Letter from Israel

Letter from Israel

A giant wind chime voices the sounds of memory for two fallen soldiers

The chimes, stand at the edge of a park in Rosh Pinah.
The chimes, stand at the edge of a park in Rosh Pinah.


That’s a word I did not know until I moved to Israel. It means “monument” or “memorial.”

The land of Israel is filled with monuments. There are monuments to Nazi victims and monuments to fallen soldiers from specific units and specific battles. There’s a memorial to the spy Eli Cohen, hanged by the Syrians in 1965. There are monuments in homage to John F. Kennedy and to the Americans killed on 9/11.

Then there are countless smaller memorials, sometimes a plaque dedicating a playground or park, sometimes no more than an engraved stone by the side of a road, marking the spot where a soldier or a civilian was murdered.

Each one pays silent tribute to the deceased and to the hope of the ever-grieving families that their loved one will not be forgotten.

On a recent Friday morning, I discovered that not every memorial is silent.

While strolling through a part of our city we’d never explored before, my husband and I came across a huge wind chime installed at the edge of a park, like a vertical xylophone played by the invisible hands of the breeze.

A metal sign hammered to the frame of the outsized instrument revealed that it was created in 2016 by Jerusalem Chimes in the Upper Galilee city of Rosh Pinah, whose motto is “May the wind always whisper in your heart.”

At first we assumed it was just another art installation, like others scattered around Ma’aleh Adumim for the sake of aesthetics.

Upon closer inspection, we saw a series of flower-bordered plaques mounted on wood next to the chimes, explaining that it is a musical andarta dedicated to the memory of Capt. Haggai Bibi of Ma’aleh Adumim, killed in December 2003 in the Gaza Strip along with Lt. Leonardo Weissman.

One plaque bears an inscription telling us that the 24 wind chimes — equaling the number of years he lived — will continue to play the song of Haggai’s life.

Another plaque is inscribed with a stanza from “Lu Yehi” (“May It Be”), Naomi Shemer’s Yom Kippur War ballad: “Then grant tranquility and also grant strength to all those we love; all that we seek, may it be.”

Plaques dedicated to the memories of Capt. Haggai Bibi and Sgt. Stav Fattoush at the edge of a park in Rosh Pinah.
Plaques dedicated to the memories of Capt. Haggai Bibi and Sgt. Stav Fattoush at the edge of a park in Rosh Pinah.

Still another plaque quotes from a Six-Day War ballad, “How Shall I Bless Him,” written by Rachel Shapira in memory of a fallen soldier: “This boy is now an angel; no more will they bless him; no more will he be blessed. Lord, Lord, Lord, if only you had blessed him with life.”

As we stood quietly, so touched by the sight and the sound, suddenly we noticed another flower-rimmed plaque on the other side. This one was in memory of Sgt. Stav Fartoush.

Stav didn’t die in the line of duty. She was killed in a bus accident on November 26, 2015, in which 41 other soldiers were wounded. The daughter of a Ma’aleh Adumim firefighter, Stav had planned to celebrate her 20th birthday with her twin brother on December 22. It gave me goosebumps to read that Haggai died on December 22, 2003, Stav’s eighth birthday.

The flower-rimmed plaque bearing Stav’s photo bears an inscription similar to Haggai’s. It says that the chimes will continue to play the melody of her life. And another line at the bottom reads simply: “Autumn is over and gone.”

“Stav” means “autumn.”

A flagstone path leading up from the chimes brought us to another andarta, the circular Haggai Lookout over the Judean hills, and a cluster of olive trees. Simple benches line the circle, and a marker is engraved with the encouraging words Capt. Bibi spoke to his troops in 2001 at the end of their training. He wished them a life of joy without loneliness, a loving spouse and supportive friends, a rainbow in the cloud, faith to strengthen their hope, desires fulfilled, “and a guardian angel always standing by your side.”

Why weren’t the guardian angels of Stav and Haggai standing by their sides at those fateful moments? God only knows.

But in the absence of answers there are memories.

The Bibi and Fartoush families chose an extraordinarily meaningful way to keep the memory of their children alive for those who knew these two young soldiers and for those, like us, who did not. It seems to me a very Jewish approach to channel unbearable pain into something of everlasting beauty.

Every time the wind wafts over the musical andarta, the air is filled with a new dulcet blessing bestowed on the souls of Haggai and Stav. May they rest in peace.

Abigail Klein Leichman has been a correspondent for the Jewish Standard since 1994. She moved from Teaneck to Ma’aleh Adumim with her family in August 2007, and shares her impressions of life in Israel in occasional Letter from Israel columns.

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