My articles often focus on names of streets in Israel. Street names cover the full gamut of people connected to the Jewish nation, including biblical characters, scholars, poets, scientists, political leaders and friends of Israel throughout the millennia.
Sometimes, streets are named for fallen heroes of the Israel Defense Forces. However, it is more common for soldiers to be commemorated by connecting their names to places that were dear to them. For example, while recently visiting beautiful Rosh Pina, I saw lookouts, babbling brooks, hiking trails and synagogues named in memory of Israel’s holy soldiers.
Parenthetically, the term “holy soldiers” always reminds me of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach’s famous response to a student who requested to take time off from yeshiva to visit the graves of tzadikim: “In order to pray at the graves of tzadikim, one doesn’t have to travel up to the Galilee. Whenever I feel the need to pray at the graves of tzadikim, I go to Mount Herzl [Jerusalem’s cemetery for fallen soldiers], to the graves of the soldiers who fell ‘Al Kiddush Hashem’ [for the sanctification of God].”
Over the past year, I have frequently visited Jerusalem’s delightful Givat Chananya neighborhood. In this landmarked village situated across the street from the First Station (Tachana Rishona), we marketed the charming Aminadav project. While walking around the rustic neighborhood, we often wondered about Beit Nechemia Youth Center, an old 1-story building that housed what appeared to be an educational institute or museum.
Over time, we learned that Beit Nechemia provides educational programs for teenagers and is named in memory of Nechemia Cohen, the highest-decorated soldier in Israel’s history, who was killed during the Six-Day War. Other similar centers exist across the country, and the fallen soldiers’ values live on through the activities of the institutions bearing their names.
On the other end of the spectrum, there are unfortunately hundreds of men and women who died in military operations before and during the creation of the State of Israel, whose history is incomplete. Most of these soldiers were European refugees, often the last remaining members of their families, who escaped the long arm of Nazi terror only to be killed fighting for the Jewish nation. Unfortunately, upon their death, no relatives existed to provide basic information, such as parents’ names, date and place of birth, and marital status.
“Giving a Face to the Fallen” is a not-for-profit organization whose goal is to unearth the history of the anonymous Holocaust survivors who gave their lives in battle. The efforts of the volunteer researchers to memorialize these unknown heroes is truly a “chesed shel emet,” which is considered one of the highest forms of kindness, owing to the volunteers’ altruistic intentions.
With the early-August IDF Gaza operation (codenamed Operation Breaking Dawn) still on my mind, coupled with the recent escalation of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a terror proxy of Iran, I often find myself thinking about, admiring and praying for the wonderful soldiers who valiantly defend our country. May the Almighty grant all of us a Shana Tova, a wonderful year filled with good health, happiness, peace and fulfillment. And may we, in turn, appreciate the countless blessings—including the IDF!—that He bestows upon our families and our nation.
Gedaliah Borvick is the founder of My Israel Home, a real estate agency focused on helping people from abroad buy and sell homes in Israel. To sign up for his monthly market updates, contact him at [email protected] Please visit his blog at www.myisraelhome.com.