12 years without Eran

By Doron Almog, Eran’s father

My beloved son Eran,

For 12 years you have not been with us, yet you are everywhere. You are the force that drives me from within; my hidden yardstick in every way – the greatest teacher of my life.

This week we flew to Berlin for another fundraising event to continue developing the village that we built for you. Berlin – the city that became the capital of evil in the world, the trumpet promoting the terrible race doctrine. Berlin – the place where Grandfather Shmulik, who loved you so much, was born, and the city from which your great-grandmother Frieda Didi and great-grandfather Jacob were taken to Auschwitz.

And now we’re coming with you to this city, my beloved child. I speak to 300 people at the Crowne Plaza Hotel. I tell them about you. I describe how we raised you. I tell them about our hopes that you would continue the name of Eran my brother, who did not return from the war. I tell them about the shattered parental dream. I describe the hidden paths where you led me, hand in hand, without saying a single word, without saying Dad; without making eye contact. I tell them about our journey to discover the dark sides of Israeli society, to lift the veil of shame and prejudice.

And I, who flew thousands of kilometers in the name of the State of Israel to save Jews out of my duty to mutual responsibility, find myself walking with your mother, hand in hand, in dark, stench-filled places, light years away from the place that pretended to call itself a “model society.” And you hold me tight from within and tear me out of the stupid place I was in. You break me up and shake me like no one else did. You give me to understand in your awkward way that the curtain of shame is the Iron Curtain, where hiding behind it are the darkest sides of humanity. For who could take a prince like you, free of all sin and injustice, a person with no power and ego, and put him in a place worse than a prison. You, who were born with a broken body, who from the very beginning your being was total goodness and vulnerability. All your actions here are a riddle and a test for people like me. You, who received two life sentences from birth – a broken body and an inferior institution – was in fact sentenced to a third life sentence: to live beyond the thick walls of the silver tray ethos.

You are my beloved son who brought me to confront my parents and their generation of the silver tray, those who gave us the State of Israel in their blood. My parents taught me to sacrifice my life for the sake of the only Jewish state in the world, as if that was the desired goal of their lives and deaths. The nation of my parents, the generation of the silver tray, thought that disabled children like you should be closed up in institutions. They considered you and your friends useless, with no pride. They thought it was best that Christians from abroad should take care of children like you.
You were the one about whom my parents’ friends whispered quietly, so that no one should hear: “the tragedy of the family.”

My parents and their friends built a terrible iron curtain of shame around the silver platter, in order to isolate you and your friends from the ethos of the new Israeli: the brave sabra and hero. This iron curtain defined the limits of mutual responsibility and human love as pertaining only to the healthy, strong, brave and beautiful, who know how to demonstrate patriotism.

By the time my beloved son came into the world, I thought like them. How stupid and how insensitive I was!

After the fundraising event at the Crowne Plaza in Berlin, I went swimming in the hotel pool. I remembered how we had gone swimming together, and how I had wanted to teach you how to swim. To swim like me, with stylized, precise strokes; strong movements cutting through the water like a torpedo. And you were swimming beside me like a dog, crawling slowly forward. Today I understand that you are the one who taught me to swim in the darkest gutters of humanity. You are the one who taught me the meaning of “Do not judge a person until you reach his place.” For after all, a person who is placed behind the thick iron curtain of the silver tray is in a place where it is impossible to reach him, and if it is impossible to reach, then it is impossible to judge. And the distance from this point to losing one’s humanity is very short.

How arrogant and condescending I was, my dear son. Thank you for teaching me, my beloved son. Thank you for accompanying me wherever I go. Thank you for walking with me and keeping guard so that I will not be tempted by excessive arrogance, hubris and ego. Today I know that the existence of the whole human race depends on our ability to bestow love on people like you; to put you in the center of our being – because doing for you is the only grace that will save us from the sin of pride. Indeed, “The world is built on loving-kindness” (Psalms 89:3)

My beloved son Eran – Thank you.

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