by Yohai Gross
In my first year as a teacher, I promised myself that when Memorial Day came that I would tell my students about Eilon. I remember that I was nervous about it, because I was afraid that it would be too emotional for me. I didn’t want to appear weak in front of the enemy (my students).
I went into my first class during that Memorial Day and without any fancy clips or emotional photos, I just started to tell them about my friend Eilon Horvitz who died in the army. I told them that he wasn’t the hero type. He was a kind, gentle person who would do anything to help a friend or even a complete stranger, and yet was one of the most “sloppy” soldiers that I’ve seen. I told them that I met Eilon only when I was 19, even though we were almost neighbors living in different worlds − he in the religious village and me in my secular village in the Golan Heights.
I told them that Eilon died next to our home in the Golan in a training accident. I told them that Eilon gave his life for our state because he believed in a very simple idea – the right of the Jewish people for a Jewish state.
Eilon was my friend, and I wish that he could be here today with his passionate view of life and his innocent way. So many young lives were cut short, and I don’t see an end to that. I am looking at my baby son, and I am scared for the future. But at the same time, I feel blessed to be a part of a period in history that the Jewish people are not dependent on anyone except themselves. I know that this is a unique time in history that we are experiencing, and I know that 100 years of Zionism or 69 years of a state is nothing in the eye of history.
I am an optimist even though I am afraid, and I am sad on Independence Day even though I am also happy. It’s a mixed emotion and it’s complicated, but for me it’s important to tell about Eilon and to remember that we are paying a price every day to build this history – a Jewish state for 69 years and it still feels like a dream.