months of training for Sayeret Duvdevan, a Special Forces paratrooper unit that conducts undercover anti-terror missions. (Names have been changed for security reasons.)
"Proud and scared?" I suggested.
"Yeah, that about sums it up," Karen replied with a sigh. "This is what we bring them up to do, and I’m
really proud of him. But God should watch over him. He should watch over all of them."
Shai and his younger brother Avi came to Teaneck from Israel four summers ago to work for a local company hauling camp trunks. Through mutual friends, they arranged to stay with us. We quickly grew very fond of the boys, and, later, of their parents and four siblings (and their dog, Lucky). Now talk about lucky! we live right down the block from them in Ma’aleh Adumim.
When we heard about the "tekes sof maslul" (end-of-training ceremony) in Jerusalem, of course we wanted to go.
It was a beautiful, and at times even funny, event. There were videos of the intense training exercises as well as videos of the guys playing pranks and goofing around. There were speeches about the seriousness of the work ahead. There were baby pictures of each of the 40 soldiers flashed on the screen, and a poignant shot of Shai and Karen embracing after his first parachute jump.
There was one additional aspect that was most remarkable, yet it was not mentioned by any of the speakers and was perhaps unknown by most of the audience.
On the very stage where these brave soldiers were launched into their dangerous work protecting the lives of the Jewish people, Adolf Eichmann had been put on trial before an Israeli court in the spring of 1961.
Up in the balcony where we sat with Shai’s family and other proud and scared Israeli mothers and fathers, a small plaque acknowledged that it was in this auditorium part of a complex called the Gerard Behar Centre or Beit Ha’am (House of the People) where three judges indicted the evil architect of the "final solution" for crimes against humanity and crimes against the Jewish people.
What a delicious irony. What a sweet revenge.
I had always thought of Eichmann when I went to our children’s choral performances at The Moriah School in Englewood. Why? Because I could not think of any better way of saying "We won!" than the sound of precious Jewish children singing songs from the rich tradition that the SS Obersturmbannf?hrer and his ilk intended to eradicate from the planet.
Eichmann is dead, executed by the State of Israel. Thanks to his murderous precision, 6 million of us also are dead. But as a people, we are alive. And not only alive, but flourishing in our own land with our own armed forces. As a brand-new resident of this young Jewish state, I felt privileged to be present at an occasion that so perfectly juxtaposed these facts.
On the stage where, more than 46 years ago, a monster was displayed to the horrified public in a glass booth, I witnessed a new generation of strong, devoted Jewish men prepared to say, with body and soul, "Never again."
Sayeret Duvdevan has its own motto, from Proverbs ‘4:6. "For by wise counsel you will make your war; and in a multitude of counselors there is safety."
That last word, "safety," is alternatively rendered as "deliverance," "salvation," or "victory," depending on how you translate teshu’ah.
We have learned through our bitter history that there is no shortage of wicked, inept, and/or cowardly "counselors" both from without, such as the Nazis, and, tragically, from within our own ranks. That we still are plagued by enemies who wish to murder us solely because we are Jews demonstrates this sobering reality.
My prayer for Shai and for all our Israel Defense Forces soldiers is that they should be blessed with a multitude of wise counselors. May God watch over them and grant them safety, deliverance, salvation, victory and peace.