A View From the Citizen Trenches
by Harvey Tannenbaum
Shavua Tov to the world.
I looked back at my clock which flashed back to 2002. We drove to Kiryat Arba for the PTA meeting at the Ulpana where our oldest daughter was a high school student. The drive from Efrat was always an extra careful one due to the risks of a terrorist in his car waiting for the Jews on highway 60 during those years.
We made our rounds with the teachers to hear the reports of how our daughter was doing in the school year.
We sat with Michal Sar El, one of her teachers, who smiled and had such warmth and excitement to share the ‘status’ of our daughter’s learning in the Ulpana of Kiryat Arba. Michal was Orit’s ‘Israeli literature’ teacher.
On Friday afternoon, we received the news that Benaya Sar El, 26, an officer of Givati brigade was killed during the Kerry/Obama/Dim Son Moon UN/ Bibi cease fire on Friday morning in Gaza.
The name rang a bell in our heads, and it was not until our oldest daughter called to confirm that Benaya was her teacher’s son from Kiryat Arba. Benaya was killed by the suicide bomber terrorist who came with other rats from the tunnel in Rafiach, Gaza of Hamas during the ‘cease’ fire yesterday. The terrorist’s suicide also killed another IDF Givati soldier, LIal Gidoni while another set of Hamas terrorists captured Hadar Goldin, an officer in the Givati. (As of this writing, we don’t know if he is alive or dead, g-d forbid).
We got an email before shabbat that Benaya z’l has a grandfather, D Kornfeld, 82, a Holocaust survivor(Michal’s father), a member of our shul in Efrat! I was not sure who is Mr. Kornfeld, until I got to shul for Mincha/Kabbalat Shabbat/Maariv, last night. In 1 minute, we realized which one of our elderly congregants in Efrat was Mr. Kornfeld. I was shaking and very emotional as I realized who he was to us.
I looked back at my clock to 2012-2013 while I was saying kaddish for my mother Pepi, Z”L. Each morning at minyan, when I was the ‘baal tefila’ to have the zchut of saying kaddish, I would get to the repetition of the ‘amidah’-shmoneh esreh. As a Kohen, I would wash my hands, prior to the commencement of my repetition of the shmoneh esreh, remove my shoes and begin the tefilot as the ‘baal tefila.’
Each day as I approached ‘Modin anachnu’ we kohanim would begin the daily blessings on the congregants, but I could not shout out each word of “Yevarecha, etc. ” Mr. Kornfeld, the survivor from Auschwitz was the gabbai who would come close to the Kohanim, and say each word for us to repeat. His voice was strong and would lead us to repeat after him. At the conclusion, I would lower my talis from my head, turn around, and resume the recitation of the final paragraphs of “Sim Shalom,” etc. Mr. Kornfeld would come up to me and shake my hands as he would do the same for the other Kohanim.
Mr. Kornfeld was so proud as he was chosen by the Knesset to accompany them a few months ago to Poland to have the Knesset meet near Auschwitz as a sign that the State of Israel would and could have a session via its Knesset in Aushwitz in 2014. He spoke and PM Netanyahu mentioned Mr. Kornfeld from his speech.
My heart raced and my clock returned to the shabbat morning today. Mr. Kornfeld was not in shul, as he was spending shabbat in Kiryat Arba with his daughter, son-in-law, and other grandchildren to be united in preparation for tonight’s funeral in Hebron of his grandson, Benaya z’l h’yd at midnight! The holocaust survivor, gabbai, and a leader for 65+years in Israel was burying his grandson, Benaya, in Hebron’s cemetery.
Benaya was supposed to get married on Rosh Chodesh Elul, less than 3 weeks away! Mr. Kornfeld was so proud of his children and grandchildren, that he could hardly wait to dance at his grandson’s wedding. The Holocaust survivor smiled as he spoke about the beautiful kallah engaged to Benaya to all.
We made havdala and as all of us are addicted to the news, turned on the TV. The Goldin family from Kfar Saba, whose son, Hadar, was captured yesterday by the Hamas after Hamas killed Benaya and Lial, his fellow soldiers, had a press conference outside their home in Kfar Saba.
Drs. Goldin(Parents), Hadar’s twin, elder sister, older brother, and kallah! stood there and started their words of “Shavua tov and thank you for letting us and our community observe shabbat.”
They each spoke and unbeknownst to us, Dr. Simcha Goldin(Hadar’s father), was is ‘samgad’ high ranking officer in the IDF, in addition to being a professor of Jewish medieval history,at Tel Aviv University.
Dr. Leah Hedva Goldin, Hadar’s mother, spoke, and said each of her kids are officers in special units of the IDF. They pleaded and cried for the government and IDF not to withdraw before their son was returned to Israel. Dr. Simcha Goldin told us that his superior in the IDF was Chief of Staff Benny Gantz!
The twin spoke who was taken out of Gaza yesterday and is part of the special search and rescue unit of the IDF 669 spoke to the nation and said he had a ‘twin’ feeling that Hadar was alive.
The nation broke down as we watched this kiddush hashem of a family, standing after havdala, together, each speaking their hearts out asking to return their child, son, chatan, to his home.
PM Netanyahu and DM Yaalon spoke at their press conference from the Kiriya, the ‘Pentagon’ of the IDF in Tel Aviv. As they spoke on the split screen we watched tank divisions going out of Gaza to Israel.
We could not understand as the Prime Minister told the nation that he is continuing, how on the national news, the government had ordered on shabbat, tank brigades and soldiers to return to Israel.?
The twin of Hadar spoke about how he and his twin spent weeks in their army units looking for Gilad, Naftali, and Eyal z’l the kidnapped boys from the Gush Etzion area.
Tonight, as we enter the ”shavua sh chal bo” as mourning grows onto the onset of Tisha Baa’v on Monday night, the nation is in mourning, bewilderment, and confusion.
Benaya told his kallah, Gali, that he had no time to get his clothing for the wedding and would buy it after Tisha Ba’av when he would get a day off from Gaza. Benaya is one of 8 children as the Sar Els are one of Kiryat Arba-Hebron’s oldest families.
The Goldins are indeed the stars of this “Goldena Medina.” Michal Sar El, the teacher, and her family from Kiryat Arba, have sacrificed their son, Benaya, the groom of Rosh Chodesh Elul, the hero of our IDF. Mr. Kornfeld, the Holocaust survivor, who would call our each word for the Kohanim in our shul when a Kohen was the baal tefila, now has to look at the earth at midnight in Hebron and cry that he is burying his grandchild near our patriarchs and matriarchs of Hebron.
Hashem Yikam Damam
Harvey Tannenbaum is a long-time oleh residing in Efrat. He is frequently the first recourse for information for many on his extensive email list, including one of the editors of Cross-Currents