June 17, 2024
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Riverdale Remembers Two Fallen Israelis

On Tuesday, April 14, the Riverdale community gathered to mark Yom Hazikaron. Shani Aslan, Israel’s Emissary to the Riverdale Y, welcomed both in-person attendees and a virtual Zoom audience. “There’s a phrase ‘they honor the living.’ Tonight, we honor the people who sacrifice their lives for the State of Israel, to tell their stories and to uplift their legacy.” The program began with the Israeli memorial siren and the recitation of Yizkor. Rabbi Aaron Frank, head of school at Kinneret Day School, hosted the program. Participants heard about two of Israel’s fallen heroes.

The first speaker, Rabbi Yona Berman, shared the story of Ori Anspacher. Two years ago, Rabbi Berman made a shiva call to the Anspachers in the town of Tekoa. Ori, a volunteer at a center in southern Jerusalem, wandered into the nearby forest. Berman explained, “She encountered a terrorist on his way to Jerusalem to perform an act of terror. He brutally murdered her on the spot. Every radio broadcast mentioned her name; every newspaper had her picture on the front cover.”

Berman described posters of Ori, lists of people committed to doing good deeds in her memory. He recalled her father’s description of Ori building bridges, “bringing people together and bringing her light to all. She kept her family together during difficult moments, no matter what life brought them. She loved people, nature and bringing God’s love to those who needed it.” Her father told Berman, when he returned to America, to share Ori’s story. Preparing for this event, Berman contacted her father, asking what he should share with the people. He expressed his gratitude for keeping Ori’s memory alive, for sharing her Torah.

Berman added, “We talked about the quilt that was assembled in Ori’s memory, and displayed in The Cardo in Jerusalem. 5,200 women made patches that join together.” Berman closed with Mr. Anspacher’s message, “Ori didn’t believe in monuments, but in action. We should focus on inspiration about the future.”

The second speaker of the evening was Eli Weiss, who memorialized his brother Ari. This Nachal Brigade chayal was killed on September 30, 2002. Their family made aliyah from Texas to Raanana in 1992.

Eli described, “We enjoyed a great childhood together. Ari was an explosives expert, an excellent marksman and was awarded many honors and medals. He volunteered for covert missions in the very tense time of the Second Intifada.” Eli himself was a paratrooper. “We would joke: Who was a better soldier? Who did more adventurous missions?”

Eli then described the moment that changed his life, the day after his 20th birthday. “I was out celebrating when I got a call from my father to come home immediately. Driving home, I was confused, wondering what was wrong. I found my mother on the couch saying Tehillim; my dad staring out the window into nowhere.” Ari was due back from deep behind enemy lines, and hadn’t checked in. “I said, maybe his cell battery needed to be charged, or they were delayed coming back from the mission. As a soldier myself, I knew there were a million reasons why they could be delayed in checking in. I remember saying to my dad we don’t know anything yet; this is not a shiva house.”

Tearfully, Eli added, “It wasn’t long before the knock came; that dreaded moment. I was the first to reach the door. I saw three army officers; lights flashing from the emergency vehicles on the street. I closed the door and stepped outside. You can’t come in; I won’t let you in. You can’t do this to my mother and my family. It’s not true. There were 50 to 100 people already on our lawn. News travels fast in a small country, especially when our age group are already officers in Tzahal, and they already knew.”

Eli described countless acts done in Ari’s name. A shul in Raanana was built in his name. Millions of dollars were donated to soldiers’ charities. “As my mother had said during our shiva, now we are really Israeli.” Seventeen children have been named after Ari, including Eli’s own son. A high school girl made a ceramic pot with his name on it to hold stones for visitors at his grave. Hadaya, the Old City jeweler, made rings for his sisters from bullet casings of the 21-Gun Salute at his funeral. Two Torahs were completed. His name has been on buttons and bracelets of countless students from around the world. They have letters from church groups, long-lost acquaintances, schools and even a teddy bear from Native Americans in Utah that is “guaranteed to bring comfort within five minutes of snuggling each day.”

The event concluded with a performance of the song “Million Kochavim” and singing the “Hatikvah”.

By Judy Berger

 

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