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Danita and Michel Azziza


By Danita Aziza, Even Yehuda, Israel

LESSON #3: Always Remember

While I have many mixed feelings about having two of my kids studying at an American School in Israel, there have been some wonderful gifts that have come with the experience. The greatest gift has been the opportunity to get to know a very special group of people from differing backgrounds and cultures who are in Israel for various reasons or who are Israelis themselves and opted to send their children to the American School.

Last year Rachel, our youngest, formed a quick friendship with an Israeli girl, Maya, with impeccable English.  They became fast friends and through their friendship, Michel [my husband]and I were introduced to Maya’s parents, Judy and Itzik.

Judy and Itzik are special in their own right.  Itzik is a former helicopter pilot in the army and currently is a very talented industrial designer running his own business.  Judy is a master of languages having studied at many American Schools throughout the world and is an entrepreneur many times over.   Judy’s father, the late Shlomo Argov Z”l   was Israel’s Ambassador to England.  By all accounts he was a brilliant gentleman who possessed unique qualities and many believed he was poised to be the Prime Minister one day.  In 1982 at the age of 52 while leaving a State dinner in London, Ambassador Argov was shot in the head by Arab terrorists and left severely physically and mentally impaired confined to a hospital for over 22 years until his death in 2003.  His attempted assassination was the impetus to Israel invading Lebanon and thus the beginning the first Lebanon War.

On the eve of Yom Hazikaron, Michel and I were taken as Judy and Itzik’s guests to the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem to attend an annual memorial ceremony for the sixteen employees of the Israeli Foreign Ministry who tragically lost their lives while in various postings throughout the world.  Many of these 16 were young fathers and mothers who left spouses to raise their children alone.  Some were young employees of the Ministry and others more seasoned who represented Israel in Israeli embassies in Turkey, Argentina, England, and Nigeria.
The late Shlomo Argov
The late Shlomo Argov, Israel’s Ambassador to England,
shot by Arab terrorist.

Michel and I sat in the audience and watched family after family rise to light a flame in memory of their loved one as a choir sang softly in the background. The ceremony culminated in a 17 year old boy saying kaddish for his father who was a victim of the Embassy attack in Buenos Aires in 1992.  Although these families attend this ceremony every year, there is nothing routine or mundane in its nature.  The pain of loss is evident on the faces of the family members left behind and yet, there is, in their demeanour, a strength and resolve that are hard to articulate.

While extremely honoured to be part of the “tekas” (ceremony), I somehow felt very much a stranger and almost an intruder in the community of those who have known the ultimate sacrifice for being  Israeli.  The families we sat with are part of a very large club of the bereaved who have known sorrow and loss, tragedy and sacrifice all in the name of living in, representing or defending the Land of Israel.

In the time that I have known Judy Argov Orbach I have heard her speak many times of her father- of the incredible contributions he made to Israel, his love of culture and the arts, his superior oratory skills, the interest he took in the younger generation of Israelis and the respect that he commanded from colleagues and peers.  What is particularly striking as I watched Judy rise at the ceremony to light the final torch on the remembrance wall of the Foreign Ministry is that I have never heard her speak of the terrorists who robbed her of the father she knew.  Come to think of it, I didn’t detect anger or bitterness on the faces of the others that stood silently at the wall... remembering.  How odd that seems to an outsider, but perhaps not to the members of the “ club” who have to continue on with daily life, raising families, sending children to the army, and remaining devoted to the Nation.

Judy, and unfortunately far too many who have known tragedy and loss, have taught me that you must appreciate life in all its intensity.  You must never cease from remembering and celebrating the lives of those who pay the ransom for our Homeland and we must never fail to admire and learn from the courage, faith, and grace of those that are left to carry on when loss and grief consume them. 

There has been much remembering in the past weeks.  There have been images and dialogue that will now be embedded in my psyche forcing me to remember whether it be the words from a letter written by the mother who just lost her second son serving in the army or the drawn faces of Holocaust Survivors lighting candles at the Yom Hashoah service we attended in Netanya.  It will be hard not to remember the   little boy no older than four automatically stop cold on the street without prompting as soon as he heard the evening  siren signalling the start of Yom Hazikaron or the sense of complete and utter melancholy that filled the country during the days of remembrance. For the six million who lost their lives because we didn’t have a Jewish State and the over 22,000 that have lost their lives because we now do, we must always remember. 

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Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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