Eulogy delivered by David Grossman for his son Uri Grossman
Har Herzl, 15 August 2006
[translated by me]
At twenty to three on Saturday night, they rang at our door. Over the intercom, they announced that they were the city officials. Already, we had been through three hellish days in which almost every thought that entered our minds began with a “no.” No, he won’t come. No, we won’t speak. No, we won’t laugh. No, there will be no more of that boy with the ironic grin and the crazy sense of humor. No, there will be no more of that young man with wisdom beyond his years. No more warm smile and no more healthy appetite. No more rare combination of determination and delicacy, no more sharp-mindedness and wise-heartedness. No more of the infinite gentleness of Uri, and no more of the silence in which he could calm us all down. No more watching The Simpsons and Seinfeld together, and no more listening to Jonny Cash. No more of your strong hugs, and no more seeing you walking with Yonatan, gesticulating wildly as you speak. No more hugs for your beloved sister Ruti. No more. No.
Uri, my love, throughout all of your short life, we all learned from you. We learned from your strength and your determination to go about things your own way. To follow your own path even if there was no chance that you’d succeed. We looked on in astonishment as you fought to gain acceptance to a tankers’ course. How you were not prepared to be satisfied with giving any less than you knew you were capable of giving. And when you succeeded, I thought, here is someone who knows his abilities so simply and so soberly. Someone with no pretenses and no pride. Who is not influenced by what others say to him. Someone whose source of strength is lodged firmly within himself.
And you were like this from childhood. A boy who lived in harmony with himself and his surroundings. A boy who knew his place, and who knew that he was beloved, and who knew his limitations and his talents. And indeed, from the moment you overleaped the entire army and became a commander, it was clear just what sort of commander you would be. We heard today from your friend and fellow soldier that you would always wake up before everyone else to begin organizing the equipment, and that you would go to sleep after everyone else so as to make sure that everything was in its place. Yesterday at midnight I looked at our house, which had become a total mess as a result of the hundreds of people who had passed through to offer condolences, and I said: Nu, now we need Uri to help us sort it all out.
Uri, you were the Left-winger in your regimen, and everyone respected you because you held fast to your word without ever abdicating a single military responsibility. When you left for Lebanon, Ima said that the one thing she was most afraid of was your “Elifelet Syndrome” [reference to poem by Natan Alterman – INK]. We were worried that like Elifelet of the poem, if someone would be needed to run and save a wounded soldier, you would not hesitate to run directly through the line of fire; and you would be the first to volunteer to restock the supply of ammunition when it ran low. And just as you were all your life, at home and at school and in your army service, and just as you always volunteered to give up your furloughs because there was someone else who needed a break more than you did or because someone else’s situation was more difficult — so, in just this way, would you fall in Lebanon in the face of terrible warfare.
Uri, you were a person who was whole with himself, a person whom it was good to be around. I can’t begin to express just how much you were, for me, someone to run with. During every visit home you would say to me, “Abba, let’s go talk,” and we would go together, usually to a restaurant, and sit and talk. You would tell me so much, Uri, and I felt so proud that I had the merit of serving as your confidante. That someone like you chose to confide in me.
You lit up our lives, Uri. Ima and I raised you with love. There was simply so much to love in you. I know that your short life was good. I hope that I was a fitting father for a son like you. But I know that to be the son of your mother meant to grow up surrounded by infinite generosity and loving-kindness and love. You received all of this in plenitude, and you knew how to appreciate it, and you knew how to be grateful, and nothing that you received was ever taken for granted.
I am not saying anything at this moment about the war in which you were killed. We, your family, have already lost in this war. The State of Israel will make her own reckoning. As your family, we will retreat into our pain, surrounded by our good friends, enveloped in the strong love that we feel from so many people, the majority of whom we don’t even know. I am so grateful to them for their boundless support. I only wish that we Israelis could give this amount of love and solidarity also in better times. This is, perhaps, our only common national aspiration. This is our great human resource. If only we knew how to use it. If only we could extricate ourselves from the violence and the enmity that has permeated our way of life. If only we could know how to save ourselves now, at the last minute, because even more difficult times await us.
Uri was very much an Israeli – even his name is very Israeli. He was the essence of Israel as I would like to see it. That essence which is almost forgotten now. That which is sometimes regarded as a curiosity these days. What’s more, Uri was principled. That word, principled, is often scoffed at in our times, because in our crazy, cruel, and cynical world, it is not “cool” to be principled, or to be a humanist, or to be empathic towards the other — especially if the other is your enemy on the battlefield. But I learned from Uri that it is possible to be both principled and cool. We have to be accountable for our own souls. We have to both defend ourselves and uphold ourselves. We have to uphold ourselves against brute force, and against the destructiveness of cynicism, and against the constricting scorn that is the greatest curse of everyone who lives in a disaster area like we do.
Uri had the courage to be himself all the time and in every situation. He had the courage to find his voice in everything he said and did; this is what saved him from scorn and destruction and constriction of the soul.
On Saturday night, at twenty to three at night, they rang at our door. Over the intercom, they announced that they were the city officials, and I went to open the door, and I thought – that’s it. Our lives are over. But five hours later, when Michal and I went into Ruti’s room and woke her in order to break the news to her, Ruti, after the first cry, said, “But we will still go on living, right? We’ll still go hiking like before, and I want to keep singing in the choir, and I want to keep laughing as always, and I want to learn to play the guitar.” And we hugged her and told her that yes, we’d still go on living.
We will take our strength from Uri. He had strength that will carry us forward for many years. He radiated a sense of life, of warmth, and of love. And the light of that radiance will continue to shine for us, even if the star itself has been extinguished. Uri our love, it was a great merit for us to live with you. Thank you for every moment that you were ours.
Love – Abba, Ima, Yonatan, and Ruti