This morning, I paid a shiv’a call to Sara and Michael Newman’s house, the parents who lost their son Eitan when his tank went over a bomb in the Gaza Strip last week.
They buried him last Thursday, after his comrades, under constant fire from terrorists, combed the dangerous streets to bring his remains and those of his comrades home.
As I neared the Newman home, I saw army men standing in small circles, talking quietly. Some wore beards and knitted skullcaps. Friends, religious and non-religious, came and went in and out of the Newman home, fulfilling one of Judaism’s most honored rituals of comforting mourners for seven days after the funeral.
Sara and her husband sat on low chairs, as is the custom, surrounded by friends.
I introduced myself. “I want to talk to you…” Sara said softly. I pulled up a chair. “I understand that you write to many people around the world. And this is what I would like you to please tell them for me. Many people have asked what they can do, how can they help. Please tell them to go out and buy something that was made in Israel. That’s all. Just help us, we are going through such hard times. Everybody can do that.”
I felt quick tears come to my eyes, wondering at this woman who sat clear-eyed and full of courage and faith, her mind focused on what else she could do to help the country she loved, a woman who had just given her country and her people her handsome, bright, intelligent, wonderful young son.
Who had given her son.
I nodded, wordlessly.
I told her about a conversation I had just had with my own son, who is being drafted in November. “Maybe you could go into anti-aircraft,” I urged him. “Your brother did that, and your father.”
There was a slight pause at the other end of the line. “Look Mom,” he said patiently, “I might as well tell you the truth. I’m not going into the army to strike a pose. I’m going because I want to do something, protect people from getting killed by terrorists. And the only way to do that, is to be a foot soldier.” He wanted to go into Givati, he said.
The same unit as Eitan Newman.
“This is how we brought them up,” I told Sara Newman. “I’m very proud of him. And I’m terrified.”
She put her hand over mine. “When my son died, he was surrounded by people he loved and respected and trusted. He was on his way back from a mission he’d successfully completed. He died instantly, with no pain. I would rather he went that way then stabbed in the back by some skinhead far away from home.”
Would I please, she urged me, send out her message?
When I left the Newman home, I walked up the winding stone staircase that one finds in Jerusalem’s hilly neighborhoods. A cool wind was blowing, and the sky seemed strangely cloudy for spring. As I reached the top I saw a friend coming down the road. She too was on her way to the Newmans. I hugged her, and both of us wept.
And now I am home at my computer, doing what Sara Newman asked me to do. I’m asking you to please go out a buy something from Israel. If you can’t find it in your stores, you can find it on-line, I’m sure.
And if you’d like to send Sara and Michael some words of comfort, please email them at email@example.com.