I’d like to share with you a personal story.
When I was evacuated from the war in the Sinai to Tel Hashomer Hospital, on life support, struggling between life and death, the doctor told my mother, “Pray for your daughter and we will do everything we can for her, together let us hope for the best”.
As I dipped in and out of consciousness, I could hear someone praying above my head, ‘Our Father is still alive, Od Avinu Hai,’ but it was the voice of a man I did not recognize. When I came to, I was still connected to the life support equipment and couldn’t talk but my eyes opened and I could see the man standing to the side of my bed, above my head whispering a prayer.
It was Rabbi Simha Holzberg – the Father of the Wounded. A Holocaust survivor from Ghetto Warsaw who immigrated to Israel with no family and turned the wounded soldiers and disabled veterans into his greater family.
For his role in rehabilitating wounded IDF soldiers he was later awarded the Israel Prize, an award handed out by the State of Israel generally regarded as the State’s highest cultural honor.[ It is presented annually, on Israel’s Independence Day, at a state ceremony in Jerusalem, in the presence of the President, the Prime Minister, the Speaker of the Knesset (Israel’s legislature), and the Supreme Court President.
A year after the Yom Kippur War I left the hospital for two days in order to marry the love of my life. He had come home from the war. Rafi Rimshon (sitting here in the audience)
It was Simcha Holtzberg who led us to our wedding and there under the Chuppah he declared, ‘Here’s the wedding gift I give you and Rafi. It is a verse from the Book of Ezekiel that says: ‘Then I passed by and saw you kicking about in your blood, and as you lay there in your blood I said to you, “Live!” Holtzberg continued and said: ‘This verse was said twice, once to you and once to the State of Israel. Let these words be a seal on your hearts and may your lives be intertwined with the life of the State of Israel for all eternity’.
And I, Simcha Holtzberg, who came from the inferno of the Holocaust, will know that we have defeated all our enemies “
This is an Israeli story of the ingathering of the exiles from all corners of the earth that binds us to the different and similar in the bonds of love and belief in the power of the State of Israel to be our home to the world.
Thank you for the special privilege to share with you our Memorial Day and the 70th Independence Day for our mutual love – Israel.
Your love is the spirit which propels our lives.