By Doron Almog, Eran’s Father
The week before the 15th anniversary of your passing, I am shrouded in anxiety, as if in anticipation of a crucial life test. Every year it is the same. Every year, prior to the short ceremony next to your grave, I writhe with the same searching of the soul. And every year, my dear riddle of a child, the introspection becomes more profound. The test becomes more challenging, like harnessing all of your strength to scale a high mountain whose peak cannot be seen.
When you were born, we named you Eran, after my brother, who never returned from the war. My brother Eran was left bleeding on the ground for a week until his lifeless body was extricated from the battlefield. You, my dear son Eran, chose to enter this world coinciding with the final station in the life of my brother Eran, entrenched in the zone of society’s wounded and bleeding. You stretched those seven days of bleeding into 23 years and became the echoing cry of the most vulnerable members of society, resonating in my ears like a rolling thunderstorm, while not once calling out “Abba.” While never making eye contact, you educated me with your piercing silence to transform me into a different person.
I was brought up by parents who taught me that without strength and power we would not survive in the Middle East. My upbringing taught that there is no place for the weak. That one never cries; one bites their lips and keeps moving forward. That one must always be willing to sacrifice their life for the world’s one and only Jewish State. That there is nothing more precious than the State of Israel, and for the sake of the State one must be strong, very strong. Constantly strong. There is no place for the weak or for weakness, not even for one second. One must “be made of steel,” as my father claimed until the final minutes of his life, even as weakness emanated from every part of his body.
And then, suddenly, you came into this world to teach me the place of the weak.
“Yes, my dear father, if you don’t understand the place of the vulnerable and weak in society, you cannot be a human being. All the sophisticated weapon’s systems, the cyber- and smart-missiles, won’t help you. If you don’t understand the place of the weak, you simply will not survive. If you and society don’t understand the vulnerable and provide them with love and a life of quality, dear father, you will very quickly find yourselves ensconced in the realm of ego, domination, and battles of power. From there, it is but a short road to the loss of one’s humanity. The start-up-nation will fall apart, my dear father. You will continue lying, declaring ‘honor the elderly,’ while employing foreign workers to care for them or leaving them surrounded by misery and loneliness in homes for the aged. You will carry on saying, ‘All Jews are responsible for each other,’ and confine children like me to horrible institutes, or profess ‘Love your fellow as yourself,’ as you only love the strong and healthy. You will decree ‘Never leave the wounded behind,’ and ignore the sounds of their dying cry, at home and alone.
“My dear father, I came into this world for a short time to teach you to understand reality from my perspective, from the viewpoint of society’s most vulnerable. The village that bears my name today is the only place where a person is loved because he is a human being. That is not enough, my dear father. It is not enough to teach Jewish youth to defend themselves. You have to teach them how to love. I came into this world for a short time, father, to teach you what your parents, the “Silver Platter” generation, the generation that hung tough through the era of the 1948 War of Independence, swept under the rug. I came here to teach you to break down the walls of shame and prejudice.
“Fill the senior citizen homes with kindergartens and schools. Surround the elderly and the vulnerable with company and constant volunteers. Integrate as many people with disabilities as possible into the open work force. Provide the individual with a disability and the wounded with a place of honor. I came into this world for a short time, my dear father, to teach you the strength of weakness, because only when you truly understand will you be able to march forward as an exemplary society.
“Continue being my mouthpiece, my dear father, for the sake of those with vulnerabilities and disabilities. For the sake of a future filled with hope.”
Major General (Res) Doron Almog
Israel Prize Laureate
Chairman ADI Negev-Nahalat Eran