Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Day 1: Arrival and Visiting the Family of Daniel Gomez

Arrival; Visiting the Family of Daniel Gomez

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Since returning from Israel to New York two weeks ago I spent every day feeling drawn to go back. There was an urgent pull to be with our people in this dreadful time of war. And so, with the announcement of the imminent ceasefire and the sad knowledge that Israelis would face serious psychological trauma as they tried to get their lives back to normal, three of us associated with Yeshivat Chovevei Torah made another visit to battered northern Israel. I was accompanied by Rabbi Jason Herman, an outstanding YCT graduate now serving as rabbi of the West Side Jewish Center in Manhattan and Yonah Berman, an extraordinary YCT student who was with me through the first days of the war and remained in Israel to help out. Also in Israel was a dedicated group from our Bayit, the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, who had come to do all they could to help in Israel’s time of need.

Stepping into the welcoming area of Ben Gurion airport I felt a sense of homecoming. Seeing my dear friend Yossi Shonfeld waiting for me lifted my heart. But as I looked into his face, I could immediately see that he was upset - there was a deep sadness in his eyes as he told me about the terrible loss in his home community of Nahalim. Daniel Gomez, a helicopter pilot and beloved son of Miriam and Patrick Gomez, the doctor of Nahalim, had been killed, leaving his wife, Sarit, who is six months pregnant. Daniel’s body had not yet been recovered.

We went directly to the home of Patrick and Miriam. Groups of friends stood in circles under the protective awning already set up in front of the Gomez’s modest home. It was as if the Gomez’s were sitting shiva before the funeral, reminding me of the way King David in effect sat shiva for his infant child before he was declared dead. I came as a total stranger sitting near Patrick, visiting a family I did not know. But we did know that we are part of the same larger family. We sat in silence much like the visitors who came to the Biblical Job. There is something elegant about Patrick, and when he did begin to speak one could sense his softness and humility and see why he is so beloved.

Slowly there appeared a fraternity of those who had experienced tragedy from this war. Among them were the parents of Benjy Hillman z”l, a senior Golani officer who was killed at the beginning of the war. They came to comfort Patrick and Miriam.

Day 1: Arrival and Visiting the Family of Daniel Gomez
Day 2: Rambam Hospital, Greenberg Unveiling and Gomez Funeral
Day 3: Kiryat Shmona and Tsfat
Day 4: Maalot and Goldwasser Family in Nahariya
Day 5: A Wedding in Jerusalem
Days 6-8: Shabbat and Departure

Diary of Rabbi Avi Weiss' Trip to Israel During the War

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