At twenty to three in the morning, between Saturday and Sunday, the doorbell rang. Over the intercom, they said they were from the army. For three days already, every thought has begun with: "No."
No. He won't come. We won't talk. We won't laugh. He won't be that kid with the ironic look in his eyes and the amazing sense of humor. He won't be that young person with understanding deeper than his years. There won't be that warm smile and healthy appetite. There won't be that rare combination of determination and gentleness. There won't be his common sense and wisdom. We won't sit down together to watch The Simpsons and Seinfeld, and we won't listen to Johnny Cash, and we won't feel the strong embrace. We won't see you going to talk to your brother, Yonatan, with excited hand movements and we won't see you hugging your sister, Ruthie, the love of your life.
Uri my love. All your short life, we have all learned from you, from the strength and determination to go your own way. To go your own way even if there is no way you could succeed… From childhood, you were like that. A child who lived in harmony with himself and those around him. A child who knew that he was loved, who recognized his limitations and strengths.
You were the leftist of your battalion and you were respected for it, because you stood your ground, without giving up even one of your military assignments. You were a son and a friend to me and to Mummy. Our soul is tied to yours. You felt good in yourself and you were a good person to live with. I cannot even say out loud how much you were "Someone to Run With" (the title of one of Grossman's novels - ed). Every furlough you would say: "Dad, let's talk" and we would go, usually to a restaurant, and talk. You told me so much, Uri, and I felt proud that I was your confidant.
I won't say anything now about the war you were killed in. We, our family, have already lost in this war. The State of Israel will now carry out its own soul-searching and accounting.
Uri was such an Israeli child; even his name was very Israeli and Hebrew. He was the essence of Israeli-ness as I would want it to be. An Israeli-ness that has almost been forgotten, that is something of a curiosity. And he was a person so full of values. That word has been so eroded and has become ridiculed in recent years. In our crazy, cruel and cynical world, it's not "cool" to have values, or to be a humanist, or to be truly sensitive to the suffering of the other, even if that other is your enemy on the battlefield.
However, I learned from Uri that it is both possible and necessary to be all that. We have to guard ourselves, by defending ourselves both physically and morally. We have to guard ourselves from might and simplistic thinking, from the corruption that is in cynicism, from the pollution of the heart and the ill-treatment of humans, which are the biggest curse of those living in a disastrous region like ours. Uri simply had the courage to be himself, always and in all situations - to find his exact voice in every thing he said and did.
In the night between Saturday and Sunday, at twenty to three in the morning, our doorbell rang. The person said through the intercom that he was from the army, and I went down to open the door, and I thought to myself : that's it, life is over. But five hours later, when Michal and I went into Ruthie's room to wake her and tell her the terrible news, Ruthie, after first crying, said: "But we will live, right? We will live and trek like before and I want to continue singing in a choir, and we will continue to laugh like always and I want to learn to play guitar." And we hugged her and told her that "we will live."
We will derive our strength from Uri; he had enough for many years to come. Vitality, warmth and love radiated from him strongly, and that will shine on us even if the star that made it has been extinguished. Our love, we had a great honor to live with you. Thank you for every moment that you were ours.
Father and Mother, Yonatan and Ruthie
David Grossman has dedicated some of his books to his children. The following excerpt from Be My Knife is particularly relevant…
"I once thought of teaching my son a private language, isolating him from the speaking world on purpose, lying to him from the moment of his birth so he would believe only in the language I gave him. And it would be a compassionate language. What I mean is, I wanted to take him by the hand and name everything he saw with words that would save him from the inevitable heartaches so that he wouldn't be able to comprehend the existence of, for instance, war. Or that people kill, or that this red here is blood. It's a kind of used-up idea, I know, but I love to imagine him crossing through life with an innocent trusting smile - the first truly enlightened child."